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Principal Findings Solar physics has entered within the past half-decade a new realm of exciting observational and theoretical science. Although this renaissance in the science is widely appreciated, the committee finds that a variety of difficulties beset solar physics in the United States. The university role in solar physics is inadequate to sustain a vital science, support for solar physics by federal funding agencies has been dominated by mission- oriented approaches, funding for the National Solar Observatory and the High Altitude Observatory has declined during recent years, support for experimental and observational programs in national centers and partic- ularly in universities has shrunk to the point that efforts in this area have declined to a critical level, and the funding of exciting new initiatives in the forefront of solar science has become enmeshed in the politics of budget cuts. The central question is how each of these formidable issues can be addressed and resolved by the funding agencies and by the scientific com- munity. If these problems are not resolved, the committee believes that the long-term future of solar physics in the United States will be bleak indeed. Given the nation's need for deficit reduction and fiscal restraint, it is unlikely that infusions of federal funds into solar physics will occur on the scale that occurred in the 1960s, nor would such infusions necessarily solve the problems. The problems enumerated above require, in the committee's opinion, solutions involving, first, a change in the structural foundation of federal sponsorship and, then, a modest level of appropriately directed ad- ditional funds for balanced support of solar physics research in the nation. Actions to achieve these solutions are discussed in full detail in this report. 1
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2 Specifically, the committee's recommendations are that the National Science Foundation (NSF) work to accomplish the following: 1. Develop a coherent, well~efined infrastructure for solar physics within NSF, with that agency properly assuming the lead role in support of basic research in ground-based solar physics. Thus the committee recommends that the internal structure for funding of solar research within NSF be changed so that support for both grants and centers is administered by a single entity within NSF whose primary responsibility is solar physics. Such a reorganization will permit the development of appropriate advocacy within NSF, the definition of an overall coherent approach to the subject, a unified vision of the field's national facilities and university grants program its scope and its development and the implementation of new efforts. The directorate in which to place the recommended section could be either the Geosciences Directorate (the residence of support for solar-terrestrial sciences and the High Altitude Observatory) or the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (the residence of support for astronomy and the National Solar Observatory. .. .. Placement of the recommended section is a matter for NSF decision. The committee believes that such a section will benefit the nation's solar physics efforts. 2. Support and encourage university programs in experimental and observational solar physics and take steps to strengthen the partnership between, on the one hand, federally supported research centers and, on the other hand, universities. In particular, the committee recommends that specific programs to enhance education and training of students in solar in- strumentation and observational techniques be established in the university community and that those universities willing to commit themselves to such programs receive support for the extended periods required to carrier out such efforts. In addition, the committee recommends that more effective partnerships be forged between federally funded centers and universities- partnerships involving the exchange of facula and technical staff, hardware and software, and workshops and short courses. 3. Protect newly funded initiatives in solar physics by ensuring their continued support until they are completed. Unless funding for such ini- tiatives can be assured within the limits imposed by general federal budget restrictions, avoid pursuing additional new initiatives. The committee fur- ther recommends that NSF refrain from commingling funds targeted for new initiatives with base-level support funds in response to budget~utting pressures. 4. Provide funding for the highest-priority new initiatives in the four major areas at the forefront of solar research: (a) probing the solar interior, (b) the physics at small spatial scales, (c) mechanisms underlying
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3 the solar cycle, and (d) the physics of transients. Each of these initiatives, when completed, will result in significant new knowledge about the Sun, stars and the solar-stellar connection, and solar-terrestrial, physical, and astrophysical processes. The total funding required, although significant relative to the current overall level of funding for solar research, is small relative to the overall funds directed toward astrophysics in general. The scientific impact of me results from the initiatives will, the committee predicts, be large and will range far beyond the solar physics discipline. Clear identification of resources for these initiatives will signal to the community and to prospective students that the national interest will be properly served by modest but steady support of solar research. 5. Give priority to the replacement of eDsting national solar tele- scopes with state~of-the-art instruments. While the solar observing facili- ties of the National Solar Observatory in certain cases still represent the forefront of solar instrumentation in the world, this primacy is challenged by the current advent of the European solar telescopes in the Canary Islands, especially as these new telescopes are equipped with modern, state-of-the- art instruments. The committee recommends that NSF vigorously support efforts possibly in collaboration with European scientists and others to replace the National Solar Observatory facilities with a large-aperture solar telescope' and to do so at the best possible site. In particular, the committee most strongly recommends that NSF support activities leading to the definition and siting of this new telescope system. The committee further recommends that' when such new facilities become available and when they meet the needs of the U.S. solar community, NSF consider closing outmoded solar telescopes.