Current centers span a significant range of sizes, from the STScI, which has an annual budget of about $98 million and about 450 staff members, to smaller efforts with budgets ~$10 million and no more than about 20 staff members.

Statement of task The study will include the following tasks:

  1. Conduct a comparative review of current astronomy science centers in terms of the kinds of roles and services that they provide, their size (e.g., budget, staff), the extent to which they utilize centralized or distributed approaches to their architecture, the roles and status of their staff, the nature of their host or governing institution, governance structure, how they were established by NASA (e.g., sole source versus competition).

  2. Identify best practices and lessons learned from experience to date with NASA astronomy science centers.

  3. Assess the questions of whether there are optimum sizes or approaches for science centers, whether there are rational break points in levels of service for centers, and what may be significant advantages or disadvantages for different scales of service.

The study will consider all aspects of centers’ service to the astronomy community, including space mission operations planning, data processing and archival, grants to observers and data users, science community communications and advocacy.

The study is not intended to be a performance review of current centers, but it is expected to provide an assessment to serve decision-making with regard to future centers.

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