In this report, the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA) examines the trends in grant funding, number of proposals received, number funded, average grant size, publication rates, and other measures of the health of basic research in astronomy. It compares these trends to information on field demographics, such as the number of astronomers and the fraction of active research astronomers working in several fields and disciplines. Its objective is not to evaluate the appropriateness of the overall funding level for astronomy, but rather to assess the balance of current funding and identify any vulnerabilities that may affect the future health of the field. The committee draws some basic conclusions about research support and examines the effects that the failure of HST or another major space mission would have on the field. Recommendations and priorities for federal funding of astronomy are presented in the 2000 decadal survey prepared by the Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee (AASC).
In the process of preparing this report, the committee gathered data on the research budgets of several federal agencies and learned a great deal about how the data are recorded and reported. Although it is only peripheral to the committee's primary charge, this report discusses means to improve the tracking of astronomy research expenditures at NSF and NASA.
To provide a context and perspective for interpreting the findings of this report, Chapter 2 begins with an update of the funding trends discussed in the 1991 Decadal Report. Chapter 3 discusses the process and methodology of the study. Chapter 4 addresses the question of changing demographics in the field. Chapter 5 provides a more detailed discussion of the major sources of funding for astronomy. In Chapter 6 the committee summarizes and discusses implications of the results of its study and in Chapter 7 presents its principal findings.
Two sets of questions from the FY 1998 House Authorization bill that were included in the charge to the AASC are not addressed in this report:
Have NASA and NSF mission objectives resulted in a balanced, broad-based, robust science program for astronomy? NASA's mission is to fund research that supports flight programs and campaigns such as Origins, whereas NSF's mission is to support basic research. Have these overall missions been adequately coordinated, and has this resulted in an optimum science program from the standpoint of productivity? The Panel on Astronomy Education and Policy should ensure that agency strategic plans or other plans developed in response to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) adequately address these needs.
How do NASA and NSF determine the relative priority of new technological opportunities (including new facilities) compared to providing long-term support for associated research grants and facility operations?