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Organization Details

by Mark Adams last modified Oct 17, 2012 by Davis Murphy

Deputy Director Phil Jewell will be taking on the role of Assistant Director for North American (NA) ALMA Operations. This is an important position: overseeing the NA ALMA Science Center and the ALMA Development program, coordinating the ALMA maintenance program, and becoming the face of ALMA to the North American scientific community. Phil will continue working closely with the Director in a 25% role as Deputy Director, but his main focus moving forward will be the success of NA ALMA. Phil’s remaining Deputy Director responsibilities will be distributed between the Director and other members of the management team, with the sites reporting to the Director in future.

NRAO has been reviewing its organization structure for the past two years, seeking to optimize Observatory-wide function and produce scientific and technical efficiency in NRAO operations. These initial efforts created new structures: OSO (Observatory Science Operations), OTO (Observatory Telescope Operations), ODP (Observatory Development Program), and other functional groups. Implementation of these structures exposed some shortcomings of this new approach to managing NRAO, and based on discussions with staff, NRAO managers, AUI, and the NSF, some changes to the approach have been identified (outlined below). In addition, the supervisory roles and responsibilities associated with the Assistant Director title/role at the Observatory have been more clearly defined.

The specific changes to NRAO management include:

  • Creating a Program Management Department (PMD, led by Assistant Director for Program Management – Lory Wingate) to provide program and project management support and systems engineering services to NRAO project leaders and PIs. PMD will be defined using mainly existing staff. Key goals of PMD are to provide visibility, transparency, and consistency in reporting within NRAO and externally to NSF and outside partners or customers, identify and provide resources for PM/SE needs across all NRAO projects (regardless of funding source), review new projects for alignment in supporting the long-range strategic goals of the Observatory, and continue compiling/editing the key NRAO reporting documents, e.g. NRAO Program Operating Plan.
Over the past decade NRAO has gained significant skills/experience in project management and systems engineering, and retaining those abilities and applying them to other areas of the Observatory is critical as we enter a new era where budgets are low, expectations are high, and process is important.
  • Creating a Data Management & Software Department (DMSD, led by Assistant Director for Data Management & Software – Brian Glendenning). The DMSD will manage areas such as data archiving across NRAO, including access, distribution, provisioning, and operation; reduction pipeline infrastructure implementation and technical operation; high-performance computing platform definition, acquisition, and operation; network provisioning to the external community and between sites; primary responsibility for all user facing software (e.g., CASA, AIPS, PST) and telescope software (e.g., Monitor and Control) in collaboration with the telescope science centers who will provide priorities, testing/validation.

Inside the DMS Department a new observatory-wide Software Division (SD) will be established. Gianni Raffi (formerly of ESO) will lead this group for 6 months to assist with setting up this important Division.  Most Observatory-wide and local software efforts are planned to report to the SD.
  • The previous Observatory Science Operations (OSO) functional group will be split into two components – a Science Support & Research Department (SSR, led by Assistant Director for SSR Tim Bastian) and the DMS Department (mentioned above). The (formerly OSO, now SSR) key role of supporting the Observatory scientific interface remains the highest priority for SSR. The Scientific and Academic Affairs Division (SAA), previously reporting to the Director’s Office (DO), will now report to the Assistant Director for SSR.
  • The ODP management layer has been removed; site development programs will report to the Site ADs, and CDL (Central Development Laboratory) will again report to the Director’s Office, similar to the NRAO sites.
  • Computing & Information Services (CIS) – will be split into two divisions – 33% reporting as Information Services (IS), reporting to NRAO Administration (Associate Director Steven Geiger) for non-scientific-related computing and infrastructure; 67% reporting as Scientific Information Services (SIS) to the DMS Department (Assistant Director Brian Glendenning) for all scientific applications and issues (SIS).
  • The title of Assistant Director is reserved for individuals with significant supervisory responsibilities. NRAO will have a Director, Deputy Director, one Associate Director and nine Assistant Directors managing a staff of more than 400.
  • Structure: in the past different sites have used language differently to describe their functional units. In the future: the Observatory is made up of departments, which are made up of divisions, which are made up of groups. Over the next year we will migrate towards this standardized approach.

Although the high-level reorganization is complete, significant details will be worked out at a high priority over the coming weeks.

The goal of these changes is to produce a better Observatory. On a regular basis in the future we will review our structure and function to ensure the best working environment for all staff, and best service to the scientific, technical and local communities NRAO serves.