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FYI Number 166: November 16, 2005

Looking Ahead: National Academies' "Physics 2010" Survey

The National Academies' Board on Physics and Astronomy is developing a series of decadal surveys to identify the most compelling opportunities in physics. The Board seeks input to these surveys through its website and future town hall meetings.

There are six major reviews in the survey, three of which are underway. They are:
"EPP 2010: Elementary Particle Physics in the 21st Century"
"AMO 2010: An Assessment of and Outlook for Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Science"
"Plasma 2010: An Assessment of and Outlook for Plasma Science"

An interim report for AMO 2010 was released yesterday, and can be read at: http://books.nap.edu/catalog/11482.html

"CMMP 2010: An Assessment of and Outlook for Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics" is scheduled to begin in the near future. Two other studies are in the planning stage: "NP 2010: An Assessment of and Outlook for Nuclear Physics" and "GC 2010: An Assessment of and Outlook for Gravity Physics and Cosmology." An overview report is under consideration. In describing Physics 2010 the Board states:

"The decadal survey of physics serves two broad purposes: (1) it provides a periodic snapshot of the field that is useful for tracking and understanding the evolution of the science and (2) it provides a process whereby emerging opportunities can be identified and developed. Ultimately, the decadal survey is both inward- and forward-looking." A Board official explained, "The Physics 2010 series of reports will be focused on making the compelling science in each field accessible to a broad audience and will address policy issues related to realizing scientific opportunities."

The Board's last decadal survey, "Physics in a New Era," (http://books.nap.edu/books/0309073421/html/index.html) was released in 2001. See http://www.aip.org/fyi/2001/090.html and http://www.aip.org/fyi/2001/091.html for a review of this survey's six "grand challenges" and recommendations. The survey is credited with changes in institutional mechanisms supporting physics, as well as bringing new talent into the field.

The Board on Physics and Astronomy's website provides further information on Physics 2010 and its six studies. The Board is actively soliciting the views of the physics community in developing these studies. The three reports that are underway - EPP 2010, AMO 2010, and Plasma 2010- provide information on committee membership, a brief synopsis of the committee's work, links to briefing materials, and a notice of future meetings. Information on providing each committee with comments or suggestions is given.

In describing the rationale behind Physics 2010, the Board explains: "As a [government] budget examiner once noted, ‘These priority decisions have to be made; the community can either be involved by contributing its best thinking, or it can go away and let overworked staff who aren't experts make own their best guesses.'"

The Board's Physics 2010 website is:
http://www7.nationalacademies.org/bpa/projects_physics_2010.html

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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