Arecibo Science Advocacy Partnership: October 2009 Newsletter to Members



Dear ASAP Member,

    We write again to help keep you informed about important developments 

that affect the future of the Arecibo Observatory.  Your concern and membership 

support provide the foundation for the ASAP's work.  

    The ASAP Board has made every effort during these long months since our 

last Newsletter to stay in touch with the crucial NSF process that will result in an 

"RFP"---that is a "Request for Proposals" from entities that would manage AO in 

the future.  This process is of paramount importance because it will stipulate 

fundamentally new conditions for the management and funding of the Observatory.  

Its release will then mark the beginning of a competitive process that will shape the 

new AO.  


    Almost since its inception ASAP Board Members have been in very regular  

discussions with those in the NSF AST (Astronomy) and AGM (Atmospheric & 

Geospace Sciences) Divisions who are directly involved in formulating the RFP, 

both through Board delegations and ASAP letters suggesting policy.  Over these 

last months, we have heard repeatedly that the NSF AST would release the RFP 

in 4-6 weeks, but of course it has still not been released.  

    Now, however, we have learned from discussions with AST and AGS Program 

Staff that the delays are finally coming to an end and that (what they are now calling) 

the "Program Solicitation" is taking a final form. 


    In these discussions, we have learned that---

     --As ASAP has strongly advocated, AST funding at a level beyond that

     originally recommended by the Senior Review is possible.  AST is considering

     the Senior Review recommendations as well as independent assessments of the

     funding needed to maintain an appropriate level of Arecibo operations and sustain

     a viable in-house science program.


     --We are convinced that the NSF is committed to keeping Arecibo in operation 

     for at least another five years, and that NSF will work with the NAIC operating 

     institution to ensure other sources of funding are secured to continue and possibly

     even expand Observatory operations in the future.


     --The AGS Division has committed to funding at a level of at least $3M per year.  

     Part of this will be to maintain the existing Space and Atmospheric Sciences 

     Program at Arecibo with the remaining amount going toward base Observatory 



    The key question of course is one of funding level and, for the short term, how 

to sustain it at a level necessary to maintain sufficient scientific, engineering, and 

support staff until other sources of revenue are secured.  If the AO is secure, it will 

be possible to sustain the outreach activities central to the Visitor Center. 


    The new management paradigm---to be articulated in the Program Solicitation

---will likely be substantially different from that currently in place and will require 

the new manager of AO to creatively seek new funding sources for continued AO



    In these discussions with the NSF, the ASAP's positive role in the course of this 

process has been mentioned several times---as representing and advocating for the 

AO user community and as a counter-balance to the Senior Review.  Additionally, AST 

has suggested that the ASAP could and should advise those organizations preparing 

management proposals in response to the Program Solicitation---and indeed, ASAP 

stands ready to assist any and all proposers in an open and equal manner.  Indeed, 

ASAP has drafted and circulated a Statement of Principles for such proposers.  Finally, 

ASAP's potential role as part of the advisory process for the new management of AO 

has also been stressed.


    In short, it has become clear that the current ASAP membership, by its numbers, 

research diversity, career stage, institutions represented, and---most importantly---

active use of AO, has played an important and perhaps pivotal role in defense of AO 

and in formulating the Program Solicitation.  One well placed NSF official essentially 

said that the NSF would never have come as far as it has without ASAP.  Therefore, 

the Board sincerely thanks the ASAP members for your support!


    This said, ASAP now REALLY needs to increase its membership further!  If we 

ASAPers are serious about Arecibo, we MUST become very very serious about 

building the ASAP membership!  

     --Immediately, ASAP needs to effectively assist the proposers in building a vital 

     future for the AO---and this requires a broader ASAP expertise and community

     representation as well as significantly larger financial costs; and 

     --In the longer term, the ASAP must build its stature and ability to advocate for 

     AO science and AO users with the new AO management, whoever they may be.  

In order to do this ASAP must become an organization with membership in the 

small hundreds.  And we current ASAP members can achieve this goal if each 

current member will simply "talk up" ASAP to our colleagues and bring in one new 


    Please then help us build the ASAP membership! 

    Please also write the Board with your suggestions and comments.  The Board 

is very eager to hear your suggestions both on how best to protect AO as well as 

suggestions for the structure and goals for the new AO! 

    Please send this letter to your friends and associates and tell them about the 

ASAP website:

            With sincere thanks and regards,

                 The ASAP Board