National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Living With A Star

Community Input for LWS Science

2019 Draft Topics Commenting is: closed

Dear Heliophysics Community,

This summer, we solicited your input for Living with a Star (LWS) Focused Science Topics (FSTs) for ROSES 2019 and beyond. We received 46 topics from all areas of Heliophysics and many comments. We met in early July to carefully review all of these community suggested science topics, as well as topics submitted in previous years, keeping in mind the Heliophysics Decadal Survey goals, the overall Living with a Star goals, and the TR&T Strategic Science Areas (SSAs). Based on this, we have prepared a draft set of 19 Focused Science Topics, plus a Tools and Methods theme and a Sun-Climate theme, appended here for your inspection and comment. We considered all of the submitted topics very carefully and tried to create Focused Science Topics that included as much of this input as possible.

Please keep in mind that these are draft topics only. We are now soliciting community feedback on these drafts, as the next, critical stage of this year's process of generating science topics. All of these draft topics are posted on our website with input boxes for comments and feedback on each individual topic, as well as on the overall process. The feedback site will be open for comments until October 19, 2018. View submitted topics for 2020

After this comment period closes, the committee will meet again to review the community feedback on the topics and, based on this feedback and on the Decadal Survey, LWS, and TR&T goals, to finalize the topics for our annual report to NASA Headquarters.

We look forward to your feedback on these draft topics.


Mark Linton & Anthea Coster (co-chairs)
On behalf of the Living with a Star Program Analysis Group Executive Committee

