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New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
tation, and the ~3-year grant duration is long enough to cover much, but frequently not all, of a graduate student’s Ph.D.-thesis years. The Telescope System Instrument Program and the University Radio Observatory program, described in Chapter 6, help provide the facilities for students to learn observing procedures and develop new instrumentation. In Chapter 7 the committee recommends augmentations for several of these programs. However, some of the most compelling science opportunities and instrumentation frontiers—and therefore the areas of highest interest among young people—are beyond the scales of even the largest of these mid-scale programs.
A National Science Board report16 and a National Research Council report17 both emphasized that NSF should address the need for mid-size infrastructure, as have the NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences (NSF-AST) senior review,18 several AAAC annual reports,19 and multiple Committees of Visitors to NSF-AST, NSF-PHY, and the NSF Division of Materials Research of its Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) between 2003 and 2009. All of these reports stated that NSF needs a better mechanism to fund projects with costs between the top of the MRI funding bracket ($4 million to $6 million varying over the decade) and the bottom of the MREFC funding bracket (~$135 million).
Since at least FY2007, mid-scale instrumentation has been identified as a priority of NSF’s MPS directorate. In FY2009 and FY2010 mid-scale instrumentation was called out as a priority for NSF-AST, with increases resulting in expenditures of $32 million in FY2010. Beyond spending on GSMT, LSST, and SKA technology, design, and development, the projects funded include SDSS-II and SDSS-III, VERITAS, the Murchison Widefield Array, the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, PolarBeaR, and QUIET. Some of these were co-funded by NSF-PHY.
In Chapter 7, the committee recommends the establishment of a formally competed mid-scale instrumentation and facilities line within NSF-AST with additional funding beyond that currently being provided. The program would be focused specifically on the construction costs of instruments and facilities that fall between the top of the MRI and the bottom of the MREFC funding ranges. This survey received 29 proposals that would be eligible for such a competition, many of which were highly rated by the survey’s Program Prioritization Panels (PPPs) because they address directly the frontier science questions identified by the SFPs.
National Science Board, Science and Engineering Infrastructure for the 21st Century: The Role ofthe National Science Foundation, NSB 02190, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va., 2003.
National Research Council, Advanced Research Instrumentation and Facilities, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006.
National Science Foundation, From the Ground Up: Balancing the NSF Astronomy Program, Report of the NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences Senior Review Committee, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va., 2006.