RECOMMENDATION: A new program of Research Networks in Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics 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’s Science Frontiers Panels.
A related issue is the increasing importance of data handling in astronomical projects and the need to see data analysis as an integral part of any new project. In the committee’s view the best proposals for new major ground-based facilities and instruments include such planning.
RECOMMENDATION: Proposals for new major ground-based facilities and instruments with significant federal funding should be required as a matter of agency policy to include a plan and if necessary a budget for ensuring appropriate data acquisition, processing, archiving, and public access after a suitable proprietary period.
Many astronomical data sets have long-term value and benefits. The committee concluded that there is a need for attention to data curation.
RECOMMENDATION: NSF, NASA, and DOE should plan for effective long-term curation of, and access to, large astronomical data sets after completion of the missions or projects that produced these data, given the likely future scientific benefit of the data. NASA currently supports widely used curated data archives, and similar data curation models could be adopted by NSF and DOE.
Another important component of the astrophysical infrastructure is the ability to carry out crucial measurements in the laboratory that are relevant to interpreting observations from astronomical environments. The suite of recently launched and proposed facilities will make the acquisition of laboratory data even more crucial than it has been in the past.
CONCLUSION: DOE national laboratories, including those funded by the Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration, have many unique facilities that can provide basic astrophysical data.