Arecibo Science Advocacy Partnership: February 2009 Newsletter to Members

Dear ASAP Member,
    As colleagues who are also concerned about the future of the Arecibo Observatory,
we write to help keep you well informed about the rapidly changing developments.  2009
promises to be a particularly critical year in the Observatory's history, given the effects of
the Senior Review, the expected management recompetition, and the upcoming Decadal
Survey ASTR2010.
    In November—with your financial support—ASAP sent four Board members to meet
with NSF AST Interim Director Dr. Craig Foltz and NAIC Program Manager Dana Lehr. 
The meeting was very cordial, and the ASAP delegation got a very solid hearing regarding
the unique importance of Arecibo science.  Dr. Foltz indicated that he was impressed by
the number of members ASAP had attracted and underscored its significance.  He also
invited ASAP to make suggestions regarding the upcoming management recompetition. 
Both sides expressed their desire to remain in close touch. 

    NSF AST has initiated the management recompetition process for the Observatory with 
a "Dear Colleague" letter.  However, well placed sources who have spoken with the ASAP
Board indicate that any actual RFP is experiencing delays within the NSF and can now be
expected only in late March or even early April. 

    At least three organizations are now reportedly preparing proposals for the Arecibo
management contract, though a possibility remains that two or more may join forces.  The
ASAP Board has adopted a policy of strict ASAP neutrality regarding these competing
proposers.  Interestingly, Dr. Foltz suggested at the meeting with Board members, that
ASAP might usefully serve to advise any and all of the proposing organizations.  The
Board has therefore decided to approach all the proposing organizations and offer to
assist them with their proposals. 

    Although ASAP only recently took the decision to become a membership organization,
ASAP now boasts a membership of about 60.  However, the concrete importance of building
ASAP's membership numbers has become ever clearer over the last several months (NB,
Dr. Foltz comment above), so the Board has set the goal of achieving a total membership of
at least 100 by the end of March 2009.  Please assist us in building the ASAP membership
by approaching your own colleagues—especially those outside the community of AO users
—using the brochure as needed.  If every current member brings in even one new member,
we can easily more than meet this crucial goal. 

    Finally, the Board wants to take this opportunity to encourage members to email with
suggestions, help build the membership or assist with ASAP's work in future.  For instance,
you may be an expert on aspects of AO's scientific excellence and uniqueness that are not
now well described on the ASAP website;  if so, please consider writing up a short piece
for this purpose.

    Sincere thanks from the ASAP Board for your absolutely essential support at members.

        With best wishes to you and for a vital Arecibo future,

                    The ASAP Board