As the latest decadal survey begins, scientists and Congress approved the process with a few reservations. During the Astro2020 meeting, scientists stated that they would identify top scientific priorities for the next 10 years and what ground-based observation centers or spacecraft would be the best fit. Robert Kennicutt of UA and Texas University stated that NA had received 450+ applications for serving on its steering committee. Ultimately, 20 were selected.
Although mostly filled with astronomers, Wanda Sigur of LM and such experts were also on the team as they need 2–3 technical experts with advice for evaluation of spacecraft missions and proposed observatories.
The first meeting will be between June 15 and June 17, in Washington and will appoint 13 more committees. Six will focus upon scientific issues while another 6 will look at programmatic topics. The 13th will focus on the profession’s state. White papers have already been received, which will be reviewed by this panel. More are coming the following month.
The government shutdown during the year’s beginning had adverse effects on schedule of the conclusive report, which has now been delayed to early 2021 at best. Decadal surveys are highly reputed and revered by all members from authority circles as they are a point of consensus between the entire scientific communities. However, Harrison, a previous member of an NA Board stated that various constituencies had to be explained the significance of using decadal surveys, no matter what the stream, requiring continuous advocacy. Recently, Congress Committees addressed their importance as well.
NASA’s directorate benefitted from this, allowing for managing its Earth science, astrophysics, heliophysics, and planetary programs over a decade. They guide what the highest priority ought to be. Scientists stated that NASA’s important missions were highly complex and grand in scale, requiring the help of decadal surveys to guide the process. Without such a guide, the whole process turns political instead of scientific, stated Mark Skyes of PSI.
However, recently big-picture projects have hogged the limelight, ignoring minor projects that are equally important. Kennicutt stated that tech development, lab astrophysics, simulation, computation, and theory were being ignored. These things should be highlighted as well, he said for an accurate understanding of science.