IDComment DateComment
Draft Topic TitleCommentsView

Round: 1

Understanding the Impact of Thermospheric Structure and Dynamics on Orbital DragComments 2
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October 19, 2018Satellite orbital drag corresponds to a very important topic in space weather investigations. The understanding of the ionosphere-thermosphere response to extreme geomagnetic storms and the subsequent orbital drag are still to be accomplished. Combined studies of data analysis and model comparisons are a good way to solve these questions. This will, for example, reduce model errors and improve satellite orbital drag forecasting.
October 12, 2018Satellite drag estimation is one of the important space weather applications. The thermospheric density and composition is the key driver of the variations in the drag. The existing and upcoming satellite measurements of the thermosphere as well as advance in modeling offer an opportunity to accurately specify global thermospheic conditions that meet the operational requirements.
Understanding and Predicting Radiation Belt Loss in the Coupled MagnetosphereComments 1
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October 1, 2018This is an excellent FST proposal and one that is sorely needed at this time. Radiation belt research has tended to focus on acceleration processes over the past few years with loss being somewhat overlooked. In addition to the above description, I would add a statement about quantifying the relative roles played by magnetopause shadowing vs. precipitation to the atmosphere (as measured by the various cubesats and supplemented by detailed modeling).
Pathways of Cold Plasma through the MagnetosphereComments 2
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October 20, 2018This is a great topic since the cold plasma plays an important role in many aspects of magnetospheric physics and yet spacecraft charging makes measurements of the cold plasma difficult. I think the FST should be expanded to include investigations of heating processes, since for instance this could help shedding light on the coupling of the cold plasma with other plasma populations and waves.
October 16, 2018This is becoming more and more a timely topic, as we seek to understand all of the pathways of solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling. Just how the plasmasphere and warm plasma cloak arise and evolve under different conditions is a key component to understanding the connection between solar wind driving and the coupled magnetospheric, ionospheric, and thermospheric response. As an example, one of the important aspects of cold plasma in the magnetosphere, specifically the plasmaspheric plume, is the effect of that plasma population on the dayside reconnection process, which we're finally beginning to be able to shed light on. For the goals outlined, the first may be the hardest to realize experimentally, as the cold plasmaspheric population is very difficult to observe in situ due to spacecraft charging and the types of instrumentation on magnetospheric missions. However, observations from the potential missions listed, along with MMS in the middle to outer magnetosphere, are well-suited to address the second and third goals.
Understanding the Variability of the ITM System Due to Tides, Planetary Waves, Gravity Waves, and Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances
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The Variable Radiation Environment in the Dynamical Solar and Heliospheric System
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The Origin and Consequences of Suprathermal Particles that Seed Solar Energetic Particles
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Connecting Thermospheric Composition and Space Weather
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Understanding Ionospheric Conductivity and Its VariabilityComments 1
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October 19, 2018Great topic. Ionospheric conductivity is one of the greatest "unsolved problems in magnetospheric physics". Most of the physical quantities that are needed to calculate the conductivity are not accurately known, and the models have different results.
Modeling and Validation of Ionospheric Irregularities and ScintillationsComments 2
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October 19, 2018The mid-latitude ionosphere is not well understood and particularly the generation mechanisms of various types of irregularities that may produce GNSS scintillations during storm-time conditions. Space weather HF radars now make more measurements of the mid-latitude ionosphere that can support development and validation of new models for mid-latitude irregularity generation. Some specific candidates that have been proposed are the temperature gradient, gradient drift, and ion frictional heating instabilities. The nonlinear evolution of these generation mechanisms has not currently been investigated to a sufficient degree to understand their role in producing GNSS scintillations and HF space weather radar scatter. There are virtually no irregularity models that definitively explain spatial irregularity structures of 100's to 10's of meters that impact GNSS and space weather radar. Now is a good time for more advanced model development that can be used along with current data sets of mid-latitude radar and GNSS for guiding further model development and radar experiments. The specific irregularity mechanisms noted could be an excellent starting point since for the most part, their significance at mid-latitudes is not well understood.
October 5, 2018This is a timely proposal for an FST with the expansion of technological systems that are vulnerable to disruption due to ionospheric irregularities and scintillations and the expected uptick in solar activity leading to the next solar cycle maximum. Observational capabilities are increasing as well, both space- and ground-based, and plasma models of ionospheric instability, once data-starved, can now be tested against widespread measurements. With the upcoming satellite missions the equatorial ionosphere is sure to get a lot of attention in the years ahead, I would argue for this program to lay more emphasis on high latitudes where it can make a more distinctive contribution and speak to a wider range of research interests and space weather impacts.
Fast Reconnection OnsetComments 3
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October 20, 2018I think many of the science questions posed in this FST overlap with "Coupling of Solar Wind Plasma and Energy into the Geospace System". I do not believe that taken in isolation, "Fast Reconnection" remains a fundamental issue worthy of a dedicated FST in LWS context. All of the remaining challenges pertain to analysis of the coupling between reconnection and macroscopic ("global") dynamics.
October 16, 2018The importance of reconnection onset cannot be overstated. Many heliospheric phenomena involve the sudden release of stored magnetic energy, and the conditions for onset determine the level of magnetic stresses that can be slowly built up and the amount of energy that is ultimately released. If reconnection happens too soon, the reservoir of stored energy is small, and the event is weak. The question of why reconnection does NOT occur is therefore just as important as why it does. In order to understand and predict the timing and magnitude of explosive phenomena, we must understand of the conditions for onset. This applies to flares and CMEs, flux transfer events and magnetospheric substorms, and coronal heating (nanoflares), to name just a few examples. There are several aspects to this fundamental problem. How does reconnection first begin. How does it transition to a fast nonlinear regime? Do islands play a critical role? Is the guide field important? What is the feedback between large and small scales? What is the role of kinetic effects? This is an ideal problem for an FST because it will benefit greatly from bringing together scientists with different expertise: MHD/kinetic theory and modeling, observations, laboratory experiments.
