AAAC, day 1

Today was a meeting in Washington, DC of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee that advises NSF, NASA, and the DOE on their overlapping interests in astronomy and astrophysics. A few highlights were the following:

NASA plans to start studies of some of the top mission concepts for big missions that might be put forward to the decadal survey in 2020. That is, they want the community to go into the 2020 decadal process with some really well researched and feasible, ambitious missions. The white-paper describing all this is here (PDF) and deserves reading and comment by the community. The best way to influence one of the mission studies is to join and get involved in the relevant "PAG" (whatever that is).

NSF and NASA did well in the FY15 budget process, but DOE HEP less well; this pressures DOE on its priorities. Nonetheless, it is attempting to move forward in sll three areas of next-generation CMB experiment, next-generation dark-matter detection experiment, and something like DESI. The DOE feels a strong commitment in all these areas.

Dressler is chairing a committee to assess the "lessons learned" from the last decadal process. Somehow this slipped past me un-noticed! I wrote him email during the meeting and will send him comments tomorrow, but in fact I think it is too late to influence the survey of the survey, which is too bad. As my loyal reader (or friend) might know, I have issues with some of the decadal-survey processes. In particular, I was horrified by the non-disclosure agreement that members of the survey were asked to sign. (That's why I didn't participate.) It said, and I quote:

"When discussing the survey process with anyone from outside the survey committee, a panel member, or a consultant appointed to the survey, you should avoid discussing any matter other than the publicly available information, such as shown on the NRC’s public web pages.

"Information discussed should be limited to presentations and discussions held in open session, materials circulated in open session only, and other publicly accessible information. Discussions by the committee, subcommittees, and panels held in closed session are confidential and should not be discussed or revealed. Similarly draft documents circulated in closed sessions of a meeting or in the time periods between meetings should be treated as privileged documents and should not be shared outside the survey. This is particularly important for any documents that contain draft conclusions or recommendations, since these survey outputs are not final until the NRC review process for the report is complete."

Astronomers will either honor this agreement—in which case we will never be able to know what really happened in the decadal survey—or else they will violate it—in which case they are violating the law! Indeed, and of course, I know many violations (since who can't talk about what happens behind closed doors?).

On the way home, I built a sandbox for looking at Nyquist-violating Fourier analysis of Kepler data. The idea is (and Vanderplas is a huge supporter of this) that if you have a great generative model of your data, there really is no true "limit". We shall see if we can do anything useful with it.

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