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Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo)
David Crampton (NRC-Herzberg)
Matt Dobbs (McGill University)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College)
Michael Strauss (Princeton University)
Marten van Kerkwijk (University of Toronto)
Rob Thacker (Saint Mary’s University, Chair)
Kim Venn (University of Victoria)
Christine Wilson (McMaster University)
Terms of Reference
Building on the success of the original Long Range Plan (LRP), the 2010 Long Range Plan (LRP2010) made a series of recommendations to support world-leading astronomical research in Canada out to the 2020 time frame. At a time of growing international collaboration on “World Observatories”, such as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and Square Kilometre Array (SKA), many of the recommended projects are necessarily international in scope and present unique opportunities for Canada to play a role on the world stage.
While many major facilities now take a decade or more to develop, new opportunities and initiatives present themselves on a shorter time scale. Funding cycles also tend to have 5 year horizons. Combined with the fact that Canadian participation has not yet been established in a number of the recommended projects, there is an important need to review the recommendations on the 2010 LRP, via a Mid-Term Review (MTR).
As for LRP2010, the MTR will be a collaborative process initiated by the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) with the support of all Canadian national agencies and organisations that fund or administer astronomical research. The review will be undertaken by an Author Panel (hereafter “the panel”), led by a Chairperson. Community input will proceed via white papers, a dedicated website, the mobilization of CASCA committees and a series of consultative townhalls.
II. Statement of Task
The MTR is not anticipated to be as wide-ranging and detailed as the decadal plan outlined in the LRP2010. The key parts of the review are an assessment of the status of the LRP2010 projects, and an analysis of new opportunities. The series of priorities that result are anticipated to be relevant on a 5-year timeline and are not to include major revisions or expansions of LRP2010 that are inconsistent with the original goals of the plan. The resulting review will serve as a single unified vision to reaffirm the LRP2010 process over the second-half of the 2010-2020 decade.
Formulation of the MTR is a two-step process, namely a review followed by a prioritization exercise. It is anticipated that the MTR will address the following issues:
- Assessment of the state of astronomy and astrophysics in Canada in the context of the priorities and goals outlined in LRP2010. A key aspect of this review is the identification of any systemic implementation gaps and hazards that have emerged in the time period since LRP2010 was released, and the risks presented to the Canadian astronomical community.
- Identification of potential new research directions or areas of opportunity and the types of facilities and support that are needed to pursue them. This assessment will be science driven (first) and program driven (second) rather than facility oriented. This review is anticipated to primarily fill any gaps that have opened in the coverage of LRP2010. The possibilities for new facilities will be assessed separately.
- Assessment of proposed new National and International facilities or programs, including space missions, and their relevance to the Canadian astronomical community. New facilities are on the drawing-board that were unanticipated or at least insufficiently mature during the writing of LRP2010. Development of the MTR requires that we review these facilities/missions and assess their potential impact and possible benefits to the Canadian astronomical community. Given that Canadian researchers are increasingly collaborating with international partners and many future facilities are likely to be built by international consortia, whether any distinction is drawn between National and International opportunities is at the discretion of the panel.
- Re-affirmation of a prioritized list of facilities and programs that are essential to the success of the Canadian astronomical community. Building upon LRP2010, the list of priorities will only include those considered essential to the success of the community. This will unavoidably entail comparative and qualitative assessments, as during the review process different sub-disciplines or facilities will be compared with one another. While the decision on priorities will lie solely in the hands of the panel, it will take place following wide consultation with the community.
- Outline of the proposed budgets. The review will also take into account that funding within the Canadian community comes from multiple agencies and ranges in size from small individual grants to large community driven projects.
Projects that were approved by LRP2010 that are partly funded or underway need not be reassessed in detail. However, the impact of these facilities or programs and their relevance to astronomy and astrophysics out to 2020 should be incorporated within the MTR. Throughout the process of reviewing progress on facilities and research priorities, the panel will necessarily have to make judgments on the feasibility, technical readiness and risks involved in supporting a particular facility or program. The panel is expected to maintain independence in this process (see Conflicts of Interest section), and will consult with independent authorities when necessary. It is critical to the overall success of the MTR that the assessment of science capability and budgetary demands is seen as a fair and rigorous process.
V. Selection of the Chair of the Author Panel
The selection of the Chair is a critical issue since the MTR process must be viewed to be open and without bias. A Chair that is viewed favourably by the entire community will thus bring goodwill toward the planning process. As a consequence of the sensitive nature of the choice of the Chair, the selection process will involve the Board of Directors of CASCA.
VI. Selection of the Author Panel
Once the Chair of the author panel has been appointed, the selection of the remaining panel members will begin. The additional panel members to be appointed will include a vice-Chair and between five and seven panelists. Since the panel will be required at certain points to make comparative assessments of the relative merits of different subject fields and programs, it is necessary that the panel have significant breadth in expertise. The panel members will be selected by the CASCA President and Panel Chair, in consultation with the CASCA Board.
VII. Structure of Review: Working Groups
To provide reports to the author panel, the MTR will rely upon CASCA committees, and incorporate the community feedback provided through white papers, townhall meetings and open discussions.
The author panel will deliver the final version of the MTR (in English) and associated recommendations to the President of CASCA and the CASCA Board of Directors. The MTR will then be simultaneously released, in both official languages, to the Canadian astronomical Community and all relevant parties including NSERC, the NRC, CFI, CSA and relevant Ministries of the Government of Canada.
The review process will begin upon appointment of the Chair of the author panel, which is anticipated to be announced in January 2014. Discipline working groups are anticipated to begin their tasks as soon as they are appointed. The process is anticipated to take no longer than 18 months, with the public release of the MTR in Fall 2015.
X. Conflicts of Interest
All panel members will ensure that all work conducted under their auspices is conducted in a manner free of conflicts of interest. Any persons associated with the panel are also bound to similar conduct. For the purposes of this review, a conflict of interest is defined to be a situation where any panel member or his/her family is able to benefit financially from involvement in the review process, or if a prioritization process is perceived to benefit the individual’s place of work. If a conflict of interest arises, it must be declared so that the Chair may take appropriate action. Panel members are also advised to provide early notification of the possibility of such conflicts occurring.
The review is expected to be an accountable and open process. Submissions to the project will be made public, although proprietary information may be so-indicated and will be kept confidential. However, prior to mutually agreed upon release dates, all panel members are to agree that they will not disclose or give to any person any information or documents relating to the MTR.