Intergovernmental organisation urges scientists to present a unified coherent vision for large, expensive projects
The OECD Global Science Forum has developed findings and recommendations regarding future large projects in astronomy. Some of the recommendations are directed towards the international scientific community, others pertain more to the work of government funding agencies. Among the conclusions are: the need for a globally-coordinated scientific vision of the most important big projects for the next 20 years, greater international cooperation in the development of key technologies (such as large arrays of sensors), and the establishment of closer links between planning processes for space-and ground-based facilities. The report is based on discussions at two workshops that were attended by policymakers and scientists.
Astronomers have made enormous progress in the past few decades, developing a convincing model of the origin, evolution and distribution of the visible matter in the Universe, from asteroids and planets to the large-scale structure of clusters of galaxies. But the model fails to explain the composition or origin of some 96% of the contents of the Universe (the enigmatic "dark matter" and "dark energy") and does not explain the origin or distribution of life. Solving these mysteries will require costly new projects such as giant optical and radio telescopes which must be organised and financed on a multi-national basis. As the field of astronomy enters a new scientific and organisational era, the OECD report challenges researchers and administrators to coordinate, plan, administer and finance the large projects and programmes that will be needed during the coming decades.
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