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Special Session of the Gemini Board Resolves UK Partnership Issue – updated January 25, 2008
The Gemini Board notes the intent of the United Kingdom (UK) to withdraw from the Gemini Partnership and the Gemini Observatory Agreement prior to 31 December 2012, expressed in the November 2007 Board meeting and reiterated in the 12 December 2007 letter from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The remaining members of the Gemini Partnership, firmly committed to the underlying philosophy of the Gemini Agreement of one Observatory, two telescopes to advance the frontiers of astrophysics as a joint international collaboration and committed to the continued development of the Observatory, therefore find that the UK proposal contained in the 12 December letter is not in the best interests of the partnership. The remaining Parties consider that the UK has wholly withdrawn from the Gemini Partnership and that the UK is subject to all conditions and penalties outlined in the Gemini Agreement, section 5, the Withdrawal Clause. The Board establishes the effective date of withdrawal as 12 December 2007. The Gemini Board instructs the Executive Agency to immediately convey to the STFC our consensus decision.
The Gemini Board invokes conditions of clause 5.2 of the Gemini Agreement, Withdrawal Clause, to enable the remaining Parties to maintain Observatory continuity and to ensure future operations proceed in a stable and sustained manner. Therefore, the UK is obligated to pay the total of its scheduled operational payments for 2 years commencing with the date of the notice of withdrawal (12 December 2007). The Board desires to have payments rendered to the Executive Agency in such a way that ensures the continued effective operation of the Observatory over the penalty period. The Board directs the Executive Agency to advise the UK of the Board’s expectation and consult with the Gemini Finance Committee to establish the commensurate oversight.
The Gemini Board recognizes the allocation of time for semester 2008A has been determined and that detailed Phase II observing programs are under preparation. However, the UK is considered withdrawn from the Gemini Partnership, forfeiting all rights and benefits accrued under the Agreement at the date of withdrawal (section 5.5). The Board instructs the Observatory therefore to remove from consideration and execution all 2008A UK proposals except for any Band 1 roll-over proposals and compensatory time scheduled for completion in 2008A. The Board advises the Observatory to immediately consult with the remaining partner National Gemini Offices (NGO) to refill the 2008A observing queue by (1) reallocating the redacted UK science hours to the remaining Parties commensurate with current partner share, and (2) considering constructive mechanisms to enable joint, intra-partner collaborative proposals awarded time through the UK Time Allocation Committee to potentially proceed in 2008A.
The telescope time in 2008B available to each of the Gemini Parties, as defined in section 1.2.1 of the Gemini Agreement, will be set in proportion to their interests calculated as if the UK were in a default position. This resolution is in effect only for semester 2008B.
The Gemini Board instructs the Observatory to undertake an immediate review of its advisory structure, committees, web interfaces, net portals, etc. to reflect the new composition of the partnership, without UK participation. The Board urges the Observatory to expeditiously reconstitute the Gemini Science Committee with the appropriate representation and balance as described by the Terms of Reference. The Board seeks advice from them immediately on mechanisms to effect maximum utilization of the science opportunities presented to the Gemini Partnership in light of the UK withdrawal. The Board directs the Observatory to report back to the Board by its May meeting on potential strategies for 2009A and beyond.
The Gemini Board requests an action from each Parties’ NGO or appropriate body to clearly communicate to their constituent base the resolve of the Board to maintain the continuity of operations and the enhanced scientific opportunities of the Gemini Observatory by the remaining Gemini Parties during this period of transition. Furthermore, the Board wishes to convey its continued goal of realizing our shared future science aspirations that are advanced through the Aspen program.