Heliophysics is the study of our star, the Sun, its influences on Earth and other bodies throughout the heliosphere, and its interaction with interstellar space. Our solar system contains a rich diversity of environments for studying neutral and plasma processes that occur throughout the universe. Increasingly, our knowledge about planetary environments and fundamental processes is being applied to emerging research areas such as exoplanet habitability. Heliophysics is also the science behind space weather. As our society becomes increasingly dependent on technologies that are influenced by space weather, the importance of understanding, and ultimately forecasting, space weather continues to grow.
The 2013 solar and space physics decadal survey (NRC, 2013), hereafter referred to as “the decadal survey,” outlined a program of basic and applied research for the period 2013-2022. At the highest level, this program was organized around four “key science goals,” each considered of equal priority:
- Determine the origins of the Sun’s activity and predict the variations in the space environment.
- Determine the dynamics and coupling of Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere, and atmosphere and their response to solar and terrestrial inputs.
- Determine the interaction of the Sun with the solar system and the interstellar medium.
- Discover and characterize fundamental processes that occur both within the heliosphere and throughout the universe.
To address these goals, the survey steering committee developed the “research” and “applications” recommendations that are shown in Table 1.4 of Chapter 1. An assessment of scientific progress in the period since publication of the decadal survey, an assessment of progress in meeting the recommendations shown in Table 1.4, consideration of steps to enhance career opportunities in solar and space physics, and a look forward to the next decadal survey, are among the key elements of the present study’s tasks.
The midterm assessment committee’s recommendations are presented in this Summary along with selected findings that are not associated with a recommendation. A full list of findings and the section where each is discussed in the report can be found in Appendix D. Figures S.1 and S.2 show a summary
A CHANGING LANDSCAPE FOR HELIOPHYSICS
|Best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.||Believe you can and you’re halfway there.|
|—Adapted from To a Mouse by Robert Burns||—President Theodore Roosevelt|
With all long-term plans, the landscape changes and opportunities evolve in ways that the original planners could not foresee. Some changes accelerate progress, but many tend to complicate, slow down, or challenge implementation of the original plans. This has been the case over the some 6 years since publication of the decadal survey report. Despite these challenges, the majority of the 2013 decadal survey recommendations have been implemented or are in progress toward being implemented over the next few years.1
The list below summarizes the “changing-landscape” topics identified by the committee as being particulary significant; they are discussed further in Chapters 3 and 4 in the context of progress on heliophysics research and applications.
- Budget. The Heliophysics Division (HPD) budget did not increase as expected in the 2013 decadal survey (see Figure 3.2). Over the last 5 years, the NASA HPD budget rose by 14 percent, but this is in fact a decrease in purchasing power when corrected for inflation. In contrast, the NASA overall budget rose by 23 percent, and the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) budget rose by 30 percent over this time period. The budget reality impacts NASA’s ability to add new missions and fully implement the recommendations of the decadal survey. Similarly, the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget increased by roughly 14 percent, but most of that increase occurred only recently.
- Leadership. Another challenge, particularly for NASA, has been frequent changes in leadership. The current HPD director, Nicola Fox, started in September 2018. Prior to this change, there were six different directors or acting directors since 2011.
Changes for space weather at the national level.
- The release of the National Space Weather Action Plan defines the responsibilities of 10 government agencies to advance space weather capabilities and provides new opportunities for effective collaboration between agencies. However, these additional responsibilities come with a cost and require additional resources. These developments show the ever more important need for involvement of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminisration (NOAA) in the decadal survey process. Coordination with other agencies, such as the Department of Defense (DoD), is also critically important. This is discussed further in Chapter 4 and Chapter 6.
- NASA’s new exploration goals promise to take us back to the Moon and beyond. Space weather impacts on humans and technology in space are increasingly important, and heliophysics research plays a critical role. New programs like Artemis and Lunar Gateway will also provide new opportunities for scientific discovery.
