advice from the community, which it currently receives through its Committee of Visitors and senior review processes. The survey committee urges MPS to find mechanisms to provide NSF-AST with a more robust means of expert community input. Finally, the charges to the NRC Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics and the AAAC have evolved over the past decade to the point of considerable overlap, which is addressed separately below.


The AAAC was created by Congress in 2002 to advise Congress, OSTP, NASA, and NSF (and also, by an amendment in 2005, DOE) on matters of interagency coordination as well as on the health of the astronomical enterprise generally. Because many of the critical elements of the core research program (described in Chapter 5) within this national enterprise cut across agency boundaries, optimizing the program as a whole requires looking across agencies. The AAAC can play a key role in providing continuing advice to DOE, NASA, and NSF on funding across the three agencies in the areas of:

  • Support of individual and group grants funding, including the balance between grants programs, mission/facility operations, and the design and development of new missions/facilities;

  • Overall support of theoretical and computational astrophysics;

  • Data archiving and dissemination, and funding for data analysis software, including the optimal infrastructure for the curation of archival space- and ground-based data from federally supported missions/facilities;

  • Laboratory astrophysics; and

  • Technology development.

Last but not least, the AAAC can be tasked to provide timely, ad hoc advice on pressing cross-agency matters; it has in the past provided essential white papers on exoplanets, dark energy, and CMB polarization using a task force approach.


The decadal survey is a strategic document built on 2 years of work involving a significant fraction of the community. The strategy laid out is based on the best information available at the time on scientific, technical, and fiscal issues, using reasonable assumptions about the future. However, astronomy is a highly progressive activity, and important scientific discoveries, technical advances, and changes in budgets and international plans will require revisiting parts of the strategy over the next decade. Moreover, this report identifies in Chapter 7 a number of decision

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