Australia's membership of the International Gemini Partnership (IGP) provides Australian astronomers with independent access to the latest generation of optical-IR telescopes. Astronomers are eager to maximise the scientific returns from membership, by undertaking research projects using the Gemini facilities in the most innovative and effective ways possible. There is also strong interest in the other benefits that flow from membership in a large international research project, including opportunities to form international research collaborations and to participate in national or international bids to provide new instrumentation.
The funding arrangements, agreed lines of responsibility, including the terms of reference of committees, the responsibilities of individuals, and the membership/succession rules for Gemini-related positions, are outlined in this document.
Australia's involvement in Gemini is funded jointly by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and by the Australian Research Council (ARC). Both the ARC and NCRIS funding is managed by Astronomy Australia Ltd. (AAL). NCRIS funds about 2/3 of Australia's operations payments and all Aspen program committments from 2008 to June 2011, while the ARC pays the remainder of the operations payments. The ARC is the Partner Agency which has signed the International Gemini Agreement providing for Australian membership of the International Gemini Partnership through until the end of 2012. As Australia's signatory to the Gemini Agreement, the ARC has ultimate responsibility for Australian participation in Gemini, but has agreed to delegate much of that responsibility to AAL. AAL carries out this role through a number of advisory committees and individual appointments:
On 3 June 2011, Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr announced new funding to secure Australia's existing 6.2% share in the Gemini partnership in the period 2013-2015. From 1 January 2012, operation of the Australian Gemini Office is funded directly by the Australian Astronomical Observatory.
- Australian Gemini Board Member
- Optical Telescopes Advisory Committee
- Australian Astronomical Observatory Users Committee
- Gemini Science & Technology Advisory Committee
- Users Committee for Gemini
- Australian Gemini Scientist, Deputy Gemini Scientists, and the Australian Gemini Office
- Australian Time Assignment Committee
Australia has one seat on the Board of the International Gemini Partnership. The Australian Gemini Board Member has the following responsibilities:
- To attend Gemini Board meetings and represent the interests of the ARC, AAL, and Australian users;
- To liaise with the ARC, AAL, and the Australian Gemini Scientist to ensure that the Australian position on Board-related matters is properly developed and promoted;
- To reinforce within the Gemini Board the Australian priorities agreed by the Australian Gemini Scientist and the Optical Telescopes Advisory Committee; and
- To provide briefings to, and to receive advice from, Australian stakeholders in the Gemini partnership.
The Australian Gemini Board Member will be appointed by the Australian Government (normally by the CEO of the ARC), and will serve for a term of three years which normally will be non-renewable. The Board Member will normally be a professional astronomer.
The current Australian Gemini Board Member is Prof. Stuart Wyithe from the University of Melbourne (swyithe -@- unimelb.edu.au).
Prior to March 2010, the ARC appointed, and sought advice from members of the Australian Gemini Steering Committee (AGSC) on matters relating to Australian membership of the International Gemini Partnership; access to other 8m-class telescopes (including Magellan); and the operation of the Australian Gemini Office. In April 2010, a new advisory committee was established by AAL which merged the functions of AGSC and the Australian Giant Magellan Telescope Advisory Committee (AGMTAC). The Optical Telescopes Advisory Committee (OTAC) reports to the AAL Board on the operational performance of all Australia's national optical/infra-red telescopes, particularly those projects funded by AAL. The Terms of Reference and current membership of OTAC are available from AAL's OTAC web page.
With the transition to a wholly Australian-funded AAO from 1 July 2010, it has been agreed that the new Australian Astronomical Observatory Users Committee (AAOUC) will take on the role of providing user feedback to the AAO and OTAC on the performance of the Australian Gemini Office, and issues to do with the quality of Australian data collected by Gemini. This allows OTAC to focus on the "big picture" of Australia's ongoing usage of, and access to 8m-class telescopes. Australian users of Gemini and Magellan who have concerns about the level of support received from AusGO, Gemini Observatory staff, or the Magellan Fellows should bring these to the attention of the Australian Gemini Scientist (ausgo -@- aao.gov.au) in the first instance. They are also free however to bring these concerns (or indeed, to relate praise) to their local AAOUC member or the AAOUC Chair. The Terms of Reference and current membership of the AAOUC are available from the AAO's AAOUC web page.
In 2011 the Gemini Observatory replaced the former Gemini Science Committee with a Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC). The STAC advises the Gemini Board on policy matters of long-range scientific and technical importance. Membership and the terms of reference are available from the STAC web page.
The current Australian STAC representative is Prof. Karl Glazebrook from Swinburne University of Technology (karl -@- astro.swin.edu.au).
