• and is an equal partner with North America (including the United States, Canada, and Taiwan) in 75 percent of ALMA (Japan is a 25 percent partner). ESO is now aggressively planning a 42-meter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which is significantly larger than the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope planned for completion in 2018. Investments in the SKA being made by Europe, South Africa, and Australia far exceed those of the United States. In space astronomy, the European Space Agency has just launched the successful Herschel and Planck telescopes with a combined cost of more than $2 billion and is planning its next Cosmic Vision missions.

  • Astronomy planning exercises are now conducted around the world. The European Union recently completed its first decadal survey in astronomy, the ASTRONET study,1 and similar activities have been conducted for European astroparticle physics (ASPERA)2 and space astronomy.3 Australia’s 10-year (2006-2015) strategic plan4 strongly emphasizes international partnerships for the largest projects. Although there is remarkable convergence on the most compelling science questions and considerable overlap in plans for facilities, there is relatively little or no formal international input to or coordination between these activities.

  • Additional, major international activities include those involving Australia (e.g., Gemini partner, SKA precursor programs), Japan (e.g., JAXA, Subaru), and China (e.g., FAST).


1 For more information on the ASTRONET survey and its reports, see http://www.astronet-eu.org/.


2 For more information on ASPERA (Astroparticle ERAnet), see http://www.aspera-eu.org/.


3 European Space Agency, Cosmic Vision: Space Science for Europe 2015-2025, ESA Brochure, BR-247, October 15, 2005, available at http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=38542.


4 National Committee for Astronomy of the Australian Academy of Science, New Horizons: A Decadal Plan for Australian Astronomy 2006-2015, November 2005, available at http://www.atnf.csiro.au/nca/DecadalPlan_web.pdf.

these precious instruments. These pressures are most evident in ground-based facilities. The advantages of such partnerships are manifest: cooperation can reduce unnecessary duplication of facilities and effort, marshals the best technological expertise globally, provides international merit-based use of the facilities, and makes it possible to construct facilities that otherwise would be out of the financial reach of any one nation or region.

Traditional international partnerships, in which two or more national partners collaborate in the construction, operation, and management of a facility, also carry with them inherent disadvantages and overheads. The involvement of multiple organizations inevitably increases the complexity of decision making and management, which translates into a significant overhead in project costs. If government agencies are involved, either as direct partners or as managing agencies for one or more partners, the increase in bureaucratic requirements and the delays in decision

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