As the complexity of the main challenges in the field has grown, so have the cost and size of the experimental nuclear physics tools. What began 100 years ago primarily as efforts of individuals or small groups has grown into a mix of small and large groups working as teams, both here and abroad. The U.S. nuclear physics community has developed a number of complementary processes for establishing consensus and setting priorities and future directions. The Division of Nuclear Physics in the American Physical Society, one of the most active divisions, provides help with planning and outreach for the benefit of nuclear physics. Another effective element is the Long-Range Planning process organized by the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC) of the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Using this tool, the community has been establishing its priorities and providing guidance and advice to the funding agencies. The present decadal assessment of nuclear physics brings experts from the diverse areas of the field to assess the achievements and provide a forward-looking vision of the new horizon. Anticipating needs for personnel and for building new facilities as well as developing and improving infrastructure for the field are all important components of the planning process. The charge for this study reflects the mission of decadal studies:
The new 2010 NRC decadal report will prepare an assessment and outlook for nuclear physics research in the United States in the international context. The first phase of the study will focus on developing a clear and compelling articulation of the scientific rationale and objectives of nuclear physics. This phase would build on the 2007 NSAC Long-range Plan Report, placing the near-term goals of that report in a broader national context.
The second phase will put the long-term priorities for the field (in terms of major facilities, research infrastructure, and scientific manpower) into a global context and develop a strategy that can serve as a framework for progress in U.S. nuclear physics through 2020 and beyond. It will discuss opportunities to optimize the partnership between major facilities and the universities in areas such as research productivity and the recruitment of young researchers. It will address the role of international collaboration in leveraging future U.S. investments in nuclear science. The strategy will address means to balance the various objectives of the field in a sustainable manner over the long term.
This present report offers the committee’s assessment and outlook. Chapter 2 summarizes the main scientific areas and the science questions addressed by nuclear physics, focusing on accomplishments since the last decadal assessment and directions for the decade to come. From the beginning the diversity of the science is evident in the range of topics, from the behavior of quarks and gluons to the universe. In this introduction, the committee has highlighted the interconnections of these main scientific areas with each other.
In Chapter 3 as well as elsewhere in this report, some of the ways in which society benefits from applications of nuclear physics are emphasized, and snapshots