Suitably skilled scientists can play important roles in government. Astronomers in particular can take greater advantage of the opportunities for engagement in public policy issues and advocacy for astronomy provided by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the AAS, and the American Physical Society (APS), as well as opportunities to participate in congressional visits, to hold congressional fellowships, to serve on advisory committees to the federal agencies, and to serve as rotators or staff members at the federal agencies and other national research infrastructure organizations. There is a need to educate and expose graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to issues of public policy and related processes. Astronomers serving in such positions would facilitate a better dialog between policy makers and working scientists and would help inform decisions about astronomy funding. Astronomy departments should be receptive to astronomers desiring to participate in the governmental process through such service.
RECOMMENDATION: The astronomical community should encourage and support astronomers’ commitment to serve in science service and science policy positions, on a rotator, fellowship, or permanent basis, at the relevant funding agencies—NSF, NASA, DOE—in Congress, at the Office of Management and Budget, or at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Revolutionary discoveries and new scientific opportunities have made astronomy and astrophysics a rapidly growing field of research. It is attracting scientists from other fields (e.g., high-energy physics), creating interfaces with other fields (e.g., astrobiology), and evolving in style (e.g., becoming more collaborative and more digital, and using more complex facilities). Table 4.1 and Figures 4.8, 4.9, and 4.10 detail how the field is changing. Conducting astronomical research increasingly requires detailed knowledge across many subfields of physics as well as knowledge of statistics and computational methods. In addition, with the increasing complexity of astronomy and astrophysics projects, both in space and on the ground, has come a greater need for expertise in areas such as instrumentation, project management, data handling and analysis, astronautics, and public communication—a development requiring broader training. Even as the field has become more vibrant and exciting, this time of change in astronomy has also induced some stress in the profession, particularly with regard to the careers of young scientists.
The number of astronomers is rising. The total membership of the AAS in all categories increased from 4,200 in 1984 to 7,700 in 2009, a growth of more than 80 percent in 25 years (roughly one-third of this growth is in graduate student mem-