The 36 meeting of the IRAM Executive Council was held on June 28 and 29, 2001 in Berlin in the Harnack House of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.
After the adoption of the agenda and a review of the action items from previous meetings, the Annual Report 2000 together with an oral report on recent developments were briefly discussed. The Council noted in particular the efforts made by the Plateau de Bure staff to restart scientific activities after the observatory had been put into a safeguarding mode. Prior to the restart of observations, a series of safety audits had been conducted, and the necessary technical maintenance work had been completed.
The Council also noted the report of the Scientific Advisory Committee. At its meeting on May 17, 2001 the SAC had discussed the current status of the Pico Veleta and Plateau de Bure Observatories as well as the technical developments currently underway, and the plans for future developments.
The ongoing and planned activities have, of course, a direct impact on the 2001 and 2002 budgets that were presented to the Council for approval. The 2001 running budget increases by 5.2% as compared to the year before. This is largely due to the transfer of a significant amount of money from 2000 to 2001 because of the exceptional circumstances. The level of contributions from the CNRS, MPG, and IGN remains, by contrast, constant, and will be constant again for 2002 despite the fact that the 2002 running budget shows an increase of 0.8% as compared to 2001. This implies that an increasing amount of the budget has to be covered by other income, e.g. contracts with third parties. As we have to cope with a number of unavoidable and significant cost increases, we do hope that future contribution levels for the running budget will include at least an inflation correction.
After the special contributions by the IRAM partners for Antenna 6 have come to an end, the investment budget has fallen back to its previous level which has been constant since more than 5 years. This could become worrisome except that for the time being, our development projects are more constrained by manpower than by financial limitations.
Concerning major investment projects, for which funding has been approved, the highest priority for 2001 is the completion of Antenna 6. Other projects that will absorb significant amounts of money are the construction of 9 more channels for the HERA (see status report below), the construction of 7 more filterbanks each covering 1 GHz with 4 MHz resolution (to bring the total number to 9), the construction of more 22 GHz radiometers for the interferometer antennas, and the purchase of components for the next generation Plateau de Bure receivers. Significant funds will also go into the purchasing of urgently needed equipment for the Grenoble laboratories and for the Plateau de Bure. Furthermore, the extension of the workshop in Grenoble is funded as well as the construction of a new building at Enclus, to store materials and equipment that will in the future be used/needed (again) on the Plateau de Bure. For safety reasons, storage of this material at the observatory will be discontinued.
Concerning the longer term planning, IRAM proposed to upgrade the signal transport system, the receivers, and the correlator of the Plateau de Bure Interferometer to handle much wider bandwidths. This has the support of both the SAC and the Council.
Among the options for future investment projects, one question attracted particular attention: would it be scientifically justified, and cost efficient, to add the SEST antenna to the Plateau de Bure array, should its operation on La Silla by ESO and the Onsala Space Observatory one day be stopped? Based on a scenario paper that had been prepared by IRAM, and in line with a recommendation from the SAC, it was considered worthwhile to pursue this issue.
The Executive Council noted the report that had been prepared on IRAM's involvement in the ongoing Phase I activities of the ALMA project, and then continued to discuss ways in which IRAM could be involved in the ALMA project in the longer term. The Council fully supported the proposal for a Europan ALMA Data Analysis Centre in Grenoble. At the same time the Council strongly encouraged the plan of a significant involvement of IRAM in the receiver development, construction, as well as in the integration, testing, and long term upgrading of receiver systems. Finally, the Executive Council noted the need for a number of administrative changes. These concern IRAM's social capital and corresponding changes in the Statutes due to the arrival of the EURO, as well as changes in the financial and purchasing rules, the latter imposed by recent EU legislation.