In July 2012 the Gemini Observatory established its own Users Committee for Gemini (UCG). This group provides feedback to the observatory on all areas of the operations that affect current users of the facility, and Gemini uses this information to improve the service it provides to users. The committee members reflect on the general user experience, based on their own exposure and input collected from the broader Gemini community, rather than represent specific partner needs. Membership and the charter are available from the UCG web page.
The current Australian UCG representative is Dr Sarah Brough from the AAO (sb -@- aao.gov.au).
The Australian Gemini Office (AusGO) is staffed by the Australian Gemini Scientist (AGS), and one or more Deputy Gemini Scientists (DGS). The AusGO will normally be hosted by the home institution of the AGS. It is not necessary for any DGS to be based at the same institution as the AGS; indeed, there is a perceived advantage to having at least one DGS external to the AusGO, so as to distribute the expertise and visibility of AusGO more widely across the community.
Procedures for the appointment of the AGS, DGS, and for the operation of the AusGO are entrusted to the AAO Director. The term of the AGS and DGS shall normally be 3 years, with extensions at the discretion of the AAO Director. The AGS and DGS are expected to spend half their time on AusGO duties, with the remainder on their own research activities making use of the facilities of the Gemini Observatory, and other telescopes to which Australian astronomers have access. The AusGO may also enlist the services of Instrument Specialists from within the Australian community, to provide support for instruments outside the expertise of the AGS and DGS, or to technically assess proposals on which the AGS or DGS are involved.
The responsibilities of the AGS and DGS, and the roles of the AusGO are:
- Liaison with the International Gemini Partnership (IGP) and other National Gemini Offices (NGOs) on scientific, operational, engineering, and instrumentation matters. The AusGO will be the primary point of contact in all of these areas. The AusGO will disseminate information into the Australian community, and receive and forward information from the community to the IGP/NGOs.
- Arranging appropriate representation of Australia in all scientific, operational and engineering/instrumentation activities of the IGP. Depending on the circumstances, this might involve AusGO staff or persons selected from the Australian community on the strength of their experience/interest or their institutional perspective.
- Managing the process of allocating Australian time on the Gemini telescopes, including the provision of technical assessments of Australian proposals. The Australian Time Assignment Committee (ATAC), officially formed by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, is charged with the task of ranking proposals for observing time on Gemini, as well as for time on other facilities as may become available to the Australian community (e.g. Magellan). The merging of Australian observing programs into the Gemini queues will require high-level liaison between the ATAC Chair and the Gemini Observatory, which will be mediated by the AusGO.
- Promoting and fostering the use of Gemini facilities by all appropriate
members of the Australian community. IGP Operations will cover only those
activities directly involved in an observing run. Australian infrastructure
will be identified or established (or shared with other NGOs) to provide:
- information on facility and instrument capability to allow proper design of observing programs,
- information on the support available for data reduction and analysis,
- access to the Gemini archives, and
- support for remote observing
- Assisting in the preparation of instrumentation bids that involve Australian institutions. This will include pro-active solicitation of participation, and brokering of partnerships to strengthen any Australian bid. For successful bids, the AusGO will provide agreed accountabilities to the ARC, AAL, and the IGP. It may also have a monitoring role to play on behalf of both the IGP and the interested Australian community.
- Coordinate the recruitment of up to 3 Australian Gemini Undergraduate Summer Students (AGUSS) each year to spend 10 weeks in the Dec-Feb period at the Gemini South Observatory in La Serena, Chile working on projects under the supervision of Gemini staff. The AGUSS program is sponsored by AAL from its Overseas Optical Reseve fund.
- Report quarterly to the AAL Board on the status, successes, and issues to do with Australia's usage of Gemini and Magellan time, together with an update on AusGO spending relative to the NCRIS budget.
- Assisting in the dissemination of information to media and the community regarding discoveries made by Australian astronomers using the Gemini telescopes, both to cater to public interest in astronomy and to demonstrate the tangible returns of Australian participation in the IGP.
The Australian Gemini Scientist is Dr Stuart Ryder from the Australian Astronomical Observatory. The Deputy Gemini Scientists are Dr Simon O'Toole at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and Dr Christopher Onken at the ANU's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
The Australian Astronomical Observatory provides secretarial
support to the Australian Time Assignment Committee (ATAC). Membership of
ATAC is open to any member of the Australian astronomical community.
A call for nominations is issued as and when vacancies arise, via the
e-mail exploder. The AAO Director and the AAO Advisory Committee review
the nominations, and make recommendations to the Secretary of DIISR,
having regard for a diversity in institutional representation, gender,
and broad coverage of research expertise within ATAC.
Australian Gemini Office, ausgo -@- aao.gov.au