October 9, 2018In spite of many dedicated in-situ observations using multi-probe missions Cluster, THEMIS and MMS, the mechanism of reconnection onset is realistic geometries, such as the terrestrial magnetotail, remains a major unsolved problem in Heliophysics. In particular, the following questions remain unanswered: 1) What is the role of the external driving and what instabilities are responsible for spontaneous onsets? 2) What is the role of the magnetic field geometry, including the guide field, normal to the current plane field and magnetic flux distribution along the current sheet? 3) What scales (electron, ion, MHD) determine the free energy source for the explosive energy release? 4) What mechanism (collisions, ion or electron Landau resonances) determine the energy dissipation? 5) How to quantify collisionless Landau dissipation beyond resistive MHD terms?
Extreme Solar Events -- Probabilistic Forecasting and Physical UnderstandingComments 1
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September 13, 2018Very relevant topic for LWS. It might be a good idea to define in what more explicitly what constitutes an extreme solar event.
Connecting Auroral Phenomena with Magnetospheric PhenomenaComments 2
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October 5, 2018I believe this is an important topic and the implementation strategy is well written. There are a few points that I believe could be clarified: 1. Establishing a definitive mapping between the magnetosphere and ionosphere seems overly ambitious. It is realistic to do this in isolated circumstances, but not in a general definitive sense. However, obtaining definitive relative mappings in term on particle regions, such as the ring current, the inner edge of the electron plasma sheet, and the distant tail neutral line, should be feasible. 2. Aurora itself, and in particular electron aurora, is very unlikely to alter the entropy of magnetospheric flux tubes. However, the spatial and temporal evolution of entropy along auroral field lines is critical to field-aligned current generation, and thus to the aurora. The alteration of entropy as flux tubes convect, an alteration that is the a result of the energy dependent gradient/curvature (i.e., magnetic) drift of particles (ions being most important), is likely crucial to auroral processes. It could be important, for example, for east-west oriented auroral features. 3. Where it is stated “assess the impact that these auroral processes have on the magnetosphere and the ionosphere,” I suggest adding the thermosphere as well as magnetosphere and ionosphere.
October 5, 2018This topic is highly relevant for LWS and timely because the importance of multi-scale coupling processes in the high-latitude M-I-T system is increasingly recognized in the magnetosphere and ionosphere communities. Auroral phenomena provide critical information on ionosphere density and conductance, affect thermosphere wind, and also signify dynamic processes in the magnetosphere including magnetotail flows and wave-particle interaction. It is very important to take advantage of I-T observations and modeling to understand magnetosphere processes. It would even enhance outcome of this type of research by considering how magnetospheric phenomena impact on the I-T system.
Understanding Space Weather Effects and Developing Mitigation Strategies for Human Deep Space Flight
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Solar Photospheric Magnetic FieldsComments 2
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October 19, 2018This topic takes aim at a very technical topic (magentogram calibration), and while it requires specialized knowledge, this topic is incredibly important for quantitative studies of almost all coronal evolution (flare energy budget, CME initiation, flux-rope instability, filament channel formation, etc.). Understanding the systematic effects of these magnetogram data is paramount for many Heliophysics missions. Missions such as Parker Solar Probe rely on good global magnetograms to, e.g., determine the connectivity of the spacecraft's in situ measurements to the photospheric surface.
September 13, 2018Another very relevant topic for LWS. I'm surprised that I don't see anything in here about flux transport models.
Magnetospheric and Ionospheric Processes Responsible for Rapid Geomagnetic ChangesComments 2
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October 5, 2018This is an important topic. The crucial first question at this time is what are the extreme phenomenona that lead to the rapid changes is ground magnetic field. Is it substorms? Is it flow bursts and auroral streamers? This is a critical first step in identifying what are the physically processes leading to these events and when are they likely to occur. This can best be accomplished with ground based observations, particularly from coordinated used of optical, radar, and magnetometer data. We must also determine when these events occur relative to solar wind driving conditions and relative to in plasma sheet conditions, which are observable from spacecraft and from the ground, such as with auroral imagers. They may well occur during some intense storms, but they may also occur during other situations. The above are currently predominately observational questions, and these questions are beyond current modeling capability. As emphasized by Howard Singer (NOAA, National Weather Service, Space Weather Prediction Center) at this past summers’ NSF GEM workshop, current space weather modeling has some validity over long time scales, but severely lacks the ability to predict the onset, duration, and spatial coverage of short term disturbances.
October 5, 2018This is an important topic. The crucial first question at this time is what are the extreme phenomenona that lead to the rapid changes is ground magnetic field. Is it substorms? Is it flow bursts and auroral streamers? This is a critical first step in identifying what are the physically processes leading to these events and when are they likely to occur. This can best be accomplished with ground based observations, particularly from coordinated used of optical, radar, and magnetometer data. We must also determine when these events occur relative to solar wind driving conditions and relative to in plasma sheet conditions, which are observable from spacecraft and from the ground, such as with auroral imagers. They may well occur during some intense storms, but they may also occur during other situations. The above are currently predominately observational questions, and these questions are beyond current modeling capability. As emphasized by Howard Singer (NOAA, National Weather Service, Space Weather Prediction Center) at this past summers’ NSF GEM workshop, current space weather modeling has some validity over long time scales, but severely lacks the ability to predict the onset, duration, and spatial coverage of short term disturbances.
Coupling of Solar Wind Plasma and Energy into the Geospace System
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Combining Models and Observations to Study CME Plasma Energetics in the Inner CoronaComments 2
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October 19, 2018This topic, i.e., creating true data-driven models, appears to be a great way to continue to encourage modelers and observers to interact, and for this reason alone I am in favor of it. If I may crudely assess many CME-related studies: I see many single-event studies by the observers that fail to put their conclusions into the proper context, and I see many overly idealized models that do not incorporate details that are thought to be important in CME initiation. I would very much like to see an opportunity that encourages studies that both take into account collections of events as well as fosters interactions between the theoretical and observational communities.
