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New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
recommend such a radical transition in planning. So long as the major share of astronomy research in the United States is underwritten by U.S. government agencies, it is clear that the research agenda and project recommendations ought to be determined at the national level. However, as more major projects—including nearly all of the very large scale astronomy and astrophysics projects—are conceived and carried out by international partnerships, an international forum for planning the future of astronomy will become increasingly valuable. In order that such a forum be effective, it will be necessary that it have the full support and participation of senior administrators within the agencies. From even modest beginnings, a foundation could be laid for more substantive cooperation and joint planning in the future and a context provided for interagency negotiations.
RECOMMENDATION: Approximately every 5 years the international sciencecommunity should come together in a forum to share scientific directions andstrategic plans, and to look for opportunities for further collaborationand cooperation, especially on large projects.
In addition to encouraging opportunities for international collaboration and partnership, the Astro2010 Committee also found opportunities within the United States for leveraging federal investments through partnering with privately funded research efforts in astronomy and astrophysics.
Ground-Based Optical and Infrared Astronomy
Most astronomical research in optical and infrared (OIR) astronomy was supported privately in the United States until 1958, when Kitt Peak National Observatory and AURA (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy) were founded to provide public access to state-of-the-art OIR facilities. In subsequent years, competition between the private and public sectors dominated cooperation. However, the increasing cost of constructing large telescopes and, especially, the long-term cost of operating them, coupled with the desire of astronomers not affiliated with the institutions operating private telescopes to have access to those facilities, eventually led to the growth of public-private partnerships in the United States.
Today it is common to refer to the “OIR system,” a concept envisioned by the 2001 decadal survey of astronomy and astrophysics, AANM, as the union of public and private OIR ground-based facilities that provide open telescope access to the U.S. astronomical community. On the basis of the NSF senior review, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) formed two committees to focus on the OIR system to ensure access for the astronomical community to a