have enabled dramatic scientific progress, and they show excellent promise of continuing to do so. Nonetheless, the existing management structure for the U.S. astronomy and astrophysics research enterprise is not optimally positioned to address the concerns posed by the mounting changes and trends that will affect the future health of the field.
The existing management structure for astronomy and astrophysics research separates the ground- and space-based astronomy programs. NSF has responsibility for the former and NASA has responsibility for the latter. The ground-based optical/infrared observatories funded by private and state resources constitute an important third component of the system. In astronomical and astrophysical research, NASA’s strength has been the support of work related to major space missions. NSF’s strength in astronomy and astrophysics has been the support of a broad spectrum of basic research motivated by the initiative of individuals and small groups in the scientific community and by its role in assuring the continued availability of broadly educated scientists. The NSF also funds research in related fields such as physics, geophysics, computation, chemistry, and mathematics, providing a broad multidisciplinary context for astronomy and astrophysics research that can promote productive connections among these fields.
Three important changes have occurred in the field over the last two decades. First, ground- and space-based research activities have become increasingly interdependent as well as increasingly reliant on large facilities, major missions, and international collaborations. Second, NASA’s relative role in astronomy and astrophysics research has grown markedly. (In 1980, most of the research grants in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics were provided by NSF. Today, most of the grants are provided by NASA.)3 And third, large state-of-the-art optical/infrared telescopes built with non-federal funds now dominate this component of ground-based astronomy.
These changes necessitate systematic, comprehensive, and coordinated planning in order to sustain and maximize the flow of scientific benefits from the federal, state, and private investments that are being made in astronomy and astrophysics facilities and missions. The increasing financial and intellectual demands to be met by more than one nation in supporting large projects, particularly on the ground, require that the United States develop a unified planning and execution structure to effectively participate in such international ventures. To develop the needed integrated and comprehensive strategy for the field, the committee rec-