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Conversation with ACCORD on GSMT. 21 January 2005 Michael S. Turner, Assistant Director Directorate for Mathematical & Physics Sciences National Science Foundation. NSF Vision for Ground-based Optical/IR Astronomy.

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Conversation with ACCORD on GSMT

21 January 2005

Michael S. Turner, Assistant Director

Directorate for Mathematical & Physics Sciences

National Science Foundation

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NSF Vision for Ground-based Optical/IR Astronomy

  • Goal: Ground-based observing system that makes possible the grand opportunities in astronomy

  • Strategy:

    • Strong public/private partnering

    • Work in a world context

    • Coordination with space-based program to the degree possible

    • Strong public capability

      • Full utilization of Gemini

      • Significant participation in a >10m telescope project

      • Diminishing public investment in CTIO/KPNO (rising private investment?)

      • Strong grants program

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Major Phases of the MREFC Process


    • Need and concept established; community workshops; NRC studies; FACA committee input

  • “READINESS” PHASE (R&RA, ~10% of construction)

    • Fund enabling R&D; re-solve technical issues -- “buy down risk”; establish robust cost, schedule and scope – ready for approval process; proposal review


    • Division; Directorate; MREFC panel (NSF); NSB; OMB/President’s Budget; Congress


    • Initiated by NSB authorization of funds for a baselined project; NSF oversight and reviews

  • OPERATIONS (R&RA, ~10% of construction/yr)

    • Oversight and review; re-competition; renewal; eventual termination

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Conceptual Design

Panel Review,


NSF(Div/Dir )

Genius of the


Horizon (Blue

Sky Phase)



$$ from Div/Dir

Community (eg,


Div/Dir Decision


MREFC Panel Approves

NSB Concurs

MREFC Panel &

NSF Director

“Getting Ready”


Proposed for

New Start

MREFC Process







New Start










Construction, Operations


$$ from MREFC



& Research

$$ from Div/Dir

Community Sweat,

NSF Oversight


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Approval Phase

  • Divisonal/Directorate Review*

  • Review by NSF MREFC Committee**

  • Review by Director’s Review Board

  • Approved by Director for consideration by the NSB

  • Approved by the NSB for inclusion in “the queue”

  • Approved by Director and NSB for inclusion in NSF’s budget request to the President

  • Approved for inclusion in the President’s budget request (currently working on FY06)***

  • Congress appropriates Funds

  • NSF (Director and NSB) approves award when appropriated funds are available, begins construction

*Must compete against other proposals, now including: LSST, ATST, GSMT, ERL

**Must compete against projects proposed by other Directorates

***If Division/Directorate review begins in FY06, could compete for slot in FY08

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MREFC Update

  • Brinkman Report (Early 04) commissioned by Congress emphasized changes needed for transparency of process and community input/planning

  • NSF/NSB Response to Brinkman Oct 04

  • New MREFC Plan and Guide Mar 05

  • Queue is emptying

  • … just as the Treasury is emptying

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From the FY2005 Budget Request

The Queue is Emptying




by NSB

Since then, NEON has been deferred and AdvLIGO has been added

as a possible FY07 Start with profile of 31M, 44M, 45M, 35M, 22M and 7M

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MPS MREFC Projects

  • ALMA, IceCube (Construction Phase)

  • RSVP (completed Approval Phase, awaiting NSB approval for initiation of construction)

  • AdvLIGO (Approval Phase, ready to go in Budget)

  • ATST (ready to begin Approval Phase)

  • GSMT (entering Readiness Phase)

  • LSST (entering Readiness Phase)

  • Deep, Underground Lab (entering Readiness Phase)

  • Coherent, x-ray light source (Conceptual)

  • EVLA-II (Readiness Phase)

  • SKA (Conceptual)

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GSMT Timeline

  • Conceptual design phase complete (now)

  • Entering “Readiness” Phase (2005)

    • R&D proposal received and being reviewed

    • AST expects to make an award

    • 4 – 5(?) years of enabling R&D

  • Related activities

    • Making headroom for new facilities

      • Optical/IR Long-range Plan (2020 Vision)

      • Senior Review to re-balance portfolio

    • International dialogue (coordination of R&D, ….)

  • Pick a partner(s) (no loser strategy)

  • Ready for the Approval Phase as early as 2010

  • Begin Construction Phase as early as 2012

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Budgetary Context

  • 68% increase in NSF budget 1995 to 2005

    • AST budget doubled, from $100M to $200M

  • 2002: NSF Budget Doubling Strategy

  • But, New Realities

    • $500B Deficit: ~20% of Federal Budget, about equal to nonDefense Discretionary Spending portion of the $2.4T Budget

    • Administration priorities: War on terrorism; Homeland Security; Economy

  • FY05

    • Request “only” 3% above FY04 -- off the doubling curve

    • Actual 2% below FY04 (5% Congressional mark down) – only the 3rd budget decrease in 54 years(!)

    • Projection in FY05 budget request for 06 and beyond: -1.8% (06); -1.6% (07); -0.8% (08); -0.4% (09)

  • Expectations for 06 and beyond: flat or decreasing

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NSF FundingFY 1995 – 2005 Request$$ in Millions

+68% since 1998

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MPS FundingFY 1995 – 2005 Request

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GSMT Next Steps

  • AST Funds R&D (2005)

  • Senior Review, 2020 Vision activities (create free energy)

  • NSF leadership willing to meet with “privates”

    • Express its commitment to public/private partnership concept

    • Express commitment to >10m telescope

    • Discuss funding of R&D

    • Discuss NSF process (including the fact that 100% of projects that began serious R&D have gone to completion)

  • After 05/06 budgets are public, get together to discuss implications

  • Community prepares “Quantum Universe” like document to convey science goals

  • Come up with a common timeline

    Community enthusiasm is important,

    but community realism is essential