- Opportunities for crossdisciplinary research. The explosion of scientific interest in exoplanets and planetary habitability and the continual discovery of new exoplanets provides opportunities for the solar
1 The decadal survey report included recommendations for three major (notional) missions to be implemented by NASA. There is now a Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT) report for the Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC) mission, but the definition studies for the DYNAMIC (Dynamical Netural Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling) and MEDICI (Magnetosphere Energetics, Dynamics, and Ionospheric Coupling Investigation) missions have not yet started due to budget constraints.
- Emerging small-satellite (SmallSat) revolution. Rapid technology development to support CubeSats and SmallSats has accelerated the number of SmallSat science missions for NASA and NSF. Growth in the SmallSat commercial sector is providing new ways of designing and building satellites, as well as new opportunities for rideshares, hosted payloads, and commercial data buys. An opportunity exists to leverage these developments for space science.
- Increasing role of data science. Maximizing the scientific return from increasingly large and complex data sets requires better infrastructure, enhanced professional training, and support for open-source software. Advanced observational and theoretical tools have become increasingly available since the decadal survey was published, providing new opportunities for realizing the scientific potential of data from NASA missions and large NSF facilities.
- Citizen science. The involvement of the broader population in scientific pursuits has led to the discovery of STEVE (Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, a previously undescribed optical auroral phenomenon; MacDonald et al., 2018) and played an important role in the scientific observations of the 2017 Eclipse. It is anticipated that this emerging area of citizen science will lead to further scientific discovery and opportunities for outreach.
and space physics community to contribute to these emerging areas of science. In particular, the detailed understanding of processes important for magnetospheres, atmospheres, astrospheres, stellar dynamos, and the sophisticated models developed to study our own solar system can be adapted to new stellar and planetary systems.
HELIOPHYSICS RESEARCH RECOMMENDATIONS
The Heliophysics System Observatory
The decadal survey committee’s highest priority was to complete the program of record, the assumed baseline that informed the committee’s subequent recommendations. By placing the highest priority on completing the program of record, the committee was emphasizing both the importance of studying the
coupled Sun-Earth system as a whole and the significance of the Heliophysics System Observatory (HSO), which comprises all currently operating missions and ground-based facilities. Since the decadal survey was released, NASA has launched the Van Allen Probes, the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) satellites, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) Explorer, and the Parker Solar Probe (PSP). For NSF, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) plans to be operational in 2020.
Finding: Completion of the program of record as recommended in the 2013 decadal survey, combined with new tools and data analysis approaches, has resulted in significant scientific advances, as highlighted in Chapter 2, and has added important elements to HSO. (Finding 3.1)
The second-priority research recommendation in the decadal survey, the DRIVE initiative, provided a new way to structure Research and Analysis (R&A) programs in order to maximize the science return of large NASA missions and NSF facilities. DRIVE aims to “diversify” observing platforms, “realize” the scientific potential of existing assets, “integrate” observing platforms into successful investigations, “venture” forward with new technologies, and “educate” the future heliophysics workforce. The decadal survey made 16 recommendations as part of these five DRIVE categories, summarized in Figure S.1.
Finding: NASA and NSF have made progress on most of their DRIVE elements, although some of the DRIVE elements were implemented only recently. Funding constraints imposed by the decadal survey requirement to complete the current program are a contributing factor. (Finding 3.20)
The DRIVE initiative has led to increased funding of suborbital and CubeSat missions, a boost to R&A programs, the imminent selection of the first Heliophysics Science Centers (HSCs), new selections in the NSF midscale project line, and NSF continued support for DKIST development—with its first light expected in early 2020. A number of committee findings highlighting this progress can be found in Chapter 3. Below, the committee calls attention to the DRIVE findings that are not associated with a committee recommendation but which identify places where the agencies have not yet reached the decadal survey goals, or where new developments require attention.
There are now 18 NASA HPD CubeSats funded, 6 of which have been launched so far. Due to this significant increase in the number of CubeSats missions, NASA Headquarters has added additional oversight support at the Wallops Small Satellite Project Office. NSF recently selected several new CubeSat missions, including two 3-satellite constellation missions through the CubeSat Ideas Lab. Wallops has also provided support for NSF CubeSats since initiation of the NSF CubeSat program.
