balance over all apertures. Priorities and recommendations for large telescopes were the purview of the Access to Large Telescopes for Astronomical Instruction and Research (ALTAIR) Committee. The Renewing Small Telescopes for Astronomical Research (ReSTAR) Committee achieves a similar goal with respect to smaller telescopes. The reports from ReSTAR and ALTAIR4 provide a roadmap for producing upgraded instrumentation that enables U.S. observatories to maintain international competitiveness, they leverage the considerable private investment in these facilities, and they provide open-access observing time to the U.S. OIR community. Other important system activities include the enabling of OIR technology development, adaptive optics and interferometry, access to data archives for ground-based OIR telescopes, and training of future astronomers.

The NOAO and the international Gemini Observatory are operated via a cooperative agreement between NSF and a research management corporation, AURA. As summarized in Table 3.1, there are numerous ongoing partnerships for the existing U.S. ground-based OIR telescopes larger than 3 meters, including the majority of the largest-aperture (6.5- to 10-meter) OIR telescopes available to the U.S. community. The nature of these partnerships varies greatly, some consisting of universities partnering with NSF, or NASA, some between universities and foreign federal agencies, and others between private and state universities.5

The combination of publicly and privately funded facilities is a feature particular to the U.S. system internationally. Over this same 50-year period, Europe has taken a different path. With the founding of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and its La Silla Observatory, Europe achieved near parity with the U.S. public observatories in the 1980s. The few other (non-ESO) OIR facilities in Europe still tend to be nationally funded, and there has been a gradual de-emphasis on institutionally operated observatories. Overall, the European model has evolved toward collective public investment in shared major facilities, major investments in new instruments and data systems, and high levels of user support. In the 1990s Europe achieved full parity with the combined public-private U.S. OIR system through the construction of the Paranal Observatory and its four 8-meter VLT telescopes. In some areas, such as high-resolution stellar spectroscopy, integral field spectroscopy, and data archiving, ESO has now established clear international leadership; the United States retains a lead in infrared detectors and high-contrast imaging.

Although the U.S. model is different from that in Europe and elsewhere, it offers some important advantages. Private institutions have attracted large sums of


ReSTAR report, available at Accessed May 2010. ALTAIR report, available at Accessed August 2010.


The state university funding for astronomy is estimated to be 80 to 90 percent public money and 10 to 20 percent privately raised within the public university.

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