BOX 3.1

The Modern Landscape

  • In 2009, U.S. astronomers accounted for 25 percent of the total membership of the International Astronomical Union, the major international society of professional astronomers; this fraction has declined over the past 10 years.

  • The fraction of papers in major astronomy journals from U.S. authors was 42 percent in 2009; because of the growing number of non-U.S. papers there has been a slow but steady decrease in this fraction since 1980, when it was 67 percent.

  • U.S. astronomers have access to 47 percent of the total world aperture in large optical telescopes (square inches of glass for the 17 telescopes with >6-meter aperture). Europe, with its Very Large Telescope (VLT; four 8-meter telescopes and an array of smaller telescopes used for infrared interferometry) at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and new Grand Telescopio Canarias (11 meters), has achieved parity with the United States in ground-based optical and infrared astronomy.

  • Although aperture is important for radio telescopes, angular resolution and frequency coverage are as important. For all three parameters, U.S. radio facilities are the equal of or exceed their foreign counterparts at centimeter wavelengths. The Expanded Very Large Array is by far the dominant centimeter-wavelength telescope in the world, and will remain so until the Square Kilometer Array is built. At millimeter wavelengths Europe’s IRAM telescopes will remain the most powerful in the world, until the completion of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

  • Among ground-based telescopes that led to the most influential papers, defined as those with 1,000 or more citations, in 2001-2003 U.S. facilities contributed to 53 percent of the cited papers; for space-based telescopes the corresponding U.S. fraction was 63 percent.

  • European funding of astronomy adopts accounting conventions that complicate direct comparisons with U.S. funding of astronomy. However, it can be noted that ESO, with its annual budget of roughly $175 million, has constructed the four 8-meter VLT

in space and ALMA on the ground—are also international partnerships. Perhaps the most telling measure of the growing influence of globalization in astronomy projects is the fact that nearly all of this report’s ranked recommended projects have opportunities for contributions—often substantial—by foreign partners.

Managing International Collaboration

Thanks to the growth of astronomy across the globe and the emergence of international partnerships on all scales—from individual scientific collaborations to major multinational projects and sharing of major data sets—science agendas around the globe are converging. At the same time, the growth in the costs and complexity of new telescopes and instruments is pressing the need for expanded international cooperation at all stages, from conceiving and building to using

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