America's Astronomers Urge United States Government to Consult Scientific Community in Prioritizing Science Programs Funding

Jan 25, 2008, 00:00 ET from American Astronomical Society

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American
 Astronomical Society (AAS), the national organization of professional
 astronomers in the United States, with more than 7500 members, has taken a
 formal position on how the U.S. government should establish and maintain
 priorities in conducting scientific programs.
     The position statement, enclosed below, was endorsed by all five
 Divisions of the AAS as well as by the parent society. (Division members
 include persons who are members of the Society as well as other affiliated
 scientists). The Divisions are: the Division for Planetary Sciences,
 Division on Dynamical Astronomy, High Energy Astrophysics Division,
 Historical Astronomy Division, and the Solar Physics Division.
     AAS President Dr. J. Craig Wheeler, who is Samuel T. and Fern
 Yanagisawa Regents Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas, at
 Austin, commented, "The American Astronomical Society has recently ratified
 a set of policies under which the Society will strive for the most
 productive science with finite resources. We feel that the best way to
 accomplish this is to have broad community input in establishing scientific
 priorities based on realistic cost estimates. Our statement also makes
 clear that the Society does not condone attempts by individual facilities
 or missions to engineer specific directed congressional language that has
 the likelihood of subverting those priorities arrived through broad
 community input such as the decadal surveys sponsored by the National
 Research Council."
     Here is the AAS position statement:
     On Community-based Priority Setting in the Astronomical Sciences
     Adopted 24 January 2008
     The American Astronomical Society and each of its five divisions
 strongly endorse community-based priority setting as a fundamental
 component in the effective federal funding of research. Broad community
 input is required in making difficult decisions that will be respected by
 policy makers and stake-holders. The decadal surveys are the premier
 examples of how to set priorities with community input. Other National
 Academy studies, standing advisory committees, senior reviews, and town
 hall meetings are important components. Mid-decade adjustments should also
 be open to appropriate community input. Pleadings outside this process for
 specific Congressional language to benefit projects or alter priorities are
 counterproductive and harm science as a whole. The American Astronomical
 Society opposes all attempts to circumvent the established and successful
 community-based priority-setting processes currently in place.

SOURCE American Astronomical Society