As proxy indicators of performance in each of the Observatory's principal areas of activity (research, education and public outreach, and heritage) records are maintained of (A) External Grant Income (per financial year); (B) the number of Refereed Journal Publications (per calendar year); (C) the number of Identified Media Citations (per calendar year); and (D) the number of Distinct e-Visitors (DeVs) to its web-sites (per calendar year). Although other data are recorded for internal management and statistical purposes (e.g. numbers of presentations, seminars and invited talks, grants and telescope time etc.), a detailed annual analysis of such indicators is less informative than a thorough periodic assessment of the Observatory's research performance in the round, making allowance for the available resources and, for example, the Observatory's relatively small size compared to many university departments and research institutes with which the Observatory is often compared. The Observatory has participated in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) since 1992, and during this period has maintained a Quality Research (QR) rating of Grade 4. In the 2001 RAE this grade corresponded to: ``Quality that equates to attainable levels of national excellence in virtually all of the research activity submitted, showing some evidence of international excellence.''
The trends of these principal performance indicators, provided in Table 1, are repeated below for convenience and shown graphically in Figure 2. Note that all items refer to calendar year, with the exception of financial matters (e.g. external grant income for 2004 refers to the financial year 2004/2005 and so on).
So far as the particular indicators are concerned, the Observatory's total non-DCAL income (£250,000) slightly exceeds the value for external grant income alone (an unaudited estimate of £239,000); the number of refereed journal publications is a lower limit to the total number of refereed papers, which is a subset of the Observatory's entire research output; the number of identified media citations is a lower limit to the actual number of mentions of the Observatory or its staff in various mass-media; and the number of Distinct e-Visitors (DeVs) is the number of distinct hosts served by the Observatory's web-site. This too is a lower limit, owing to caching by big servers and sharing or repeat visits from the same IP number. The number of DeVs can also vary significantly, depending on which computer programme is used to analyse the web-traffic. Here, we have chosen the average of two independent estimates, namely 381,000 and 771,000. In future years we plan to record just the lower figure.
Total external grant income during 2004/2005, namely £239,000, was slightly below the target figure of £250,000 set in April 2004, and was again significantly boosted by contributions from the largely HLF-funded telescope domes and historic telescopes restoration project. As a group, the five Research Astronomers at Armagh have continued to bring into the Observatory more external funding in terms of non-DCAL grant income than their gross DCAL-funded salary costs, a remarkable achievement. This statistic alone demonstrates the potential for resonant growth associated with additional research staff. The target for external grant income for 2005/2006 has been set at £200,000, owing to the projected retirement of one Astronomer during 2005. Considering the fierce competition for research grants, this still represents a challenging objective.
The number of refereed journal publications in 2004 has shown a substantial increase compared with the level of recent years, a highly commendable result given that the number of core research staff at the Observatory has shown no increase at all. Similarly, the number of identified media citations has remained at a high level, substantially above the target of 200 per year, and the number of DeVs continues to grow. Taken together, these results demonstrate a very satisfactory performance in research output, public profile and the external impact of the Armagh Observatory, despite the near-constant number of research-active staff.
The chosen performance measures (Table 2 and Figure 2) show that the Observatory has maintained a very high level of research activity during the reporting period, has attracted substantial amounts of external income, and has maintained an exceptionally high public profile. For such a small research group, the frequency with which members of staff appear in or are quoted in newspapers and other media is probably second to none.