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NOAO Newsletter - Director's Office - June 2000 - Number 62


Enabling Ground-Space Programs

Steve Strom

Research programs in astronomy increasingly involve multi-wavelength studies, often requiring access to multiple ground- and space-based facilities. However, with few exceptions, individual PIs or teams must propose to two (or more) separate telescope allocation/proposal evaluation committeesthus implicitly subjecting their programs to multiple reviews and multiple jeopardy.

As a natural evolution of the processes developed over the past five years by NOAO aimed at enabling access to the full suite of ground-based telescopes available through NOAO via a single proposal, NOAO through PDO undertook to explore options for "one stop shopping" for proposals involving ground and space components.

During fall 1999, PDO staff along with their counterparts at the SIRTF Science Center and the Chandra X-Ray Center developed processes to enable proposing IR and X-ray programs involving a significant ground-based component. In particular, teams proposing to carry out either Chandra "long" proposals (total time exceeding 300 Ksec) or SIRTF Legacy programs can now also include as part of their proposal a request for time on NOAO facilities provided that the space- and ground-based components comprise a coherent program--one in which both components are critical. The proposals will be evaluated for technical feasibility by NOAO staff, but reviewed solely by the Chandra and Legacy TACs, respectively. In each case, up to 10% of the time available on all NOAO-accessible telescopes (with the exception of Gemini) will be reserved for such programs.

Representatives of the NOAO director along with the SSC and Chandra director will review programs recommended for acceptance by their TACs with the goal of minimizing duplication and optimizing the use of time on NOAO facilities.

In turn, individuals or teams awarded Chandra or SIRTF Legacy time will be obliged to make their combined datasets publicly available and readily accessible on timescales consistent with (or shorter than) the governing proprietary rights policies at each institution.

The advantages to the community are the ability to propose coherent programs involving significant ground- and space-based components without the burden and uncertainty of multiple reviews; and the public availability, typically within a year or less, of large, rich databases that in most cases will offer significant opportunity for important archival research. Moreover, individuals or teams centered at institutions lacking assured access to large ground-based facilities will be able to propose such coherent programs on an equal footing.

As part of the effort to establish this new opportunity, PDO has also suggested to the directors of NOAO, SSC, and CXC mechanisms by which the quality of programs awarded time via these new options can be evaluated relative to programs accepted via the normal NOAO TAC system.


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