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Project Information

Project Information

Astro2020: Panel on An Enabling Foundation for Research

Project Scope:

Panel Description:
The Panel on An Enabling Foundation for Research will summarize the current state of resources and support, identify major challenges, and make suggestions to the Astro2020 committee on the topics of computation, simulation, and data handling; facilities, funding, and programs; laboratory astrophysics; general technology development programs; international and private partnerships; and relevant areas of astronomy and public policy. The Panel’s suggestions will be incorporated into a program for all of astronomy and astrophysics by the Committee on Astro2020.

Overall Project Statement of Task:
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine shall convene an ad hoc survey committee and supporting study panels to carry out a decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysics. The study will generate consensus recommendations to implement a comprehensive strategy and vision for a decade of transformative science at the frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics. The committee, with inputs from study panels covering the breadth of astronomy and astrophysics, will carry out the following tasks:

  1. Provide an overview of the current state of astronomy and astrophysics science, and technology research in support of that science, with connections to other scientific areas where appropriate;
  2. Identify the most compelling science challenges and frontiers in astronomy and astrophysics, which shall motivate the committee’s strategy for the future;
  3. Develop a comprehensive research strategy to advance the frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics for the period 2022-2032 that will include identifying, recommending, and ranking the highest priority research activities — taking into account for each activity the scientific case, international and private landscape, timing, cost category and cost risk, as well as technical readiness, technical risk, and opportunities for partnerships.  The strategy should be balanced, by considering large, medium, and small activities for both ground and space. (Activities include any project, telescope, facility, experiment, mission, or research program of sufficient scope to be identified separately in the final report.) For each recommended activity the committee will lay out the principal science objectives and activity capabilities, including assumed or recommended activity lifetime, where possible;
  4. Utilize and recommend decision rules, where appropriate, for the comprehensive research strategy that can accommodate significant but reasonable deviations in the projected budget or changes in urgency precipitated by new discoveries or unanticipated competitive activities;
  5.  Assess the state of the profession, using information available externally and, if necessary, data gathered by the study itself, including workforce and demographic issues in the field. Identify areas of concern and importance to the community raised by this assessment in service of the future vitality and capability of the astronomy and astrophysics work force. Where possible, provide specific, actionable and practical recommendations to the agencies and community to address these areas. This report shall be made available following the completion of the study.


Status: Current


Project Duration (months): 24 month(s)

RSO: Eyring, Greg


Engineering and Technology
Math, Chemistry, and Physics
Space and Aeronautics
Policy for Science and Technology

Geographic Focus:

Committee Membership

Committee Post Date: 09/30/2019

David N. Spergel - (Chair)
DAVID N. SPERGEL (NAS), is the founding Director for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute and the Charles A. Young Pprofessor of Astronomy Eemeritus of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University. He is currently co-chair of the WFIRST-AFTA science team and the editor of the Princeton Series in Astrophysics. Spergel has made major contributions to cosmology, astroparticle physics, galactic structure, and instrumentation. He led the theoretical analysis for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and for the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, invented novel coronagraphs for planet detection, originated and explored the concept of self-interacting dark matter, and showed that the Milky Way is a barred galaxy. He was the W.M. Keck Distinguished Visiting professor of Astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Study, and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Ffellow. Spergel has received numerous awards including - the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, the Helen B. Warner Prize, the Bart Bok Prize, the AAS Second Century Lecturer, a MacArthur Fellowship, the Shaw Prize in Astrophysics, the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, and shared the Gruber Prize as a member of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) science team. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and an honorary member of the National Society of Black Physicists. Spergel served on the NSF’s Advisory Committee for Astronomical Sciences; the Theory, Experimental and Laboratory Astrophysics Subcommittee; and the Scientific Advisory Board for the Hayden Planetarium. He received his Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University. Spergel has served on numerous National Academies committees including: Space Studies Board (chair); Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (co-chair); Committee on the Assessment of a Plan for U.S. Participation in Euclid (chair); Committee to Review the Science Requirements for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA); and the Astro2010 Panel on Cosmology and Fundamental Physics (chair).
Michael Blanton
MICHAEL BLANTON is a professor of physics at New York University. He specializes in computation and modeling of large-scale structures in the universe and is currently director of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV and was Data Coordinator of Sloan Digital Sky Survey III. He received his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Princeton University. He has previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Kelle Cruz
KELLE L. CRUZ is an associate professor of astrophysics and astronomy at Hunter College, City University of New York. Her research interests are observational study of low mass stars and brown dwarfs, optical and near-infrared spectroscopy, cool atmospheres, and stellar content of the Solar Neighborhood. Much of her research concentrates on creating large public data sets of very low-mass stars and brown dwarfs and using that data to undertake statistically robust studies of their physical properties. Dr. Cruz is also the founder and editor for AstroBetter, a blog and wiki site for professional astronomers. She was a National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and then a Spitzer Fellow at Caltech. She received her Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania. She has previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Mark Devlin
MARK J. DEVLIN is the Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in experimental cosmology at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, collecting data from which he makes statistical inferences about the evolutionary history of the universe. He designs and builds instrumentation and telescopes that he uses to observe from high-altitude balloons and the high plateaus of Chile. Devlin received the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching and was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley. He was a member of the Academies’ Astro2010 Panel on Electromagnetic Observations from Space.
Megan Donahue
MEGAN E. DONAHUE is professor of astronomy at Michigan State University. She studies galaxy clusters, including models and observational tests of cooling flows in the gas within clusters. Dr. Donahue is a fellow of the American Physical Society and is currently the president of the American Astronomical Society. She earned her Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Colorado. She served on the Academies’ Astro2010 Panel on Electromagnetic Observations from Space.

