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OECD develops policy recommendations for a new generation of large projects in astronomy


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.

The Global Science Forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is a venue for consultations among senior science policy officials of the OECD Member and Observer countries, on matters relating to fundamental scientific research. The Forum’s activities produce findings and recommendations for actions by governments, international organisations, and the scientific community. The Global Science Forum’s mandate was adopted by OECD science ministers in 1999.

The Global Science Forum meets twice each year at OECD headquarters in Paris, under the chairmanship of Dr. Hermann-Friedrich Wagner of the German Ministry of Research. At these meetings, selected subsidiary activities are reviewed and approved based on proposals from national governments. The activities may take the form of studies, working groups, task forces, and workshops. The normal duration of an activity is one or two years, and a public policy-level report is always issued.

Stefan Michalowski | EurekAlert!
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