Today was the first day of an Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting at NSF headquarters in Washington, DC. We had presentations from the agencies for most of the day. Random things that I learned that interest me follow in this blog post. Our meetings are open, by the way.
NSF is trying to divest from facilities in ways that keep them running by other partners, so even though they may go public, they will at least stay part of the community. In particular, they are working to offload Aricebo to a combination of NASA and private partners.
NASA has taken its ATP theory call down to once every two years, but not reduced funding. They hope this will increase the amount of funding per submitted proposal, and the early data seems like it might. NASA and NSF have started a joint funding program called TCAN for computational methods in astrophysics. That might affect me! NASA re-balanced its fellowship postdocs, in response to concerns about pipeline, long-term trends in their own funding portfolio, and the rise in private fellowships. This is debatable and controversial, though they did not enter into this decision-making lightly. What is not controversial is that they have combined all the fellowships into a common application process, substantially reducing the workload on applicants and referees.
There is an extremely big and serious CMB S-4 process going on, in which many traditionally rivaling scientific groups are cooperating to find consensus around what to build or do next. That's very healthy for the field, I think, and will create a very strong set of ideas for the next Decadal Survey to discuss. Decadal is on the agenda for tomorrow!
Towards the end of the day, Paul Hertz (NASA) and I got into a fight about Deep Space Network. I fear that I might be wrong here; I can't really claim to understand that stuff better than Hertz!