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NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences Announces Portfolio Review Process

Informational Email 2011-06

10 June 2011

Subject: NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences Announces Portfolio Review Process

[note: This AAS Informational Email is being distributed as a service to the NSF, Kevin B. Marvel, Executive Officer]

Message from NSF-AST Division Director, Jim Ulvestad

Dear Colleagues,

The Astro2010 Decadal Survey Report made its recommendations to NSF in the context of a projected budget that would double in ten years. The report also explicitly noted (p. 240) that "If the realized budget is truly flat in FY2010 dollars...there is no possibility of implementing any of the recommended program this decade -- without achieving significant savings through enacting the recommendations of the first 2006 senior review process and/or implementing a second more drastic senior review before mid-decade."

Based on the FY2011 budget appropriation and the FY2012 budget request, the optimistic budget assumed in the Astro2010 recommendations is unlikely to materialize. Therefore, NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) is commencing a Portfolio Review process. Unlike the 2006 Senior Review, which considered the future only of AST-supported facilities, this review will encompass the entire portfolio of AST-supported facilities, programs, and other activities. The goal of the review is to recommend to AST how support for existing facilities, programs, and activities should be prioritized and interleaved with new initiatives recommended by Astro2010, within the limitations of realistic future budgets.

The Review will NOT reopen debate on the content or the relative prioritization of the Astro2010 recommendations.

The outcomes resulting from the Portfolio Review are expected to be significant and will have long-lasting consequences affecting the entire astronomical community. AST is committed to conducting the review in a comprehensive manner.

A Portfolio Review Committee will be assembled during June and July 2011. Committee activities are expected to begin around the start of August 2011 and will lead to a draft report by the end of March 2012, which will be finalized by the end of June 2012.

The Committee will be asked to construct its recommendations in a 2-stage process: (1) to determine the critical capabilities needed to make progress on the science program articulated in Chapter 2 of Astro2010; and (2) to determine what combination of new facilities and programs plus existing -- but evolved -- facilities and programs will best deliver those capabilities within strict budgetary constraints.

At this time, NSF is inviting nominations for Review Committee members and chair. The objective is to convene a committee that broadly represents the backgrounds, demographics, expertise, and scientific goals of the entire astronomical community.

Self-nominations are encouraged. However, current employees of NSF-funded national and international facilities or their managing organizations are not eligible to serve, owing to conflict-of-interest considerations.

Nominators should keep in mind the potential long-term impact of the Review, and, accordingly, nominate individuals who can understand and appreciate a broad range of interests from the community; who can contribute effectively to carrying out the Charge; and who have the capacity to recommend a course of action that could adversely affect their own interests for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Nominations can be submitted until July 15, 2011, by sending Email to with the word "nomination" in the subject line, and should include:
1. Name, address, phone, Email, and current position of both nominator and nominee;
2. A statement (1 page maximum) on the nominee's qualifications for carrying out the Charge;
3. (Optional) CV of the nominee (2 pages maximum)

The staff of the AST Division encourages the astronomical community to stay informed on the progress of the Portfolio Review. A central web page with background, documents, and additional information has been set up at , and will be updated as the Review proceeds. After formation of the Committee, there will be opportunities to submit comments and suggestions to the Committee. The mechanism for submitting such material will be announced on the web page and by Email.

-- Jim Ulvestad, on behalf of NSF-AST Division --

[Mailed from 20 June 2011]

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