the committee found that the scientific output of the OIR system would be optimized by re-allocating support to provide more for instrumentation on the newer telescopes that enable production of the majority of high-impact science papers.10 If administered through the TSIP and ReSTAR funding rules, in the case of private facilities, such investments would provide increased public access to these existing telescopes.

CONCLUSION: Optimizing the long-term science return from the whole of the U.S. optical and infrared system requires a readjusting of the balance of the NSF-Astronomy program of support in three areas: (1) publicly operated national observatories—the combined National Optical Astronomy Observatory and Gemini facilities that currently dominate spending; (2) private-public partnerships—such as support for instrumentation at and upgrades of privately operated observatories; and (3) investment in future facilities.

Among the newer OIR facilities are the two Gemini telescopes, which can be appropriately instrumented to provide the spectroscopic and near-infrared imaging capabilities that are critical to reap the scientific harvest from ALMA, JWST, and the future LSST. They can also provide some of the 8- to 10-meter-class telescope capability that is needed to fulfill the major scientific initiatives of Astro2010 in exoplanets, dark energy, and early galaxy studies. The Gemini telescopes are now equipped with multiobject spectrographs, integral field spectroscopy capability, and both near- and mid-infrared detectors, with a multi-conjugate adaptive optics capability imminent on Gemini-South; they are now poised to deliver the scientific impact they promise. However, despite its high science potential, the Gemini program does not, in practice, satisfy the requirements of the U.S. astronomical community. The ALTAIR report noted general community dissatisfaction with the current instrument suite, the queue observing mode, and the governance of the observatory. The Panel on Optical and Infrared Astronomy from the Ground found that the Gemini complex management structure created to facilitate international operation prevents the U.S. National Gemini Office from serving as an effective advocate for U.S. interests at a level commensurate with its partnership share. Furthermore, as noted by the 2006 NSF-AST senior review, as well as internal Gemini Observatory reviews, Gemini operations costs are higher than those at other comparable U.S. facilities. The committee concluded that the Gemini

10

D. Crabtree, Scientific productivity and impact of large telescopes, in Observatory Operations: Strategies, Processes, and Systems II (R.J. Brissenden and D.R. Silva, eds.), Proceedings of SPIE, Vol. 7016, doi:10.1117/12.787176, SPIE, Bellingham, Wash., 2008; J.P. Madrid and F.D. Macchetto, “High-Impact Astronomical Observatories,” ArXiv eprint arXiv:0901.4552, 2009; accepted for publication in the Bulletin of the AAS.



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