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ESTEC Faculty charter

V1.0 May 2006
V1.1 Oct 2006 - see modification history at end of document
V1.2 July 2007 - see modification history at end of document

1. Introduction: Rationale for a scientifically productive RSSD

The primary mission of the Research and Scientific Support Department of ESA (RSSD) is to support the broad scientific community in the ESA member states by ensuring the best possible scientific return from the Agency's scientific missions. RSSD is the fundamental link between the scientific community and ESA. Among its key roles there are the provision of Project Scientists for the Agency's scientific missions and the planning and execution of the scientific operations for ESA's scientific mission.
To carry out its mission, RSSD needs scientific expertise at a number of levels. In particular, many of the decisions to be taken during the life cycle of a mission require first-hand scientific understanding and experience on the side of the Project Scientists and their team. To maintain scientific competence, it is essential that scientists within RSSD (and in particular Project Scientists) carry out an active and lively research program. At the same time, it is important for Project Scientists and their staff to have an active research profile to ensure the necessary "peer respect'' from the community they represent.
The present document defines the role of the Faculty at ESTEC, its tasks and its structure, as defined by the Faculty itself and as approved by the Head of RSSD.

2. Purpose of the RSSD Faculty

The top-level purpose of the RSSD Faculty is to foster a productive scientific environment within RSSD, by promoting scientific contacts and exchanges among RSSD scientists and by supporting RSSD management in a number of areas of interest to research. For that purpose, H/RSSD has delegated a number of tasks to the Faculty, as described in the following.

3. Composition of the RSSD Faculty

Membership in the RSSD Faculty is entirely voluntary, and not at any level mandatory. All RSSD scientists have access to the Faculty, independently from their staff status and from their seniority (including Research Fellows and Contractors). The Faculty will have a Chair and an Executive committee (see Sect 7.1 and 7.2)
Other RSSD sites (in particular ESAC) will have similar structures as the ESTEC RSSD Faculty. While the Faculty at different RSSD sites will act and organize themselves independently, the Chairs will ensure cooperation and exchange of information.Wherever possible, the Faculty will foster cross-site scientific collaborations.

4. Resources of Faculty

The RSSD Staff Scientists form the backbone of the Faculty. The following key resources are available to the RSSD Faculty:

  • Research Fellow positions: RSSD has a number of biennial (extensible to three years in special cases) Research Fellow (RF) position available. Given RSSD's functional workload RF positions constitute a key resource for the Department's scientific productivity
  • Faculty funding: each year H/RSSD will make funding available to the Faculty to carry out its activities. These funds will be under the authority of the Faculty Chair, who will agree on their use with the Faculty at large.
  • Secretarial and computer support: the Faculty will have access to RSSD's secretarial and computer support for its activities.

5. Tasks of Faculty

The Faculty will have under its responsibility a number of activities as detailed in the present Section. More in general, the Faculty will be consulted by RSSD management on all topics related with, or affecting, the scientific activities of RSSD staff. For example, should a ``Scientific assessment'' of RSSD staff be considered necessary, this would fall under the Faculty's responsibility.

5.1 Allocation of resources

The Faculty will decide on the allocation of the resources placed under its responsibility.

Research Fellow positions The Faculty will provide guidelines regarding the allocation of the available Research Fellow positions among the different research activities in RSSD. The actual allocation will depend on the outcome of the recruitment process (quality and availability of candidates, etc.). The Faculty's Executive will also decide on the prioritization of candidates for a third year extension of their Fellowship. More in general, the recruitment process and the coordination and supervision of the RSSD Research Fellows will fall under the Faculty's responsibilities.

Faculty funding The funding attributed yearly by H/RSSD to the Faculty will fall under the Faculty's responsibility. The "executive power'' on the use of such funds will rest with the Chair, who will act following the recommendations of the Faculty Executive after consultation with the whole Faculty.

5.2 Organization of seminars

The ESTEC RSSD seminar program falls under the responsibility of the Faculty, who will define topics, schedule, etc.

5.3 Advocacy

The Faculty will interact with RSSD management in these cases in which individual Faculty members feel that their research time and resources are threatened e.g. by an undue increase in functional tasks.

