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A Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics)


(8/15/12) The Space Studies Board of the National Research Council (NRC) is pleased to announce the release of a pre-publication version of the report, “Solar and Space Physics: A Science for a Technological Society.”  The report, authored by the NRC Committee on a Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), is a broadly-based assessment of the scientific priorities of the U.S. solar and space physics research enterprise for the period 2013-2022.  Requested by NASA and the National Science Foundation, this “decadal survey” follows the NRC’s previous survey in solar and space physics, “The Sun to the Earth--and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics,” which was completed in 2002 and published in final form in 2003.


The programs, initiatives, and investments in the field that are outlined in this report are designed to make fundamental advances in current scientific knowledge of the governing processes of the space environment—from the interior of the Sun, to the atmosphere of Earth, to the local interstellar medium—and to support the nation’s increasing need for information about Earth’s near-space environment and “space weather.”


The National Research Council is hosted a public release of this report on August 15, at 1:00 pm EDT in room 100 of the Keck Center at 500 Fifth St. NW, Washington, DC.   

View a recording of the public release  posted on :


The Report in Brief is availble for viewing.

Project Information


Project Summary The Space Studies Board is organizing a broadly-based assessment (“decadal survey”) of the scientific priorities of the U.S. solar and space physics research enterprise for the period 2013-2022. In conducting this assessment, there will be an emphasis on developing a systems approach to the theoretical, ground-based and space-based research programs that comprise the flight programs and focused campaigns of NASA, the ground-based and basic research programs of NSF, and the complementary operational programs of other agencies such as NOAA. This new decadal survey will update and extend the NRC's previous survey in solar and space physics, The Sun to the Earth--and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics (2003). The survey committee, informed by three study panels that will also be established by the Board and supplemented by informal working groups, will broadly canvas the field of solar and space physics and:

  1. Provide an overview of the science and a broad survey of the current state of knowledge in the field, including a discussion of the relationship between space- and ground-based science research and its connection to other scientific areas;
  2. Identify the most compelling science challenges that have arisen from recent advances and accomplishments;
  3. Identify—having considered scientific value, urgency, cost category and risk, and technical readiness—the highest priority scientific targets for the interval 2013-2022, recommending science objectives and measurement requirements for each target rather than specific mission or project design/implementation concepts; and
  4. Develop an integrated research strategy that will present means to address these targets.

The scope of the study will include:

  • The structure of the Sun and the properties of its outer layers in their static and active states;
  • The characteristics and physics of the interplanetary medium from the surface of the Sun to interstellar space beyond the boundary of the heliosphere; and
  • The consequences of solar variability on the atmospheres and surfaces of other bodies in solar system, and the physics associated with the magnetospheres, ionospheres, thermospheres, mesospheres, and upper atmospheres of the Earth and other solar system bodies. 

The committee report will reflect an awareness of the science and space mission plans and priorities of potential industry, international, and U.S. agency partners and identify opportunities for cooperation and possibilities for growth or expansion.  The survey will solicit and aggregate inputs from across the solar and space physics community via town hall meetings, sessions at professional meetings, and the solicitation of white papers.

Read the full Statement of Task in PDF.


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 2010 Helio disciplinary panels image


The 18-member steering committee, as shown below, is supported by 3 discipline-oriented 15-member study panels. The steering committee is expected to hold five meetings between summer 2010 and fall 2011, and each panel is expected to hold three meetings between summer 2010 and spring 2011.  Members of the steering committee and each of the panels were appointed through the customary processes established by the NRC.  It is anticipated that reports from the panels will be incorporated in the final report of the survey's steering committee.  In addition, there are five informal working groups that are populated with several NRC-appointed committee members and other volunteers from the community.  Working groups are not appointed as committees of the NRC.  Find out more information about the working groups.


White Papers and Community Input


As described in more detail in the statement of task, NASA has asked the survey committee to prioritize science targets, match these targets to notional missions, and work with an independent contractor for a cost and technical evaluation of the notional missions. We invite community members to write a concept paper (e.g., mission or extended mission, observation, theory, or modeling activity) that promises to advance an existing or new scientific objective, contribute to fundamental understanding of the Sun-Earth/planetary system, and/or facilitate the connection between science and societal needs (e.g., improvements in space weather prediction).


Read the Request for Information for the Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey.


The ideas and concepts received will be reviewed by one or more of the Survey’s study panels. Based on their potential to contribute to the research priorities established by the panels, one or more of the concepts may undergo more detailed technical and cost assessments. Panel recommendations and the contractor’s technical and cost assessments will be provided to the decadal survey steering committee, which is charged with writing a final report that includes targeted recommendations for the agencies.

If anyone from the research community has comments or questions related to the study, you may send a message to


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Letters to the Community


Letter to the Community, September 10, 2010


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Past Meetings


Decadal Survey Steering Committee Meeting
November 16-18, 2011, Irvine, CA

Decadal Survey Steering Committee Meeting
August 29-31, 2011, Irvine, CA
Beckman Center

Solar Probe Plus Study Group
August 11, 2011 Washington, DC

Panel on Solar-Wind-Magnetosphere Interactions (SWM)
June 20-21, 2011, Washington, DC (Keck Center)
Decadal Survey Steering Committee Meeting
June 14-16, 2011, Boulder, CO

Panel on Atmosphere-Ionosphere-Magnetosphere Interaction (AIM)
June 1-3, 2011, Woods Hole, MA

Panel on Solar and Heliospheric Physics (SH)
May 25-27, 2011, Boulder, CO


Decadal Survey Steering Committee Meeting
April 12-14, 2011, Washington, DC (Keck Center)
Decadal Survey Steering Committee Meeting
February 1-3, 2011, Irvine, CA (Beckman Center) 

