Heliophysics 2024 Decadal Survey
Recent and Upcoming Events, Milestones
September 30, 2021
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NASA's Heliophysics Division is currently working with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prepare for the 2024 Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey. In order to provide transparency into and to best facilitate community involvement in the decadal survey process, NASA intends to maintain this website as a location for information on the survey and for the Agencies’ preparation activities.
One principal way that NASA solicits and leverages technical expertise from the science community is through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). NASEM is a non-government organization that contracts with NASA and other U.S. Government Agencies to conduct studies specified by the client.
One of the most influential studies that NASEM conducts for NASA is the decadal survey. Congress mandates (51 USC § 20305) that the NASA Science Mission Directorate go to the National Academies once a decade for an analysis of the state of the field and a recommended prioritization of the research and programmatic areas. This decadal survey is also required to conduct an independent cost and technical-readiness assessment for recommended major investments (e.g., strategic missions), and decision rules for unforeseen conditions (e.g. cost increases, instrument capability advances) that might trigger a reprioritization of the recommended research or programmatics.
Due to the scientific and technical overlap between the scope of responsibility for NASA and other Government Agencies in this area, NASA often works with partners to sponsor these decadal surveys. Such partnership helps ensure that there is coordination and collaboration across the government in order to advance scientific and technical fields.
NASA is currently working with the recommendations from the 2013 Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey, and its 2019 mid-term assessment. NASA, NSF, and NOAA are currently working with National Academy of Sciences’ Space Studies Board to plan for the next decadal survey, to be released in 2023/2024 (notional).
NASA uses the decadal survey to prioritize science focuses, both for mission and non-mission activities. The decadal survey’s recommended science strategy is also leveraged by NASA to inform internal programmatic discussions and to clearly communicate with the Agency’s stakeholders. Results can include the creation or evolution of research programs, planning for new mission concepts, collaborations with NASA and non-NASA partners, and other activities.
What does NASA want to get out of the Decadal Survey
The decadal survey process starts with Agency preparation activities four to five years prior to the final report’s expected publication. One of the first preparation activities is NASA's communicating with potential partner agencies on their interest in beginning the next decadal survey, and then contacting the Space Studies Board (SSB).
NASA and sponsoring agencies draft the Statement of Task (SoT) and deliver it to the SSB. Once the SSB agrees to the terms, they respond to the SoT with a proposal. Once the proposal has been accepted by the Sponsoring Agencies, the SSB begins its decadal survey process; this includes but is not limited to initiating the Decadal Survey Committee nomination process, planning the subcommittees, and soliciting community white papers.
After the survey committee membership has been finalized, the SSB hosts a decadal survey kickoff meeting where NASA and Sponsor Agencies are given the opportunity to present any information that will inform the Decadal Survey Committee. In addition, the kickoff meeting is also often used as a deadline for community white papers to the Decadal Survey Committee.
Over the course of the Decadal Survey process, NASA or other sponsoring agencies may be called to provide certain data and information for the committee. The process to produce the final consensus report may take up to two years, depending on the agreed upon tasks.
When the Survey Committee drafts the report, the SSB conducts a thorough review process. Once the survey is complete, the report is delivered to sponsoring agencies and published on the National Academies’ website.
The goal of all of the Heliophysics Division’s preparation activities is to provide information to the Decadal Survey Committee that would benefit their production of effective and implementable recommendations.
NASA, NSF, and NOAA are supporting community discussions in preparation for participating in the decadal survey process. These center around the Heliophysics 2050 Workshop, where the community will discuss the scientific topics that will enable the field to advance and expand in the next and following decades.
Both before and after Workshop, the community is encouraged to participate in medium-group discussions. Before, these will prime topics that will be more fully discussed at the Workshop. After, they will pull at the threads identified at the Workshop and develop those ideas for incorporation into decadal survey white papers.
To enable the decadal survey’s multi-decadal strategy and the role of NASA’s spaceflight missions in that strategy, NASA is supporting community-conducted discussions and studies into architecture of and missions for the Solar Terrestrial Probes and Living With a Star programs.
NASEM and NASA's Science Mission Directorate have produced a series of webinars in preparation for the upcoming Astrophysics and Planetary Science decadal surveys. NASA's Heliophysics Division and NASEM have plans to continue those webinars in order to help the solar and space physics community likewise prepare for the next heliophysics decadal survey.
Topics of these webinars focused on the decadal survey process, the writing and use of decadal white papers, and the nomination and selection process for the Decadal Survey Committee. The topics in preparation for the solar and space physics decadal survey have not been finalized, but are likely to build off those previous webinars.
These webinars are likely to be conducted in the early-2021 timeframe. Details on these webinars are being developed and, once settled, will be posted here and published via community announcements.
Discussions with the Committee on Solar and Space Physics
NASA is working with the Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP) ahead of the decadal survey initiation. These discussions focus on what work NASA Heliophysics can do early to help the decadal survey later.
The two currently planned topics of discussion are:
- Decadal Workforce Analysis: What workforce analysis might the Decadal Survey attempt, and what data and/or analysis can NASA prepare for the Decadal Survey Committee to support robust discussions and recommendations?
- Programmatic Information: What information can NASA provide about NASA Heliophysics programs and processes to help the Decadal Survey produce effective, implementable recommendations?
Any questions about NASA Heliophysics’ preparation for the Decadal Survey should be directed to Jared Leisner.