can be supported within the United States. The long-term goal should be to maximize the scientific output from major astronomical facilities throughout the world, a goal that is best achieved through opening access to all astronomers.

International Strategic Planning

Another consequence of the globalization of astronomy is that it no longer suffices to make national strategic plans. Indeed, much of the challenge of the present survey derives from this realization. It is neither realistic nor advisable to imagine creating a single international strategic plan that separates the science from the funding authority. However, a regular comparison of national and, in the case of Europe, continental plans can provide a forum for reviewing developments in science and technology and can create a fertile environment where successful collaborations can grow. One large international project for which such a forum would be beneficial is the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). Despite the unqualified enthusiasm for the science that this facility could deliver and the recognition that it represents the long-term future of radio astronomy, the committee encountered a major discrepancy between the schedule advertised by the international SKA community and the timescale on which NSF could realistically make a significant contribution to SKA’s construction and operations costs.

RECOMMENDATION: Approximately every 5 years the international science community should come together in a forum to share scientific directions and strategic plans, and to look for opportunities for further collaboration and cooperation, especially on large projects.

Society, Astronomy, and Astronomers

Serving the Nation

The committee’s recommended ambitious program of research in astronomy and astrophysics is driven in part by the benefits to society. Although the impetus for public support for the astronomy and astrophysics research enterprise will always be primarily the quest for an ever-deepening knowledge of our universe, as discussed elsewhere in this report that public support also produces significant additional benefits for the nation and its people.

CONCLUSION: Astronomy is a pure science, driven by human curiosity. Nevertheless, the techniques and models developed in the process of conducting astronomical research often have broad utility. For example, advances in



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement