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Subject: NSF Portfolio Review

The following message is being sent to all AAS members, Division Members and Division Affiliates as a service to the NSF Astronomical Sciences Division.

Kevin B. Marvel, Executive Officer


The NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) invites input to its Portfolio Review process from members of the scientific community. The input window will be open from October 26, 2011, through January 31, 2012. Submitted comments or documents are limited to 5 pages in length, but may contain a URL link to a longer document (see below).


Community input will be made available, in original form, only to the Portfolio Review Committee and to NSF staff. AST Division staff will sort and categorize submitted comments for better organization and access, and may produce synthesized summary documents, combining the views of many individual submitters, as needed by the Committee.


Useful community input will directly address the Charge to the Committee and its context, which are discussed more fully on the Portfolio Review web site at .

The Astro2010 Decadal Survey recommendations laid out in "New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics" (NWNH) were made under the assumption of an AST budget that, with inflation, would approximately double to nearly $500M by 2020. However, current projections predict a 2020 AST budget of between $250M and $350M. Thus, future budgets will be insufficient to fully maintain the portfolio of existing and upcoming facilities, projects, and programs as well as to implement the Astro2010 recommendations for new facilities and program enhancements.

The Committee is being asked to determine (1) the capabilities needed to optimize progress on the Science Program articulated by Astro2010 (Chapter 2 of NWNH), and (2) the combination of new, upcoming, and existing-but-evolved facilities, projects, and programs that will best deliver these capabilities given the budgetary constraints. It may help to think of this process as interleaving the Astro2010 recommendations with the existing portfolio.

Examples of helpful input would include: priority orderings of key capabilities needed for particular science goals; alternative ways to achieve desired capabilities; suggested evolution or combination of public, private, and university resources to achieve high-priority capabilities; or discussions of the effects of changes to the portfolio on the status of the profession.

Examples of unhelpful input would include: advocating for a new project not endorsed by Astro2010; recommending re-ordering of Astro2010 priorities from the main Astro2010 report; arguing for increased support for some set of activities without a viable suggestion for offsetting costs; suggesting that AST ask, hope, or lobby for more funding; or any comments sent anonymously.


If your comments can be expressed succinctly using text alone, then compose your input in the body of a plain-text Email message (the preferred method). You may send a single Word or searchable PDF document as an attachment; but if you do, provide a short executive summary in the body of the Email. With any method of submitting input, please be brief and to the point. No input longer than 5 pages will be accepted. You may include a URL link to a longer document, but keep in mind that the committee is not required to read it; a crisp executive summary may be more effective. Try to make it as easy as possible for the Committee to read and understand your input. Summarize the focus of your input on the subject line of the email (e.g., "midscale projects," "AAG program," etc.), and be more descriptive than just "comments for portfolio review."

Please do not send Astro2010 white papers or revisions of them, reprints of journal articles, copies of publicly available documents (cite a URL), proposals for funding, or other material not related to the Charge to the Committee. The original Astro2010 white papers are public documents and will be available to the Committee, so they need not be resubmitted. The Committee will have access to the Astro2010 main report and panel reports and to the Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey report.


Send your comments to Please do not contact committee members individually.


- Comments in plain text Email or a single Word or PDF attachment?
- If sending an attachment, executive summary in the Email body?
- Comments directly connected to the Charge to the Committee?
- As concise as possible?
- Helpful few-word description in the subject line?
- No more than 5 pages in length?

We thank you in advance for your comments and the effort you are making to participate in this important process.

James S. Ulvestad
Director, Division of Astronomical Sciences

Mailed 27 October 2011
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