5
Summary of Principal Workshop Themes

As the decadal survey and other related NRC reports have noted, understanding and monitoring the fundamental processes responsible for solar-terrestrial coupling are vital to being able to fully explain the influence of the Sun on the near-Earth environment.1 These studies emphasize that monitoring the spatial and temporal development of global current systems and flows; the energization and loss of energetic particles; and the transport of mass, energy, and momentum throughout the global magnetosphere is essential to achieving this scientific goal.

At the workshop speakers argued that DASI will be the culmination of decades of discipline-related local instrument development that has pursued aspects of solar-terrestrial science at the subsystem level. With the advent of the Internet and affordable high-speed computing, these local deployments can become elements of a global instrument system. When different instrument techniques are then combined to observe all aspects of the physical system, the DASI concept will be realized.

Proponents of the DASI concept emphasized at the workshop that DASI’s strength is that it offers a cost-effective means of performing original and critically important science, with a development strategy that allows resulting new knowledge to enable and flow into future initiatives. DASI will complement and extend the capabilities of the next generation of space-based research and space weather instruments by providing a global context within which to understand in situ and remote sensing observations. Other strengths of the DASI concept cited by various speakers and splinter groups included the following:

  • Ground-breaking science, enabled by distributed global measurements that allow researchers to continually gauge the role of solar-terrestrial processes;

  • The enablement of global modeling initiatives, which have long suffered from the lack of availability of data that specifies the space environment on appropriate spatial and temporal scales;

  • The ability to combine resources within different DASI projects to save cost, streamline schedules, and provide a more standard analysis environment for a broad user base;

  • A gradual development time line, allowing the optimization, co-development, and eventual upgrading of investigations at a reasonable cost to the sponsoring agencies;

  • The continued development and enablement of distributed data analysis environments and virtual observatory initiatives, which are an expensive yet fundamental part of the infrastructure of all investigations;

  • International cooperation in a flexible environment that allows researchers from around the globe to participate and contribute to the benefit of the entire international scientific community; and

  • Renewed enablement of programs that provide exposure and experience to graduate students and other young scientists, thus preparing the principal investigators of the future.

1  

National Research Council (NRC), 2003, The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.; NRC, 2004, Plasma Physics of the Local Cosmos, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.



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Distributed Arrays of Small Instruments for Solar-Terrestrial Research: Report of a Workshop 5 Summary of Principal Workshop Themes As the decadal survey and other related NRC reports have noted, understanding and monitoring the fundamental processes responsible for solar-terrestrial coupling are vital to being able to fully explain the influence of the Sun on the near-Earth environment.1 These studies emphasize that monitoring the spatial and temporal development of global current systems and flows; the energization and loss of energetic particles; and the transport of mass, energy, and momentum throughout the global magnetosphere is essential to achieving this scientific goal. At the workshop speakers argued that DASI will be the culmination of decades of discipline-related local instrument development that has pursued aspects of solar-terrestrial science at the subsystem level. With the advent of the Internet and affordable high-speed computing, these local deployments can become elements of a global instrument system. When different instrument techniques are then combined to observe all aspects of the physical system, the DASI concept will be realized. Proponents of the DASI concept emphasized at the workshop that DASI’s strength is that it offers a cost-effective means of performing original and critically important science, with a development strategy that allows resulting new knowledge to enable and flow into future initiatives. DASI will complement and extend the capabilities of the next generation of space-based research and space weather instruments by providing a global context within which to understand in situ and remote sensing observations. Other strengths of the DASI concept cited by various speakers and splinter groups included the following: Ground-breaking science, enabled by distributed global measurements that allow researchers to continually gauge the role of solar-terrestrial processes; The enablement of global modeling initiatives, which have long suffered from the lack of availability of data that specifies the space environment on appropriate spatial and temporal scales; The ability to combine resources within different DASI projects to save cost, streamline schedules, and provide a more standard analysis environment for a broad user base; A gradual development time line, allowing the optimization, co-development, and eventual upgrading of investigations at a reasonable cost to the sponsoring agencies; The continued development and enablement of distributed data analysis environments and virtual observatory initiatives, which are an expensive yet fundamental part of the infrastructure of all investigations; International cooperation in a flexible environment that allows researchers from around the globe to participate and contribute to the benefit of the entire international scientific community; and Renewed enablement of programs that provide exposure and experience to graduate students and other young scientists, thus preparing the principal investigators of the future. 1   National Research Council (NRC), 2003, The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.; NRC, 2004, Plasma Physics of the Local Cosmos, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

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Distributed Arrays of Small Instruments for Solar-Terrestrial Research: Report of a Workshop With respect to education and public outreach, workshop participants often made the point that distributed arrays of instruments are inherently well suited to provide opportunities in education, public outreach, and workforce development. Because they are well distributed, have required infrastructure such as power and Internet access, and are home to scientifically knowledgeable staff, secondary schools, community colleges, and small colleges are logical sites for many or most DASI instruments. The instruments themselves provide an opportunity for training in advanced instrumentation techniques and design and could be a focal point for science classes. This would greatly enhance student and public awareness of space weather and its impact on society. Internet access to data from the entire array further enhances the educational value of DASI, for example, by introducing students to distributed computing and space-weather modeling. Participation in DASI can provide research opportunities for faculty at non-research institutions and could enhance faculty members’ ability to apply for research grants. Furthermore, participation in DASI would encourage students to consider careers in technology, science, and information technology by directly involving them in these areas at an early stage. NEXT STEPS The NRC solar and space physics decadal survey report recommended that “the relevant program offices in the NSF should support comprehensive new approaches to the design and maintenance of ground-based, distributed instrument networks, with proper regard for the severe environments in which they must operate” (p. 12). The DASI workshop participants discussed a number of areas in which the space research community can begin an organized effort to develop a coordinated space-research instrumentation system. Although consensus priorities were neither sought nor identified, the following ideas were especially prevalent in approaches discussed during the sessions: Hold community workshops to address in greater detail the instrumentation, science, and deployment issues associated with DASI. Identify areas in which existing and planned instrument arrays and clusters can share technology, data distribution architectures, and logistics experience. Consolidate currently planned systems to form a regional implementation of next-generation coordinated instrument arrays. Establish closer connections with other research communities that are developing similar distributed instrumentation systems. Coordinate efforts in the U.S. community with similar international efforts. Move toward developing rugged, miniaturized instruments that use a common data format. Support efforts to establish standards for data communication technologies and protocols. Work with agency sponsors to begin a phased implementation of the DASI program. Achieving the science objectives for DASI will require a global deployment of instruments and a large commitment of resources. Although the workshop did not go into detail on the areas of collaboration or opportunities to be pursued, participants felt strongly that international collaboration should be a fundamental part of the DASI plan.

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Distributed Arrays of Small Instruments for Solar-Terrestrial Research: Report of a Workshop Appendixes

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