Finding: CubeSat missions are intended to be low-cost, higher-risk exploratory missions. The number of CubeSat science missions has increased significantly in this decade. While recognizing the challenge of managing a rapidly increasing number of CubeSat projects, NASA will need to ensure that managerial oversight does not translate into the imposition of additional reviews and reporting requirements to the level of larger missions. (Finding 3.2)
Interest in exoplanet research—from planetary evolution to habitability—is rapidly growing. The knowledge gained by studying our own planet and star can be applied to other systems for which we will never have detailed observations of microphysical processes.
Finding: Heliophysics has much to contribute to areas of broad interest within NASA’s SMD, including stellar system and exoplanet research as well as future major exploratory efforts; for example, the Lunar Gateway missions. However, the expertise and knowledge that exists within the heliophysics community is not as widely exploited at SMD as it could be because there are insufficient opportunities to engage across division lines. (Finding 3.15)
To promote the crossdisciplinary research among observers, theorists, modelers, and computer scientists that is needed to address grand challenge questions in the field of heliophysics, the decadal survey recommended the creation of HSCs. Selection of the first NASA HSC occurred in January 2020.2 The HSCs are expected to enable transformative research.
Finding: A regular cadence for HSCs is needed. In order for HSCs to be impactful, the next call for Step-1 proposals should be released within a year of the down selection for Step-2 proposals. Moreover, full NSF participation in the HSCs has not been realized. (Finding 3.16)
As described above, completion of the program of record, the baseline decadal survey recommendation, has resulted in important additions to the HSO. Most of the HSO missions are in their extended mission phase, and there was a period during this decadal interval for which none of the HSO missions were in prime phase.
Finding: Many elements of the HSO are aging, and there is a risk of losing key capabilities. In order to realize the vision of the HSO, some longer-term strategic planning is required to prioritize the critical support needed at both the mission level and the program level. Moreover, the HSO can be viewed as a national resource that goes beyond NASA missions. Data from small missions, ground-based facilities, and international assets have become increasingly important. An opportunity exists to elevate the HSO concept to better manage and exploit this critical resource for scientific progress. (Finding 3.14)
Overall, DRIVE has been successful as an organizational framework for the research programs at NASA and NSF. The spirit of DRIVE is to continue to innovate and look for new ways to maximize scientific progress. Thus DRIVE should be viewed as a means for structuring the R&A programs in a way that can respond and adapt to new opportunities.
Recommendation 3.1: NASA and NSF should continue to use the DRIVE framework within their Research and Analysis programs. As the program elements that are part of DRIVE continue to evolve, they should remain visible and continue to be tracked in a transparent manner.
The committee found that a few DRIVE recommendations have not yet been implemented fully.
Finding: Laboratory research, from plasma physics to spectroscopy, is a critical, foundational component for heliophysics research. The NASA LNAPP program is a positive step toward increasing opportunities for laboratory experiments, but it does not fully address the decadal survey recommendation, specifically the need for increased NASA-Department of Energy collaboration. (Finding 3.11)
2 See University of Maryland, “Drake, Dorland, Swisdak selected to lead NASA Science Center,” Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics, January 14, 2020, https://ireap.umd.edu/news/news_story.php?id=12787.
Some elements of DRIVE for NSF have not been fully implemented. These include ensuring funding for science areas that fall between divisions such as outer heliosphere research, full participation in HSCs, and recognition of solar and space physics as a subdiscipline in the annual survey of earned doctorates. (Finding 3.21)
In addition to evaluating the progress on decadal survey recommendations, the committee identified new DRIVE-related opportunities that have emerged since the decadal survey was published. The committee findings lead to a recommendation for building on recent progress and taking advantage of new opportunities through the rest of the decade.
Specific examples of science areas include outer heliosphere, Sun-as-a-star, and star-exoplanet couplings. Progress will require collaboration between divisions at each agency to create inter-divisional programs.
