While we are getting depressed about JWST, here is some news that can cheer us up. The South African National Research Foundation has announced that it is restructuring its management of astronomy, implementing a “single cluster approach” with “a dedicated, stand-alone unit for the management of facilities and projects”, and that they will start looking for “a suitably qualified and experienced astronomer/physicist to head the Astronomy cluster.” You can find the statement of the NRF board here and a statement by the Democratic Alliance welcoming this change here. My sources tell me that an announcement has been made to SAAO staff.
The management-speak may be making you glaze over, but permit me to translate. NRF will stop micro-managing astronomy; decisions will be science-led rather than taken for dubious corporate reasons; astronomers will be able to run their own projects; South Africa has become a plausible international partner for the SKA, and greatly improved its chances of winning that prize.
The background, as most of you will remember, was the bizarre suspension of Phil Charles, for reasons never quite specified, but seeming to be insubordination. I wrote several posts about this, starting here and most recently here. Phil was cleared of all the charges… whatever they were… This new announcement goes beyond that exoneration, and effectively vindicates his original actions. Phil is now on the verge of completing his tenure as Director and returning to Southampton. The restructuring makes it plausible that NRF can recruit somebody good to fill his shoes. It must feel very sweet.
Those who like a little schadenfreude stirred into their celebration glass may want to note in the above link the delicately worded announcement that Dr Gatsha Mazithulela will be spending more time with his family.