Picking a Direction (and sticking to it!)

Picking a Direction (and sticking to it!)

Cover Art for 2001 Decadal SurveyOn January 24th the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) in the UK announced Michael Bode (an Astrophysics Prof at Liverpool John Moores University) will take the lead in defining a 20 year vision statement for astronomy in Europe. Dr. Bode was put in this powerful but unenviable position by ASTRONET, a consortium of eleven European science agencies. In this job, he will herd cats (e.g. scientists) until they come up with a unified vision. Specifically, he will work to get his community to agree on what questions are most vital to answer, and how these questions can most effectively be answered. This set of questions and methods for answering will be used to shape how limit resources are allocated for science.

This kind of a process isn’t new. In the U.S., we’ve been producing decadal surveys for a while, with the most recent coming out in 2001 (you can read it here, NRC cover art shown above right). Until recently, for every decadal survey desire, their was a matching plan of action that often included a NASA mission with allocated funding (or at least allocated web space). The problem is, the plan of the scientific community and the plans of individual members of Congress and the White House don’t always match.

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