Statement of Task
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will appoint the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA) to operate as an ad hoc committee. The overarching purpose of the committee is to support scientific progress in astronomy and astrophysics and to assist the federal government in planning programs in these fields by providing advice on the implementation of decadal survey recommendations. The CAA provides an independent, authoritative forum for identifying and discussing issues in astronomy and astrophysics between the research community, the federal government, and the interested public.
The CAA will issue reports that will provide guidance to federal agencies that support astronomy and astrophysics research. The CAA’s scope spans the full range of astronomy and astrophysics research, including space- and ground-based observations. The CAA’s domain encompasses stellar, galactic, and extragalactic astronomy, particle astrophysics, cosmology, the search for extra-solar planets, and aspects of fundamental physics relating to astronomical objects. The CAA’s scope also includes appropriate cross-disciplinary areas and consideration of budget and programmatic aspects of the implementation of the decadal survey.
The committee will build on the current decadal survey of the field, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (NWNH), and monitor the progress of its recommended priorities for the most important scientific and technical activities in that report and recommendations in the mid-decadal review report issued in June 2016.
The committee will carry out its charge by undertaking the following tasks:
- At each of its in-person meetings, the committee may prepare concise assessments of progress on the implementation of the decadal survey’s recommended scientific and technical activities. The assessments will be based on evidence gathered by the committee at its in-person and virtual meetings. The committee’s assessment reports may include findings and conclusions on key strategies being pursued by the agencies and the status of agency actions that relate to the state of implementation. The reports may also highlight scientific discoveries and engineering and technical advances relevant to progress on the science objectives identified in NWNH and in addition will focus on one or more of the following types of issues:
- The scientific impact of a change in the technical and engineering design, cost estimate, schedule, or programmatic sequencing of one or more of the survey-recommended activities;
- The impact of a scientific advance on the technical and engineering design, schedule, or programmatic sequencing of one or more survey-recommended activities;
- The scientific impact of a course of action at a decision point described in the survey report and recommended therein as being suitable for consultation with an independent decadal survey implementation committee; and
- The scientific impact of implementing recommendations from the mid-decadal review and other relevant National Academies’ reports.
- At an in-person meeting, the committee may prepare a concise report with advice on the preparation for future decadal and mid-decadal studies. These reports will be based on evidence gathered by the committee at its in-person and virtual meetings. Future decadal and mid-decadal studies will be carried out by an ad hoc committee appointed by the National Academies under a separate task.
- For advisory activities assessed to require a more in-depth review than is possible through the normal operation of the CAA, the committee will assist the National Academies in formulating the task and committee membership for such studies that will be designed as separate tasks.