ties and advanced technology development. According to information provided by the Astro2010 Infrastructure Study Groups, 23 percent is spent on individual investigator grants in support of research. Approximately 61 percent of the funding for facilities goes to national and university-based radio, 33 percent to national and university-based optical, and 6 percent to solar telescopes. In the committee’s view this allocation of resources is unbalanced: existing facilities are not being exploited efficiently because not enough is invested in modern instrumentation and in supporting the investigators who produce the science from these facilities and, furthermore, not enough is invested in the future through advanced technology development. Unless the budget increases, the only way to render balance is to close operating facilities, and the mechanism for doing this is senior reviews.
CONCLUSION: Maintaining an appropriate balance in NSF’s astronomy and astrophysics research portfolio and, by extension, balance in the health and scientific effectiveness of the NSF facilities requires a vigorous periodic senior review.
Senior reviews are major endeavors and should be undertaken very seriously. They should be seen as a means for ensuring good stewardship of the NSF program.
RECOMMENDATION: NSF-Astronomy should complete its next senior review before the mid-decade independent review that is recommended elsewhere in this report, so as to determine which, if any, facilities NSF-AST should cease to support in order to release funds for (1) the construction and ongoing operation of new telescopes and instruments and (2) the science analysis needed to capitalize on the results from existing and future facilities.
As discussed above and in earlier chapters, the connection between astronomy and physics has strengthened considerably over the past decade. There is strong mutual interest in the two communities in dark energy, dark matter physics of the very early universe, gravitation, CMB, gamma-ray astrophysics, and cosmic-ray physics. University physicists and national laboratories have already collaborated productively with scientists from more traditional astronomical backgrounds on highly successful ventures. The strength of these collaborations at the working level has derived from the complementary perspectives on the science and the different technical skills and experience contributed by these two communities—