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Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium
can result in less than optimal results in both areas. Excellence in either research or education requires a significant commitment of time, and the principal investigator of a major research project may not be in a position to contribute to educational goals during the time period of the project. Moreover, without better agreement on what constitutes success in educational and public outreach endeavors, and better dissemination of positive results, there is a danger that even the most ardent astronomer may not make a lasting contribution through his or her educational initiative.
The committee urges greater communication between the federal agencies charged with increasing the participation of professional scientists in educational initiatives and with ensuring a healthy integration of research and education. A common set of goals, with a clearly articulated vision of how professional astronomers can make the most effective contribution to improving public science literacy, is needed. The goals, the clearly defined pathways for achieving them, and the standards for measuring success must be agreed on by both astronomers and educators.
It is necessary in this decade to sharpen our understanding of what constitutes success in educational projects in astronomy, particularly the major ones. For large programs, such as NASA’s OSS Educational Ecosystem initiative, it is essential that both the research and the education communities participate in evaluating projects and that, for those deemed successful, the outcomes be recognized by both communities as significant. Moreover, the elements of an educational initiative that have made it successful should be widely understood and emulated, and less successful efforts should also be publicized so that we can learn from past failures.
Finally, as a necessary step toward fostering a healthy climate in which both research and education efforts flourish and work synergistically, the astronomical community should encourage the leaders of academic institutions and federal laboratories to adopt a broadened reward structure for their staffs. This reward structure should explicitly acknowledge the importance of integrating research and teaching by recognizing the pursuit of high-quality educational initiatives along with excellence in research.