Panel on Solar-Wind-Magnetosphere Interactions (SWM)
January 18-20, 2011, Santa Fe, NM


Panel on Atmosphere-Ionosphere-Magnetosphere Interaction (AIM)
January 12-14, 2011, Washington, DC (Keck Center)


Panel on Solar and Heliospheric Physics (SH)
January 10-12, 2011, Washington, DC (Keck Center)
Panel on Solar and Heliospheric Physics (SH)
November 29-December 1, 2010, Washington, DC

Panel on Atmosphere-Ionosphere-Magnetosphere Interactions (AIM)
November 15-17, 2010 Boulder, CO


Panel on Solar Wind-Magnetosphere Interactions (SWM)
November 17-19, 2010

Decadal Survey Steering Committee Meeting 1, Washington, DC.  September 1-3, 2010


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Upcoming Outreach Events Town Halls

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Past Outreach Events




Town Hall, Research to Operations/Opeartions to Research Panel of the Decadal Survey
National Academies Beckman Center, Irvine, CA
February 7-8, 2011
Download the Town Hall Agenda


Town Hall, Fall 2010 Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, CA
December 16, 2010, 5:00PM - 6:00PM
Location: MS-103 (Moscone South)
View the Presentation from the Town Hall

Town Hall Meeting, University of Maryland (College Park, MD),
October 22, 2010
Local Coordinators: See website link 
View Presentations from the UMD Town Hall

Session on Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey, National Science Foundation
Upper Atmosphere Facilities Fall 2010 Meeting,
October 26-29, 2010
Local Coordinator: Bob Robinson (National Science Foundation

Town Hall Meeting, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR),
October 1, 2010, 4:00-5:00 PM
Local Coordinators: Howard Singer (NOAA), Michael Wiltberger (UCAR), and Sarah Gibson (UCAR)

Town Hall Meeting for the "Solar Wind-Magnetosphere Interaction" Panel,
University of California-Los Angeles,
October 28, 2010
Local Coordinator: Richard M. Thorne (UCLA)

Town Hall Meeting, University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH),
October 8, 2010
Local Coordinator: Dr. Harlan Spence(UNH)

Town Hall Meeting, National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico,    
October 28, 2010
Local Coordinator: Ramon Lopez
Town Hall Meeting, University of Michigan,
October 14, 2010


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Panel Information


Panel on Atmosphere-Ionosphere-Magnetosphere Interactions (AIM)
Jefferey M. Forbes, University of  Colorado, Boulder, Chair
James H. Clemmons, The Aerospace Corporation, Vice Chair

Panel on Solar Wind-Magnetosphere Interactions (SWM)
Michelle F. Thomsen, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Chair
Michael Wiltberger, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Vice Chair

Panel on Solar and Heliospheric Physics (SHP)
Richard A. Mewaldt, California Institute of Technology, Chair
Spiro K. Antiochos, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Vice Chair


Working Group Information


Theory & Modeling and Data Exploitation

James F. Drake, University of Maryland, Working Group Lead

Jon A. Linker, Predictive Science Inc., Working Group Lead

Explorers, Suborbital, and Other Platforms
Kristina A. Lynch, Dartmouth College, Working Group Lead

Brian J. Anderson, Johns Hopkins University, Working Group Lead


Innovations: Technology, Instruments, Data Systems

Andrew B. Christensen, Dixie State College, Working Group Lead

J. Todd Hoeksema, Stanford University, Working Group Lead

Research to Operations/Operations to Research
Michael A. Hesse, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Working Group Lead

Ronald E. Turner, Analytic Services, Inc. (ANSER),Working Group Lead


Workforce and Education

Mark Moldwin, University of Michigan, Working Group Lead

Cherilynn Morrow, Georgia State University, Working Group Lead

Study Group Information

 Solar Probe Plus Study Group


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Steering Committee Members


Daniel Baker, NAE*, Chair
University of Colorado-Boulder

Thomas Zurbuchen, Vice Chair

University of Michigan

Brian H. Anderson
Johns Hopkins University, APL

Mary K. Hudson
Dartmouth College

Steven J. Battel
Battel Engineering

Thomas Immel
University of California- Berkeley

James F. Drake, Jr.
University of Maryland-College Park
Justin Kasper
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Lennard A. Fisk, NAS**
University of Michigan

Judith L. Lean, NAS**
Naval Research Laboratory
Marvin Geller
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Ramon E. Lopez
University of Texas-Arlington
Sarah Gibson
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Howard J. Singer
NOAA Space Weather Prediction center
Michael A. Hesse
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Harlan E. Spence
University of New Hampshire
J. Todd Hoeksema
Stanford University

Edward C. Stone, NAS**
California Institute of Technology

David L. Hysell
Cornell University

 *NAE = National Academy of Engineering [member]

**NAS = National Academy of Sciences [member]


Link to Current Projects page for Steering Committee


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Art Charo
Study Director

Maureen Mellody

Program Officer

Abigail Sheffer
Associate Program Officer

Lewis Groswald
Research Associate

Linda Walker
Senior Program Assistant


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To contact the Decadal Survey Team, you may email us at


Previous Decadal Survey & Background Documents


The 2003 Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics was broken down into five panels to cover specific topics:


Panel on the Sun and Heliospheric Physics

Panel on Solar Wind and Magnetosphere Interactions

Panel on Atmosphere-Ionosphere-Magnetosphere Interactions

Panel on Theory, Modeling, and Data Exploration

Panel on Education and Society


Download the 2003 NRC Report, The Sun to the Earth -- and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics


Download the individual panel reports from the 2003 Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics 


Download other documents that will guide this survey


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