The third-priority research recommendation made in the decadal survey was to accelerate and expand the Heliophysics Explorers program, enabling both a Medium-Class Explorer (MIDEX) line (denoted as
“Mid-size” in the survey report) and more frequent Missions of Opportunity (MoOs). The recommended cadence was 2-3 years, alternating between Small Explorer (SMEX) and MIDEX.
The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) and Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) MoO were selected shortly after the decadal survey was published. ICON had a 2-year launch delay due to problems with the launch vehicle, but was recently launched in October 2019. GOLD was successfully launched in January 2018 and is in prime mission phase. Between 2013 and 2015, no Explorers Announcements of Opportunity (AOs) were released. However, between 2016 and 2019, both SMEX and MIDEX AOs have been released, two SMEX missions (TRACERS [Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites] and PUNCH [Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere]) were selected after their Phase A concept studies, the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) MoO was selected, and several MoOs are also moving into Phase A in 2019-2020. MIDEX proposals were due at the end of September 2019.
Findings on the Explorers Program
Finding: NASA is responding positively to the decadal survey recommendation to strengthen the Explorers program. Although no Explorers AOs were released during the first 3 years following the decadal survey, the 3-year spacing between Heliophysics Explorers AOs for SMEX and MIDEX of 2016 and 2019 is a move to implement the decadal survey recommendation. (Finding 3.22)
Finding: The committee sees the growth of mission cost in a relatively flat budget setting as a significant hazard to the ability to sustain a 3-year cadence in the future. (Finding 3.23)
Finding: NASA management of Explorers3 missions is in need of optimization to ensure that the program fullfils it goal to: “provide frequent flight opportunities…from space utilizing innovative, streamlined and efficient management approaches…” (Finding 3.24)
Recommendation 3.3: In order to maintain a 3-year (or ideally faster) launch frequency of Explorers, the committee recommends that NASA develop a more efficient management environment and an improved contract/grant structure, both to reduce mission cost and to shorten the interval from the Announcement of Opportunity to launch. In this context, the committee recommends that NASA (1) adopt new procedures to facilitate a more cost-efficient implementation of smaller satellites and instruments using game-changing SmallSat technology, and (2) continue to strive towards reduced launch costs—for example, through ride sharing.
The fourth-priority research recommendation of the 2013 decadal survey was to restructure NASA’s Solar-Terrestrial Probes (STP) program as a principal-investigator (PI)-led mission line. The decadal survey further recommended that STP missions should be cost-capped at $520 million per mission (in fiscal year 2012 dollars) with a minimum recommended launch cadence of 4 years. This recommendation also included three notional mission concepts: IMAP (Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe), DYNAMIC (Dynamical Neutral Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling), and MEDICI (Magnetosphere Energetics, Dynam-
3 NASA Science Mission Directorate, “Explorers,” https://science.nasa.gov/heliophysics/focus-areas/explorers.
ics and Ionospheric Coupling Investigation). The STP program is an important component of heliophysics research, focusing on studying fundamental processes occurring throughout the heliosphere, including the coupled Sun-Earth system. The committee focused its attention on IMAP and DYNAMIC because the decadal survey assumed that MEDICI would not launch before the end of its decadal period (2013-2023).
Finding: Formulation of the first of three recommended STP missions has begun, but IMAP comes 3 years later than anticipated in the decadal survey, and the next STP mission (DYNAMIC) has not started. As anticipated in the decadal survey, the MEDICI mission is not expected to start until the next decade. (Finding 3.26)
The recently launched GOLD and ICON missions, and the AWE MoO, will answer important targeted science questions that contribute to our understanding of lower atmospheric impacts on the AIM (atmosphere-ionosphere-magnetosphere) system. However, these missions do not adequately observe Earth’s poles and thus will not fully address one of the decadal survey top-level Research Recommendation 3.2 “to provide a comprehensive understanding of the variability in space weather driven by lower-atmosphere weather on Earth.” To fully achieve the goals set out in the decadal survey, a constellation of satellites covering all latitudes and multiple local times is still required.
