SKA Observatory: Head of Science Operations SKA-Low Telescope

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Saturday, December 18, 2021
Archive Date: 
Saturday, January 29, 2022
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Management
Institution Classification/Type: 
SKA Observatory
Department Name: 
Western Australia
Job Announcement Text: 

At the SKAO we are coordinating a global effort to deliver one of the largest science facilities on the planet. The SKAO telescopes will be next-generation instruments that will help to answer key questions in astrophysics, drive technological innovation and support human capital development. 

More than a dozen partner countries and over a thousand scientists and engineers around the world are already on board, making the SKA project an international collaboration like no other, and one of the most ambitious science and engineering endeavours of the 21st century.

Headquartered in the UK, with telescope sites in Australia and South Africa, the SKAO will be one observatory operating two telescopes, an endeavour spanning three continents. Multinational by design, in early 2021 the SKAO became an intergovernmental organisation, one of only a select handful of science infrastructures to do so worldwide.

Construction activities for the SKAO's telescopes in Australia and South Africa are expected to begin later in 2021, along with a ramping up of SKAO staff in both countries. It is expected that the transition from the Construction Phase to the Operations Phase will happen around 2028.

SKAO Operations in South Africa will be conducted in partnership with the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO). SKAO Operations in Australia will be conducted in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The Observatory will also partner closely with a global network of SKA Regional Centres through which astronomers will access science data products and a suite of tools and resources to further analyse the SKA telescopes' data.

The Role

The SKAO is seeking to employ a motivated and experienced radio astronomer to join our team as the SKA-Low Head of Science Operations. The Low Head of Science Operations will be based at the Science Operations Centre in Perth, and will be a core part of the SKA-Low management team in Australia, led by the SKA-Low Telescope Director. They will work collaboratively with the SKA-Mid and GHQ Head of Science Operations to ensure that the SKAO delivers a coherent, efficient and effective science program.

With the SKAO now in its construction phase, planning for operations has entered an exciting period. As a leader in the Operations Group, the postholder will make a significant contribution to refining the strategic direction of the SKA-Low Science Operations activities, consistent with the SKA Observatory Establishment and Delivery Plan. They will also work closely with the SKAO commissioning team to deliver scientific commissioning and verification of SKA-Low. Over time they will be responsible for the day to day science operations of the SKA-Low telescope as the array is progressively handed over from construction.

We are looking for someone who has the inclusive and collaborative leadership skills needed to successfully build, manage and develop a team of operations scientists, telescope operators and data analysts in conjunction with the Science Operations teams at SKA-Mid and GHQ. The postholder will have significant operational and scientific experience in the full range of activities required to run a successful radio observatory. This includes knowledge of telescope systems, data processing and analysis as well as experience serving a diverse and distributed user community. SKAO will partner with CSIRO to operate the SKA-Low Telescope and support construction, and the Low Head of Science Operations will manage a team that includes SKAO and CSIRO employees.

Key Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Duties

Working as a key member of the SKAO Operations team, the postholder will lead the SKA-Low Science Operations Group and will be core part of the SKA-Low management team in Australia. The postholder will:

  • Continually refine the strategic direction of the SKA-Low science operations team to support the SKAO in the delivery of an efficient and effective science program;
  • Recruit and manage a high performing and inclusive team of operations scientists, telescope operators and data analysts and ensure the development of the Science Operations Group, motivating and mentoring staff to meet the current and future requirements of the Observatory;
  • Collaborate closely with CSIRO in the management and development of CSIRO-employed staff in the Science Operations Group.
  • Work as one of the senior staff of the SKAO in Australia, as part of the SKA-Low Management Team, contributing to the overall operations of SKA-Low;
  • Work collaboratively with the Mid and GHQ Heads of Science Operations through a Science Operations functional group to deliver a cohesive Science Operations vision. This is likely to require some travel to both GHQ in the UK and the Mid Science Operations Centre in South Africa;
  • In collaboration with the Science Operations team at GHQ, make a leading contribution to the development, and continual refinement, of the Low operations, commissioning and science verification plans, and in defining the requirements for early array releases and test procedures;
  • Lead the Low Science Operations Group in their contribution to SKA commissioning, working with the commissioning team at GHQ and in Australia.
  • Implement and effectively deliver SKA-Low science verification and operations, as the arrays are handed over from construction to operations.
  • Effectively interface with the SKAO user community, promote SKAO activities, gather community feedback, influence where appropriate, and facilitate appropriate support through the SKAO Helpdesk and other activities;
  • Take a leading role directing the development of software required for Science Operations (controls, data acquisition, observation management), and make requests for new features, some of which may be telescope specific;
  • Work closely with engineering teams to monitor and evaluate telescope performance to ensure agreed SKA data quality standards are met.
  • Support SKAO-specific SKA Regional Centre operations and serve as point of contact for the local SKA Regional Centre;
  • Optionally undertake a programme of personal scientific research up to 25% of employed hours and appropriately enable other science-focussed staff to do the same;
  • Communicate openly, effectively, and respectfully with internal and external stakeholders in the interests of good business practice, collaboration and enhancement of SKAO’s reputation;
  • Undertake other duties as directed by the SKA-Low Telescope Director.

For more information, including how to apply for this role, please visit our website:

Included Benefits: 
  • Competitve salary
  • Generous pension
  • Healthcare
  • Leave Benefits
Application Deadline: 
Sunday, January 30, 2022
Current Status of Position: 
No Status Given (Opted Out)
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