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U.S. Astronomy and Astrophysics: Managing an Integrated Program
BOX 4.1Summary of Concerns That Require Attention
The inadequate coordination between NASA and NSF that results in lack of coherent planning for the federally funded portion of astronomy and astrophysics. This lack of coordination has the potential to reduce opportunities and increase inefficiencies and is detrimental to both space missions and ground-based pursuits.
The impact of insufficient coordination of the federal program in astronomy and astrophysics with the activities supported at state, local, and private levels, particularly given the substantial investment of the latter institutions in ground-based optical/infrared astronomy. This fragmentation is a long-standing problem but also represents an opportunity to strengthen the overall astronomy and astrophysics research enterprise in the United States.
The lack of a clear mechanism for coordinating, in an integrated fashion, the activities of the United States in ground-based astronomy and astrophysics with those of other nations.
The practice at NSF of making major investments in facilities without providing adequate funds to (1) ensure the availability of instruments for optimal exploitation of the facilities and to (2) underwrite the necessary supporting research grants to enable theoretical work and the analysis and publication of the data.
The perceived imbalance between support for space-based and ground-based astronomy (with the latter generally considered to be inadequate).
The perceived management shortcomings of NSF in conducting major projects.
The growing vulnerability of the astronomy and astrophysics research talent base to disruption caused by the failure of a major space mission (such as the Hubble Space Telescope).
high-level concerns. This new framework should facilitate the resolution of specific, but important, lower-level issues as well.
Established Effectiveness of the Federal Organization
The best measure of the overall effectiveness of the federal organization for astronomy and astrophysics is the results of research supported by it. The accomplishments in this field, particularly in the last decade, speak for themselves. Observations have given rise to deep theoretical insights about planets, stars (including the Sun), galaxies, and the history
The committee’s findings are generally consistent with the policy conclusions of the most recent decadal survey committee.