Finding: The DYNAMIC science goals remain compelling and of high priority for the heliophysics community. The targeted science goals and measurement capabilities of GOLD, AWE, and ICON do not address several key objectives in the top-level decadal survey science challenge posed by DYNAMIC. (Finding 3.27)
Recommendation 3.4: NASA should take the steps necessary to prepare for the release an Annoucement of Opportunity for a DYNAMIC-like mission.4
The Next Living With a Star Mission
The Living With a Star mission line stands apart from the STP missions by focusing on science that improves our understanding of those aspects of the Sun and space environment that affect life and society. The decadal survey recommended a notional mission, Geospace Dynamics Constellation (GDC), to provide global observations of the coupled atmosphere-ionosphere-magnetosphere system. GDC will be the first mission to address important questions on a global scale due to its use of a spacecraft constellation, thereby providing simultaneous multi-point observations. A Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT) was established as a subcommittee of the Heliophysics Advisory Committee (HPAC) in 2018 to refine the science objectives of GDC.
Finding: The GDC STDT, per their charge, was not permitted by Federal Advisory Committte Act (FACA) regulations to select a particular mission architecture to meet GDC science objectives. (Finding 3.28)
Recommendation 3.5: In order to proceed towards meeting the top-level decadal survey Living With a Star mission recommendation, NASA should take the steps necessary to define a specific mission architecture formulation and implementation scheme for the Geospace Dynamics Constellation within the next 3 years.
4 Per the decadal survey, such a mission would begin as the next STP mission after IMAP. Steps in preparation for the AO could include could include a new study of its mission goals and objectives.
SPACE WEATHER APPLICATION RECOMMENDATIONS
I believe we’re on the threshold of a new era in which space weather can be as influential in our daily lives as ordinary terrestrial weather.
—NASA HPD 2002-2012 Director Richard Fisher, 2010
The creation of new interagency coordinating bodies for space weather and national action plans, most recently the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan (NSWSAP; OSTP, 2019) has meaningfully changed the landscape for space weather since the decadal survey was published. The NSWSAP “identifies strategic objectives and high-level actions necessary to achieve a space-weather-ready Nation,” clearly defines the roles for different agencies, and identifies the lead agencies, thereby enabling improved coordination. NASA and NSF play a key role by advancing the science behind space weather. NASA also has a responsibility to protect its spacecraft and astronauts in space. The agencies are actively working together to make progress on NSWSAP goals. Nevertheless, the committee identified some opportunities for improved effectiveness of these activities. A critical missing piece in the current strategic planning is a roadmap that coordinates scientific activities and provides metrics for measuring progress. Such a roadmap is needed to outline how all of the agencies’ programs work in concert to improve our predictive capabilities. Key missing pieces include a capability gap analysis based on prioritized science goals.
The previous heliophysics decadal survey was unable to fully integrate NOAA plans for space weather research and applications with the strategic plans for NASA and NSF. The NSWSAP (2019) details many new aspects of integrated plans and coordination across many agencies but does not provide extra funding for implementing those plans. As NOAA is the key civil agency for space weather operations, it is imperative that the next decadal survey engage with NOAA in developing its space weather plans.
Recommendation 4.2: NOAA, along with other operational agencies, should develop notional budgets for space weather operations that would include identifying the need for new space weather funding lines required to fulfill the responsibilities added to their existing tasks by the National Space Weather Action Plan. This should be available as input to the next decadal survey.
HELIOPHYSICS CAREER ENHANCEMENTS
Diversity of thought, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations enables different environments that spark more innovation, stimulates more variety in problem solving for the science challenges, and thus achieves a broader range of creative outcomes. Diversity is an emerging element in some opportunities, such as in NASA HSCs and formerly in NSF’s CISM (Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling), and a few specific early-career research opportunities are supported by NSF and NASA. The committee identified five findings and one recommendation to enhance opportunities over the next 4 years that pertain to all career stages for scientists and engineers in the solar and space physics community. These findings are particularly important for early-career scientists, although there is concern that enhanced successs for retention of early-career researchers could inadvertently reduce support for mid-career and senior researchers.
