Heliophysics 2024 Decadal Survey

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.

DECADAL SURVEY OVERVIEW

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.

What does NASA want to get out of the Decadal Survey

 

NASA wants the decadal survey to present an ambitious science strategy that transcends the next decade and inspires long-term scientific planning for the following decades.

 

NASA envisions the next Heliophysics decadal survey will identify cutting-edge, interdisciplinary science problems that push the boundaries of what was previously thought possible in solar and space physics. Some of these problems will flow into focused science objectives for mission concepts, others may lend themselves to be addressed by competed research programs.

 

Using the decadal survey to understand what science investigations have the greatest potential to revolutionize our current understanding of the Sun and the Solar System, NASA will identify how to allocate NASA’s resources accordingly to continuously push the solar and space physics field forward.

 

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 assessmentNASA, 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).

HOW DOES NASA USE THE DECADAL SURVEY?

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.

PROCESS OVERVIEW 

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.

NASA HPD PREPARATION ACTIVITIES FOR THE 2024 DECADAL SURVEY

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.

Heliophysics 2050 Workshop

The Heliophysics 2050 Workshop is an activity to help the community prepare for the next Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey, but it does not preempt or prescribe that Decadal Survey. It is expected that there could be topics not discussed in the Workshop that are discussed in the Decadal Survey, or that a topic discussed in the Workshop might not appear in the Decadal Survey.

For up-to-date information on the Heliophysics 2050 Workshop logistics and deadlines, please visit the LPI Workshop website.

NASA, NSF, and NOAA are working together to enable the Heliophysics 2050 Workshop–a community-driven event to examine long-term goals as well as helping the community prepare for the next Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey.

The workshop is being planned for an in-person venue, with strong on-line participation options, in May 2021. Due to the COVID-19 public health situation, the timing and logistics of Helio2050 are still being determined and secondary options of an all-virtual workshop and a meeting delay are being considered.

The workshop will examine current scientific understanding and what near-term investigations can enable and inform future investigations. From this scientific progression, the workshop will create a “Science Web” that maps current understanding to the next set of science investigations which, in turn, lead to still later studies. These investigations will cover the range of work from basic research to operational efforts and would be agnostic to their mode of execution (e.g., theory, observations, spaceflight missions). This will enable the next Decadal Survey to lay out a long-term science strategy: What does Heliophysics look like in 2050, and what do we do in the next decade to help us get there?

This workshop will focus on discussing a strategic, multi-decadal science framework for solar and space physics. It is anticipated that conference proceedings will be published for community members to leverage in framing their own white papers to the Decadal Survey process. The community will create a cohesive science strategy that will support the ability to:

  1. Identify essential science investigations necessary for major advancements in solar and space physics.
  2. Use the desired investigations to identify the research and capability development needed to meet the requirements of these missions.
  3. Recognize research needed in the next decade to prepare for the long-term research goals.
  4. Recognize work needed to ensure a pipeline from basic research to pre-application research and then into operational needs, including the operations-to-research loop that strengthens forecasting and other predictive capabilities.

A Science Organizing Committee (SOC) will be formed from community members to help manage the workshop. The SOC will help organize the workshop schedule, including planning the sessions, sorting the abstracts, and managing the workshop discussions. These individuals will also serve as editors for the proceedings document resulting from the workshop. See the Helio2050 webpage for more information.

As part of workshop preparation, short community white papers will be solicited. Those white papers will be used to plan the workshop sessions and focus those discussions. See the Helio2050 webpage for more information.

Further information on the Heliophysics 2050 Workshop will be released via community announcements. Please contact Jared Leisner with any questions.

Community Webinars

NASA's Science Mission Directorate and NASEM 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: ​

  1. 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?
  2. 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.