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Decadal Science Strategy Surveys: Report of a Workshop C Excerpts from Presentation by Jon Morse, Office of Science and Technology Policy The Role of NRC Decadal Surveys in Prioritizing Federal Funding for Science & Technology Jon Morse Physical Sciences and Engineering Office of Science and Technology Policy Executive Office of the President
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Decadal Science Strategy Surveys: Report of a Workshop Beneficial Aspects of NRC Decadal Surveys Community-based documents that provide consensus views of frontier science opportunities for maintaining the nation’s scientific leadership Provides for each field a single, well-respected source for community priorities and the scientific motivations to the agencies, OMB, OSTP, and the Congress Limits the range of activities to consider for funding Cost estimates, technical risk assessments, and technology roadmaps aid in budget planning Issues and Concerns with NRC Decadal Surveys Prioritizing specific projects can become static and inflexible, making it nearly impossible to account for project setbacks, new discoveries, changing budgetary circumstances, etc. Technical risks are often not well known or stated clearly Cost estimates have often been inaccurate Project cost estimates are too low and do not reflect total life-cycle costs Recommended project portfolios cannot fit in any realistic budget scenario (unrealistic expectations) Small, medium, and large projects are not compared Surveys often do not address how projects should be phased, individually or relative to one another Surveys usually assume only growth in the number and scale of facilities and missions and do not identify offsets in the existing portfolios to enable new initiatives What Is Most Useful for Making Decisions? Frame the discussion by identifying the key science questions Focus on what you want to do, not on what you want to build Discuss the breadth and depth of the science (e.g., impact on our understanding of fundamental processes, impact on related fields and interdisciplinary research, etc.) Explain what measurements and capabilities are needed to answer each question Discuss the complementary nature of initiatives, relative phasing (domestic and international context) How do various past, present, and future measurements and facilities work together to answer the questions? What roles do/could private, interagency, and international partnerships play?
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Decadal Science Strategy Surveys: Report of a Workshop Reporting by capabilities (e.g., wavelength range and in situ vs. remote sensing) is not useful for policy and budget planning Suggested Improvements Establish science and project priorities in the broad context of past, present, and future projects and changing conditions New initiatives, upgrades and/or recapitalizations Establish relative priority amongst new initiatives, projects currently under development (e.g., from previous surveys), operating projects, R&A, PI-led projects, and technology/R&D investment needs Prioritize across all initiatives vs. grouping into small, medium, large. That is, remove ambiguities about what is meant by “a balanced program” Explain the associated risks (technical, dependencies on other projects) Assume that large projects (>$1 billion) will need international support Provide tables that summarize key information about science and projects Provide timeline/phasing charts and diagrams for project portfolios under various budget scenarios Consider recruiting nonspecialists or even nonscientists for committees to aid in communicating societal benefits (e.g., interdisciplinary aspects, education, workforce training, public outreach) Managing Expectations Acknowledge stewardship role in taxpayer investment Identify highest priority activities but within a framework that allows flexibility to react to new scientific opportunities Use order-of-magnitude life-cycle cost estimates instead of specific (often underestimated) construction costs or costs by decade Explain how circumstances (e.g., project overruns, changing budget forecasts, phasing with other projects, new discoveries) would change priorities Consider multiple realistic budget profiles and what science various profiles would buy Work with agencies, OMB, Congress to define constraints Macrobudgetary pressures are expected to increase during the next decade, so flat budget projections may actually be optimistic Also need to consider project terminations that allow new initiatives to move forward (part of Decadal Survey or subsequent Senior Review process)