Astronomy Decadal Reports Primer: New Worlds, New Horizons, Visions & Voyages, and NSF Portfolio Review Committee

by Guest on September 9, 2015

Maria Womack (@StarzanPlanets) is a physics professor at the University of South Florida. From 2011-2015 she worked as a ‘rotating’ astronomy program director to the National Science Foundation and her research includes multi-wavelength spectroscopy of comets and exoplanets.

This is the first in a series of three guest posts on the recently released National Research Council (NRC) report often referred to as the “Optical and infrared (OIR) optimization study in the LSST era.” The first post introduces two NRC decadal reports referenced by the OIR Study; the second summarizes the committee’s motivation and top-level recommendations; the third addresses the estimated yearly cost for the recommended actions and how NSF might pay for them.

The two aforementioned NRC decadal reports that are often brought up in national astronomy & astrophysics strategic planning can be found here:

New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (NWNH) from 2010

Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science (V&V) from 2013

These reports carry a great deal of weight in the community and with Congress, and therefore, also with specially convened committees for long-term planning issues, such as the one that produced the NRC report on the OIR Study in the LSST era in early 2015, which is discussed in the 2nd and 3rd posts in this series.  The reports are also often referred to in NSF and NASA and other funding proposals. As you plan your career, it pays to take the time to read through these, and all are freely available at the links above.

In addition to NWNH and V&V, Congress and nationally relevant committees pay attention to the modifications recommended by the NSF Portfolio Review Committee (PRC), which proposed which facilities should be divested in order to meet top decadal report goals in an era of flat budgets, in which NSF is incapable of meeting the original decadal reports goals.

The PRC report was released in 2012 and can be found here: http://www.nsf.gov/mps/ast/portfolioreview/reports/ast_portfolio_review_report.pdf

For more information about the PRC and its recommendations, see Kelle Cruz’s post when the report first came out in 2012. NSF continues to use the PRC as guidance for decision-making.

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