- Adjusting the size of grants. Typical grants, while they have grown in size, are often too small or short-term to tackle the larger challenges. Larger grants may be more effective for some programs. On the other hand, smaller grants or “seed grants,” with smaller proposals, quicker reviews, and shorter funding cycles, could invigorate new research directions and could be more supportive of early-career scientists. (Finding 5.1)
The committee notes that low selection rates of proposals overall tend to work in particular against early-career researchers. A portfolio of different magnitudes of grants, given comparable award percentages per round, could address some of these concerns while maintaining flexibility and frequency in research opportunities.
Finding: The NSF and NASA ongoing education programs involving heliophysics summer schools, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs, and student workshops offer opportunities for exposing undergraduates to space physics research, as well as hands-on training. There is great potential for the heliophysics community to significantly expand their involvement of undergraduate students by having more heliophysics-related REU programs. (Finding 5.2)
Finding: The infrastructure of large data archives and advanced numerical research and analysis tools is a critical element of modern-day science. Professional training on these rapidly evolving tools and modeling techniques is important for the health of heliophysics research programs. The development and maintenance of such tools is given insufficient attention in the development of roadmaps and strategic plans. These infrastructure components, and the teaching of their use, could be discussed on an equal footing with experimental hardware in the planning and budgeting of space- and ground-based observatories. (Finding 5.3)
Finding: Involving students in the development of spaceflight hardware for missions is key to the long-term success of developing the workforce for U.S. space programs. Enhancing the number of partnerships between universities and non-university institutions and further increases in the number and frequency of small satellite missions are example pathways to train more students and early-career scientists and engineers for space missions. (Finding 5.4)
Finding: The participation and inclusion of individuals of different genders, races, cultures, and ages in positions of leadership roles in heliophysics (e.g., mission PIs) and for recognition (e.g., honors, awards) could better reflect today’s societal makeup. For example, it has been shown that women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields face consistent bias in proposal selections, hiring, salaries, observing time awards, paper citations, and prizes/awards. These all are relevant to scientific success, so these can affect career success at all stages and could limit contributions to the field from the diverse population. (Finding 5.5)
Recommendation 5.1: NASA, NSF, and NOAA should develop strategic plans for the heliophysics community with goals and metrics to improve the diversity of race, gender, age, and country of origin. The next decadal survey should include a State of the Profession Panel, similar to the Astro2020 decadal survey. The State of the Profession Panel should have in advance the demographics and diversity survey data recommended in this report’s Recommendation 6.2.
Some potential solutions for the diversity problem include the following:
- Adjusting the evaluation and selection methods for awarding proposals and observing time, such as dual anonymous reviews, is one example;
- Incentivizing or requiring activities that increase diversity and inclusion, such as mentoring and apprenticeships to create a broader pool of possible mission and project PIs and reaching out to minority-serving universities to establish partnerships and recruit students; and
- Encouraging review panels, workshops, conferences, and other meetings to adopt explicit codes of conduct that remind all involved to respect civil, inclusive conduct in these activities.
PREPARING FOR THE NEXT HELIOPHYSICS DECADAL SURVEY
The committee has three recommendations for actions that could identify information pertinent for the next decadal survey. There are nine findings in Chapter 6 supporting these recommendations, but these are not listed in this summary. A stand-alone finding (Finding 6.10) on some emerging topics of interest for the next decadal survey committee to consider is listed here.
The process of preparing for decadal surveys has evolved since the last solar and space physics decadal survey, and lessons learned from the other science divisions could benefit Heliophysics strategic planning. For example, NASA-funded science definition and mission concept studies for the Planetary Science Division (PSD) and Astrophysics Division (APD), enabled them to prepare well in advance of their next decadal surveys. The PSD initially formed assessment/analysis groups (AG) in different disciplines and science areas (e.g., Mars, Outer Planets) in 2004 to involve the community in defining/prioritizing targeted science goals, and formulating implementation plans before its next decadal survey.
