[This is the 12th birthday of this blog, and something like the 2814th post. I remain astonished that anyone reads this blog; surely it qualifies as one of the least interesting sites on the internet.]
I spent today again inside NSF headquarters. It was a good day, because most of our session was pure unstructured discussion of the issues—not presentations from anyone—in open session. All of the AAAC sessions are completely open, with an agenda and a call-in number open to literally anyone on the planet. This openness was also part of our discussion, because we got some discussion in on the opaque process by which the Decadal Survey (which is so damned important) is executed and also staffed. As part of this I published the non-disclosure agreement that the National Academy of Sciences asks people to sign if they are going to participate. It is way too strong, I think.
We also talked about many other interesting priorities and issues for our report. One is that the America Competes Act explicitly refers to the astrophysics decadal process as an exemplar for research funding priority-setting in the US government. Another is that the freedom of scientists in government agencies to clearly and openly communicate without executive-branch interference is absolutely essential to everything we do. Another is that the current (formalized, open) discussion about CMB Stage-4 experiments is an absolutely great example of inter-agency and and inter-institutional and cross-rivalry cooperation that will lead to a very strong proposal for the agencies, the community, and the Decadal Survey.
One very important point, which also came up at #AAS229, is that if we are going to make good, specific, actionable recommendations to the Decadal Survey about the state of the profession, about software, or about funding structures, we need to gather data now. These data are hard to gather; there are design and execution issues all over; let's have that conversation right now.