Workshop on the O/IR System: Rationale and Structure
The McKee-Taylor Decadal Survey report lays out a new paradigm for thinking about ground-based O/IR astronomy, saying that "all facilities, whether nationally or independently operated, should be viewed as a single integrated system...". The report assigns to the "National Astronomy Organization" the responsibility to "lead the development of a strategic plan for the evolution of the capabilities of the system by organizing discussions involving the NSF, the independent observatories, the academic community, and industry." The motivations for this perspective are to use available funding and other resources most effectively, to combine leverage and complementarity with the inherent strength of diversity, and to ensure the community has access to the widest range of cutting-edge capabilities.
A first, straightforward step is to look at the ways in which the distributed facilities of ground-based O/IR astronomy already serve as a system. A more daunting task is to understand how cooperation and self- interest can come together to influence the future evolution of that system to the benefit of all elements of the U.S. astronomical community. As an initial step, we would like to host a workshop involving a broad cross-section of the community in discussions about the nature of the system, the elements that it comprises, capabilities that are needed but missing from the system, and possible processes and metrics for encouraging its development. The NSF Astronomy division has indicated interest in this workshop and has stated that it is looking to the community and this process to guide its investments in service of the system.
After presentation of background material, the workshop discussions will be mainly science-based; we envision introductory presentations on (a) context for the O/IR ground-based system, in terms of both international and space-based efforts, (b) scientific opportunities that will drive the evolution of the system, and (c) various capabilities -- ranging from telescopes through software to observing modes -- that are elements of the system. Following these presentations, discipline-oriented subgroups will discuss the evolution of capabilities that derive from their scientific aspirations. A wrap-up session will formulate an inclusive list and begin the discussion of priorities. A draft agenda is linked below. As a second step in this process, a "system steering committee" with representation by users of both public and private facilities will take the output of the workshop discussion and abstract this into a short report for the NSF. We see this as the beginning of an ongoing activity, with regular community discussions aimed at identifying opportunities for improving the system, followed by attempts to focus resources to accomplish this. This first workshop will be jointly chaired by Todd Boroson (NOAO, member of the AASC, and vice-chair of the AASC O/IR Panel) and Alan Dressler (OCIW and chair of the AASC O/IR Panel).