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October 2012  •  Volume 5 Number 2

LSST Science Collaborations: A Look Ahead

Science collaboration team members gather in December 2008 at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories to begin writing the LSST Science Book

Eleven LSST science collaborations have been in place and working actively with the Project for the past several years. These collaborations have been very helpful in developing the scientific arguments for constructing the LSST and determining the science requirements, with authoring the LSST Science Book being just one example.

The LSST Corporation (LSSTC) was founded in 2003 to develop and promote the LSST Project, and the many major milestones accomplished this past year testify to the success of the efforts to make the Project ready for construction. But the primary motivation was and continues to be successfully enabling the great science that LSST will make possible. The LSSTC Board is now increasing its focus on promoting and encouraging scientific activities related to LSST. The scientific community must interface to the Project to provide input on survey strategy, gain familiarity with the LSST data products and the tools needed to handle the immense quantity of data that the Project will deliver, and begin developing Level 3 data products and analysis tools that in some cases will be required to pursue specific scientific programs.

The diverse scientific goals of the users of LSST survey data will require different levels of preparation and organization. The importance of preparations for the effective exploitation of LSST data as soon as operations begin has already been recognized by the Department of Energy, which has encouraged the formation of a twelfth science collaboration focused on dark energy. The Dark Energy Science Collaboration (DESC) is drafting a white paper describing the scientific preparations that need to be carried out while LSST is under construction. Participants will then seek funding to complete this work. The DESC is also developing its own set of rules for governing the collaboration. This is one example of how to address a scientific problem that requires a large collaboration and significant resources. Other scientific projects continue to be best pursued by small groups and individual PIs. In either case, the interfaces between the Project and the community will involve new approaches and support.

The LSSTC Board is now exploring how it might facilitate the organization, funding, and effectiveness of science collaborations that intend to conduct research with LSST data. As a first step, the LSSTC Board decided at its October meeting to establish an ad hoc committee, led by Michael Strauss, to explore how best to enable activities of the original 11 science collaborations. It is likely that this committee will recommend a combination of increased self-governance for these collaborations so that they can address their scientific goals in the most appropriate manner while also providing some of the infrastructure needed to facilitate interactions both within each collaboration and with the Project construction team.

The report from the LSSTC Board will be available in January and will guide new applicants about how the science collaborations are expected to evolve during the next few years and what the expectations are for the roles and responsibilities of new members of the collaborations. In previous years, there has been an open call, administered by NOAO, each fall for applications to join the science collaborations. This year, the call for new science collaboration members will be announced in January, both online and at the LSST booth at the AAS Meeting in Long Beach.

Article written by Sidney Wolff, LSSTC President


LSST is a public-private partnership. Funding for design and development activity comes from the National Science Foundation, private donations, grants to universities, and in-kind support at Department of Energy laboratories and other LSSTC Institutional Members:

Adler Planetarium; Argonne National Laboratory; Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL); California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Chile; Cornell University; Drexel University; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; George Mason University; Google, Inc.; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Institut de Physique Nucléaire et de Physique des Particules (IN2P3); Johns Hopkins University; Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) – Stanford University; Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Inc.; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); National Optical Astronomy Observatory; National Radio Astronomy Observatory; Princeton University; Purdue University; Research Corporation for Science Advancement; Rutgers University; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Space Telescope Science Institute; Texas A & M University; The Pennsylvania State University; The University of Arizona; University of California at Davis; University of California at Irvine; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Pittsburgh; University of Washington; Vanderbilt University

LSST E-News Team:

  • Suzanne Jacoby (Editor-in-Chief)
  • Anna Spitz (Writer at Large)
  • Robert McKercher (Staff Writer)
  • Mark Newhouse (Design & Production: Web)
  • Emily Acosta (Design & Production: PDF/Print)
  • Sidney Wolff (Editorial Consultant)
  • Additional contributors as noted

LSST E-News is a free email publication of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Project. It is for informational purposes only, and the information is subject to change without notice.

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