Keith Hawkins
KEITH A. HAWKINS is an assistant professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests are galactic and stellar archaeology, chemical composition of stars, stellar spectroscopy, exoplanet host star characterization, and galactic structure. He began as an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Texas where he was named a Scialog Fellow and a Kavli Fellow. He is a member of the American Astronomical Society and serves on their Committee for the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA), and he was chair, King’s College Graduate Society. He was a British Marshall Scholar and has received a Simons Foundation Junior Research Fellowship at Columbia University. He received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Cambridge. He has not previously served on an Academies’ Committee.

Alina Kiessling
ALINA A. KIESSLING is a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has a background in dark matter and dark energy research through weak lensing analysis of N-body simulations. She is currently working on the upcoming Euclid, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). Formerly, she co-led an investigation on stratospheric airships, with the goal of determining whether these may become low-cost platforms for astrophysics (and Earth science) missions in the future. Dr. Kiessling received her Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. She has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Karin Oberg
KARIN ÖBERG is a professor of astronomy and director of Undergraduate Studies at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard and Smithsonian. She is also leader of the Öberg Astrochemistry Group at the Center and specializes in astrochemistry and its impact on planet formation, including the compositions of nascent planets. She is recipient of the Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship, Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in Physics, and the Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering. She received her Ph.D. from Leiden University. She has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Angela V. Olinto
ANGELA V. OLINTO is the dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago. She is also the Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics with a joint appointment at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. She previously served as chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Olinto is best known for her contributions to the study of the structure of neutron stars, primordial inflationary theory, cosmic magnetic fields, the nature of the dark matter, and the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays, gamma-rays, and neutrinos. She is the principal investigator of the Probe of Extreme Multi-Messenger Astrophysics (POEMMA) space mission, a principal investigator of the Extreme Universe Space Observatory (EUSO) on a super pressure balloon mission, and a member of the Pierre Auger Observatory. All three of these projects are designed to discover the origin of the highest energy cosmic particles, their sources, and their interactions. She received the Chaire d’Excellence Award of the French Agence Nationale de Recherche, the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching at the University of Chicago. Olinto received her Ph.D. in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She served on the Academies’ Astro2010 Panel on Particle Astrophysics and Gravitation.
Bernard Rauscher
BERNARD J. RAUSCHER is an experimental astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He serves as a detector scientist within the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Project and as a member of the JWST Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) Science Team. Rauscher has experience in detector development, including near-infrared detector arrays, photon counting CCDs, and most recently superconducting single photon detectors. His work has led to the development of Improved Reference Sampling and Subtraction for JWST NIRSpec and new algorithms for testing space flight hardware. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
Rachel Somerville
RACHEL SOMERVILLE holds the George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Chair in Astrophysics, and is a distinguished professor at Rutgers University. She also co-leads the galaxy formation group at the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute. Her research interests include galaxy formation and evolution, active galactic nuclei, cosmology and large-scale structure. Somerville was previously an assistant professor at University of Michigan, and held a joint appointment at John Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute. She earned the 2013 Dannie Heinemann Prize for Astrophysics and a 2014 Simons Investigator Award. Somerville received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Somerville has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.
James M. Stone
JAMES M. STONE is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in the School of Natural Sciences. Previously, he was the Emeritus Lyman Spitzer, Jr. Professor of Astrophysical Sciences and a professor of applied and computational mathematics at Princeton University as well as the chair of the University’s Department of Astrophysical Sciences. His research interests include star formation, accretion flows, interstellar gas dynamics, and the development of numerical algorithms for magnetohydrodynamics and radiation hydrodynamics. The public codes ZEUS-2D, released in 1992 by Stone and Michael Norman, and Athena, released in 2008 by Stone and his collaborators, are among the most powerful and widely used astrophysical codes. He was named a fellow of the American Physical Society and received the organization’s Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics and the Dirk Brouwer Career Award from the American Astronomical Society. During his academic career, Stone has held academic positions at the Princeton University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Maryland. He is also member of the American Astronomical Association, the American Physical Society, and the International Astronomical Union. Stone received his Ph.D. for astronomy from the University of Illinois. He has previously served on several Academies’ committee.



Keck Center
500 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Event Type :  

Description :   

Astro2020: Panel on An Enabling Foundation for Research Meeting One

October 22-24, 2019

Please see attached agenda for the Panel's open session. Note:  The agenda is subject to change.

Open session is from 2:15 to 4:45 PM. There will be an Opportunity for Public Comments session from 4:15 to 4:45 PM. 

** This is a "listening session" for the panel to hear views from the public on what the priorities should be for the astrophysics research infrastructure in the coming decade. Comments will be limited to a maximum of 2 minutes. Initial comments will come from individuals in the room who have indicated their desire to speak on a signup sheet, on a first-come, first-served basis. As time allows, comments will be taken from callers on the phone, in order of those who have clicked the "Raise Hand" feature of Zoom.




Registration for Online Attendance :   

Registration for in Person Attendance :   

If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Linda Walker
Contact Email:
Contact Phone:  (202) 334-1311

Is it a Closed Session Event?
Some sessions are open and some sessions are closed

Publication(s) resulting from the event:



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