5.4 Scientists recruitment

The Faculty will appoint a member (possibly from the Faculty Executive) who will attend, as an observer, all interviews for scientist's positions (at A2-A4 level) in RSSD. The role of the observer will be to advise the Board on the scientific abilities and interests of the candidates, to ensure that these are taken into due account in the recruitment process.

5.5 Visitor's program

It is felt that "scientific visitors'' at all levels (from PhD students to senior researchers) are an essential tool for the scientific life of RSSD. The organization of an effective visitor's program falls under the responsibility of the Faculty. A fraction of the Faculty funding can be used for scientific visitors.

5.6 Interface with RSSD visiting committee

The purpose of the RSSD Visiting Committee (meeting every two years) is to assess the research program of the Department. The Faculty will therefore interface directly with the Visiting Committee, together with RSSD management. It will contribute to the organization and preparation of the review and it will interact directly with the committee at all stages of the review.

5.7 Evaluation of RSSD science projects

The Faculty will periodically perform a self-evaluation of the science projects within RSSD, with particular emphasis on projects which require a significant amount of resources (in terms of direct financial resources or of human resources). The review will assess the productivity, visibility and future potential of these projects, providing advice to management on their status and on their priority. The organization and details of this process fall entirely under the Faculty's responsibility.

5.8 Foster scientific interchange

Given that RSSD must by statute cover a broad range of scientific disciplines, scientific interchange and discussions among RSSD Faculty members are particularly necessary. This is best fostered through the creation and maintenance of informal occasion, e.g. the creation and maintenance of a "Faculty lounge'' in which adequate occasions ("journal club'' sessions) will be set up. The organization of this will fall under the Faculty Executive.

5.9 Scientific advice

For all issues related to the scientific return from ESA's mission, the Faculty acts as the internal forum for interchange of ideas on e.g. the organization of various aspects of a mission's scientific structure (AOs, TACs, archives, etc.) and can, if needed, provide input and advice to RSSD management.

5.10 Monitoring of status and progress of Research Fellows

The Faculty will periodically review the status of the RF program. For this, it may e.g. have specific meetings with the Department's RFs, discussions with supervisors, etc. The aim is to have a constant "bird's eye'' view of the status of the program, spot problems, propose solutions, etc. The Faculty's role does not substitute nor interfere with the individual day to day supervision by the responsible individual scientists (supervisors).

6. Areas which do not fall under the Faculty's responsibility

For clarity, the Faculty's role does not include the ``steering'' of research within RSSD. It is not its task, for example, to assess whether a given research topic is adequate or acceptable, nor to create or manage external collaborations. More in general, the Faculty's role is not to manage the research work of either individual or scientific groups within RSSD.

7. Faculty's working rules

7.1 Faculty chair

The Faculty is chaired by one the RSSD staff scientists. The Chair is elected by the Faculty itself by simple majority, for a two years period, renewable. The Chair calls Faculty meetings, proposes the agenda, chairs the meetings, and constitutes the main interface between the Faculty and RSSD management.

7.2 Faculty Executive committee

For the actual execution of a number of tasks (see below) the Faculty appoints an Executive Committee composed of a number of ESTEC Staff Scientists. These are elected by the Faculty itself by simple majority. They are appointed for three years, renewable.

7.3 Faculty meetings

The Faculty will hold regular meetings, at least every two months. Meetings are open to all Faculty members. The regular meetings are the Faculty's main forum for the discussion of proposals, concerns, etc. and are the main interface between the Faculty at large and the activities carried out by the Faculty's Executive and Chair. Agendas and minutes of meetings, along with general Faculty information are availble on the RSSD faculty web pages:


Modification History

V1.1 October 2006 - Modification of Section 7.3 to indicate that Faculty information will be accessible and kept up to date on the Faculty web pages on the RSSD system, rather than livelink.

V1.2 July 2007 - Modified parts of text to reflect current workings of ESTEC Faculty, including update of Executive commitee which currently consists of a number of ESTEC Staff Scientists, rather than the orginal three.

     Copyright © 2014 European Space Agency. All rights reserved.
This page was first created on 11 October, 2006 and was last updated on 16 July, 2007.
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