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4 Optimizing the Science: Foundations
Pages 125-153

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From page 125...
... Laboratory astrophysics measurements, data science and computational methods, and data archiving all play critical roles in turning photons, particles, or waves into scientific insights. These foundational programs have the potential to bring more people into the field through reducing barriers to participation by anyone through supporting their success, and through offering access to state-of-the-art tools, training, and facilities.
From page 127...
... Recommendation: The National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy should release data on proposal success rates on an annual basis, and should track metrics that allow them to analyze statistically what is being supported. 4.2.1 Bolstering the Individual Investigator Grants Program Funding for the majority of astronomy research flows through "individual investigator grants," where the lead scientist proposes a specific project and asks for the needed resources (salary for trainees, summer salary for senior personnel in academic positions, computing, travel, etc.)
From page 128...
... Preparing proposals for individual investigator grants is extremely time consuming, and -- given the large impact a successful proposal has a large impact on a scientist's output and career -- the stakes are typically high. NSF AAG proposal success rates averaged 30-50 percent in the early 1990's through the early 2000's (Figure 4.2)
From page 129...
... proposers. This increase in the number of investigators tracks the overall addition 2 https://www.aip.org/fyi/2021/panchanathan-makes-case-nsf-expansion-appropriators 3 Cushman et al., 2015, "Impact of Declining Proposal Success Rates on Scientific Productivity," AAAC Proposal Pressures Study Group, https://arxiv.org/abs/1510.01647.
From page 130...
... report in roughly equal measure to the increase in the number of submitted proposals and the decrease in available funds because of the increase in facilities operations costs with a nearly flat AST budget. 4 AST stands out in the MPS directorate for having both a low proposal success rate and spending the least amount of its budget on individual grants programs.
From page 131...
... of no funding after three attempts. Over the entire foundation, roughly 30 percent of proposals are ranked highly meritorious, and recent initiatives by the NSF Director are focused on achieving a grant proposal success rate of 30 percent.5 Other NSF divisions that share common features with astronomy, such as physics and oceanography both being heavy users of the MREFC line, have higher proposal success rates than the astronomy division and devote a larger fraction of their budget to supporting individual investigator grants (Figure 4.4)
From page 132...
... also appears to suffer from similar high proposal pressure and underfunding. The Enabling Foundation report suggested a 20 percent increase in funding above inflation for all individual investigator grants programs to restore success rates to a healthy competitive environment.
From page 134...
... Most recently, the Astro2010 recommended that funding for NASA's Astrophysics Theory Program be increased by 25 percent, but instead the budget remained flat, and the calls for proposals slowed to a 2-year cadence. When coupled with current extremely low proposal success rates, these changes have particularly hurt the career development of pre-tenure theorists.
From page 135...
... Even with higher AAG proposal funding rates, the time delay and gauntlet of multiple proposal reviews add significant inefficiencies that hamper the scientific output of the most powerful facilities. Finding: Associating research funding for data analysis and production of high level data products with awarding of observing time ensures that observers have the resources they need to accomplish the proposed science.
From page 137...
... The direction for investments in space-based assets are prioritized by the solar and space physics decadal survey process, while this astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey committee advises only the division of Astronomical Sciences at NSF about ground-based solar physics. This mix of different solar observation regimes, each controlled by a separate decadal process, was a topic of attention in Astro2010, which had recommended that NSF work with several communities to determine the best route to a balanced and effective ground-based solar program maintaining PREPUBLICATION COPY – SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 4-13
From page 138...
... astronomers in the 5 years since the first data release. In the coming decade the Vera Rubin and Nancy Grace Roman Observatories, the highest-priority ground and space projects in the 2010 decadal survey, respectively, will provide comparably rich data sets, which promise to revolutionize time domain astronomy and promise breakthrough discoveries across a wide range of astrophysical disciplines.
From page 139...
... Mechanisms to share software, such as code-sharing and revisioning through Github and providing tutorials with worked examples through Jupyter notebooks, enable reproducibility and lead to further levelling of the field for access to and improvements on the motivating PREPUBLICATION COPY – SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 4-15
From page 147...
... Data science offers powerful new tools for studying astronomical data and astrophysical systems. Machine learning has already shown significant success at providing tools for identifying anomalies in data, and can speed up parameter estimation in large data sets by significant factors (Figure 4.13)
From page 149...
... In the era of ALMA, JWST, and proposed future facilities, with which astronomers will have the capability to study the chemical origins of exoplanetary systems and to detect molecules in exoplanetary atmospheres, the ability to spectroscopically identify complex PREPUBLICATION COPY – SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 4-25
From page 152...
... Finally, for large flagship missions and MREFC-scale NSF facilities which rely heavily on laboratory data, including provision for these essential activities into the project budgets could be very cost effective and would naturally focus the laboratory work on the most urgent scientific needs for those facilities. Conclusion: Laboratory astrophysics is essential to the interpretation of astrophysical data from facilities such as JWST, ALMA, and future facilities like the ELTs.


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