gators and university-department-scale clusters, which are critical for exploratory and smaller-scale projects and for the training of students.
A large number of the theoretical challenges posed by the Science Frontiers Panels are of a scale and complexity that require sustained, multi-institutional collaborations of theorists, computational astrophysicists, observers, and experimenters. There is currently no mechanism to support these coordinated efforts at the required level in the United States; however, successful models for such coordinated efforts exist in Europe.8 Opportunities used to exist for such medium-scale group efforts in the NASA ATP, but more recently ATP has been focused on individuals and small single-institution groups. Appropriately focused and led research collaborations and networks are “efforts of scale” that can make long-term investments in personnel, computing, and scientific networking uniquely effective in tackling some of the most difficult problems in modern astrophysics.
RECOMMENDATION: A new program of Research Networks in Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics as discussed in Chapter 7 should be funded by DOE, NASA, and NSF. The program would support research in six to eight focus areas that cover major theoretical questions raised by the survey Science Frontiers Panels.
The networks would be devoted to a specific problem or topic that is believed to be ripe for a breakthrough within 5 years. Selection criteria would include the degree of cross-institutional synergy in the network and its planned role in training and mentoring the next generation of researchers. Funding would normally be for a 5-year period, and the entire program would be subject to a senior review after 5 years. These networks fulfill a role different from that of NASA’s ATP and NSF’s AAG program and should not be funded at their expense. For NSF’s AAG program the success rate for theory proposals is roughly 37 percent.
The scientific richness and extent of astronomical data sets are increasing rapidly. The sizes of modern databases have grown over the past decade into
As an example, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (the German Research Foundation) has established “Priority Programs” that enable large coordinated theory efforts. An example of a recently established Priority Program is “Witnesses of Cosmic History: Formation and Evolution of Black Holes, Galaxies, and Their Environment.”