I attended the final open meeting of the Astro2010 Survey Committee this morning. This is the top-level committee chaired by Roger Blandford that will consider and synthesize the input provided by the Science Frontiers Panels, the Program Prioritization Panels and the various working groups.
Representatives from the 3 major funding agencies (NASA, NSF, DOE) were there to present their answers to questions that had been posed to them. A loud and clear message that came through was that funds are pretty tight and they are looking to the Decadal Survey Report to provide guidance on prioritizing investments in the coming decade. NASA Astrophysics in particular expects to have about $4B total for new missions over the 2013-2023 timeframe. Any augmentations to the R&D budget, extensions to older missions etc. will all have to come out of this $4B pot. It was also interesting to hear that the stimulus money allowed NSF’s success rate for grants to go up from 21% to 36% this year, but this is unlikely to be sustained in coming years.
Kevin Marvel (AAS) and Kate Kirby (APS) presented the professional societies’ perspectives. The ground based community was represented by Tony Readhead (Caltech) and Tim Beers (Michigan State Univ.). Kevin made a strong case for the committee to own this report for the entire decade and not stop after some initial outreach for the final report.
Stay tuned! In the meantime, you can get more info on Astro2010 at the NRC website.