The AGs function both as standing, inclusive science forums and as resources whose ongoing activities naturally lead to decadal survey and related “road mapping” and science definition team (SDT) inputs. In another approach involving higher investment, the APD charged its program analysis groups to solicit community input on a small number of compelling and executable strategic mission concepts. Both of these approaches enabled a broader range of institutions to participate in both science definition and mission concept development. NASA continues to support the AGs, whose current activities include preparation for the initiation of the third planetary science decadal survey, which will cover the period 2023-2032.
The NSF Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (RI) program, which began in 2018, represents an important potential resource for heliophysics research that needs to be examined in the next decadal survey. The Mid-Scale RI program competition is NSF-wide and is thus highly competitive and expected to be oversubscribed. Prioritization of critical heliophysics goals and related Mid-Scale RI projects by the heliospheric community and by the next solar and space physics decadal survey could provide the needed justification for future Mid-Scale RI facilities.
Recommendation 6.1: NASA and NSF should implement and fund advanced planning for the next decadal survey that involves the community in strategic planning of the next decade science challenges, science goals, and related high-priority measurements, and that also considers stretch goals (ambitious objectives that might extend past the next decade). NASA and NSF could request the Space Studies Board’s Committee on Solar and Space Physics to evaluate options for implementing this planning for the next decadal survey.
Some specific ideas for this advanced planning include the following:
- NASA-supported opportunities for the heliophysics community to host AG workshops in order to develop strategic science challenges and goals and to define high-priority measurements for the STP (Solar-
- NSF-supported workshops to strategically plan the next decade science challenges and goals and to identify high-priority measurements for the Mid-Scale RI and other research infrastructure concepts with the heliophysics community.
Terrestrial Probe) and LWS (Living With a Star) programs in advance of starting the next solar and space physics decadal survey, and
The demographics and diversity of scientists and engineers in heliophysics may have evolved significantly since the last decadal survey. An important part of understanding and supporting those changes begins with a demographics and diversity survey of students and early-career scientists and engineers, followed by development of action plans to positively encourage continued growth of diversity for the science and engineering communities who support the science programs, missions, and facilities of NASA, NSF, and NOAA.
Recommendation 6.2: NASA Heliophysics Division should conduct a demographics and diversity survey before the next solar and space physics decadal survey to understand how the community’s demographics have evolved and to assess whether progress has occurred in enhancing diversity in the community (see also this report’s Recommendation 5.1). Thereafter, to benefit all of the space science disciplines within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and to inform decadal survey planning across SMD, NASA at the SMD-level should conduct this demographics and diversity survey on a 5-year cadence with clear identification of science areas relevant for each science division. It is important that career survey specialists, such as the American Institute of Physics, are involved in a new survey.
Recommendation 6.3 outlines topics that could be considered by the agencies when defining the statement of task for the next decadal survey, with an underlying goal to help focus the decadal survey studies and to actively address the evolving strategic needs of the heliophysics community.
The 2015 National Academies report Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices (NASEM, 2015) considered the lessons learned from previous surveys and presented options for possible changes and improvements to the process. Suggestions for improvement or change included the statement of task, advanced preparation, organization, and execution. Based on an examination of this report, and as a result of its own deliberations, the midterm assessment committee offers the following for consideration in advance of the next decadal survey in solar and space physics:
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NSB (National Science Board). 2018. Bridging the Gap: Building a Sustained Approach to Mid-scale Research Infrastructure and Cyberinfrastructure at NSF. NSB-2018-40. National Science Foundation. https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2018/NSB2018-40-Midscale-Research-Infrastructure-Report-to-Congress-Oct2018.pdf.
OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy). 2019. National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan. SWORM Working Group, National Science and Technology Council. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/National-Space-WeatherStrategy-and-Action-Plan-2019.pdf.