September 10, 2018Data-driven MHD models should be a strong priority for this topic, and particularly important for them is what happens when magnetic flux pushes through the chromosphere and transition region. This process is ignored in most data-driven modeling efforts to date. But, it is essential to understanding the how coronal magnetic topology arises within active regions that ultimately allows CMEs to erupt. Extrapolation and magneto-frictional methods cannot answer these questions because they are inconsistent with the existence of a chromosphere. The instruments onboard SDO make the development of data-driven MHD models feasible now, and new forward modeling code-suites make possible the direct comparison between models, current observations (IRIS, Hinode, BBSO, ALMA, Owens valley), and the upcoming observations at DKIST, which will allow testing against chromospheric, transition region, and coronal observations of magnetic fields, in the near future.
Atmospheric Evolution and Loss to Space in the Presence of a StarComments 9
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October 19, 2018This topic is very promising in its linkage to the Astrophysics of exoplanets and to the Planetary Earth Science of atmospheric evolution over time, while also bringing a deep time aspect to Heliophysics, extending the current focus on space weather to space climate. It has been found that atmospheric escape into geospace plasma populations, mixing with solar wind plasma, has profound effects on the behavior of the magnetosphere and magnetotail including the introduction of feedback and the support of specific modes of response to the solar wind, such as sawtooth substorm dipolarization episodes. Relevant models of the magnetosphere within the heliosphere have only begun to incorporate rudimentary physics models of atmospheric escape, so this topic offers an opportunity for significant progress toward more accurate space weather understanding and resultant predictive success.
October 19, 2018This is absolutely a timely and relevant topic, as more Mars and Venus mission as well as exoplanet missions come into fruition. It also is one of the more interdisciplinary topics, which promotes collaboration across a variety of areas.
October 19, 2018This an emerging area of heliophysics that creates a boost for the new fields of exoplanetary science and astrobiology. The question of atmospheric escape and chemical changes introduced by extreme space weather events from the current, young Sun and active solar-like stars is one of the critical area in defining the search strategy for the search of life in the Universe. This approach includes leveraging on current solar, magnetospheric and ITM models of the Earth and Mars in developing sophisticated multidimensional multi-fluid models of the solar and stellar winds, CMEs and SEP events that incorporate coupled solar(stellar) wind-magnetosphere and ionosphere-thermosphere-mesosphere systems of rocky bodies around the young Sun and active K, G and M dwarfs, the most abundant stars in the star neighborhood our Galaxy. This is very timely topic given the current missions to observe escape process in the atmospheres of Earth and Mars and upcoming missions Mars 2020 and ExoMars that will provide an insight on the planet's past habitability.
October 19, 2018This topic can increase the visibility of heliphysics amongst the astrophysics community. There is a clear disconnect in astrophysics with some of the heliophysics literature and non-trivial processes that are known. This leads to misconception of atmospheric escape in many papers. Providing an opportunity for heliophysics investigators to take over this topic will be extremely valuable and will also provide an a trivial path for cross-divisional science.
October 19, 2018Extremely important topic. The relative importance of the different kind of atmospheric loss with respect to the solar (or stellar) activity is one of the big unknown in the study of atmospheric evolution. The better understanding of the solar activity with time asks for a reanalysis of the history of the planetary atmospheres.
October 19, 2018This is one of the most fundamental and important topics for understanding planets and their evolution. Atmospheric escape is an extremely complex problem, and to improve our understanding we need to use solar system experience and apply it to exoplanetary systems. At the same time, the history of the solar system is being repeated today in a myriad younger exoplanet systems. In order to understand how the solar system reached its present day characteristics, we need to feed back observational and theoretical advances from exoplanetary studies into solar system research. Current state-of-the-art models of solar system planetary atmospheres can be greatly leveraged by extending their applicability to a much wider range of planetary and stellar parameters.
October 19, 2018Given the recent explosion in detections of exoplanets in the "habitable zone" of their parent star, the topic of atmospheric escape and evolution is particularly timely. The habitable zone is only defined by the ability of a planet to potentially support liquid water, but the extreme space weather environments encountered by close-in exoplanets around m and k stars have been shown by recent studies to make it hard for such planets to support an atmosphere. This proposed FST therefore looks at a fundamental question with clear space weather relevance and leverages observations from Earth and planetary missions. Given the interdisciplinary and high science impact of this topic, I am very supportive.
October 18, 2018This is likely the most important opportunity for connecting heliophysics to the exploding field of exoplanetary research and to the search for habitable environments. It would not only provide a vehicle for connecting to the exoplanetary scientists (that are requesting our help), but would expand the applicability of our heliophysics expertise, which would very likely be pathway to expanding funding opportunities etc. I'm a bit suprised no one has commented on this one.
October 18, 2018Excellent topic idea. In particular applying the sophisticated models that exist for the terrestrial environment to the parameter space of exoplanets (variable planetary dynamos, cosmic ray background, stellar variability) could be highly impactful and is currently very overlooked.
Hemispherical Asymmetries in Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Thermosphere Coupling Processes: Fundamental Causes and Myriad ManifestationsComments 2
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October 11, 2018I am very happy to see this topic listed and would like to offer my support. It is certainly time to move away from the idea that the northern and southern hemispheres are mirror images of each other, which observations now clearly demonstrate is incorrect. However, much more work is needed to understand where the asymmetries are coming from. This is important both to gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of how the thermosphere and ionosphere are coupled to the magnetosphere and solar wind, as well as to the atmosphere below, and it likely has practical applications as well. I fully agree with the proposers that a combination of modelling and observational work is needed to tackle this problem.
October 9, 2018One interhemispheric area that deserved more attention is the polar cleft during extreme northward IMF magnetosheric driving. A while ago the Air Force was interested to understand the large drag experienced by their low altitude satellites as they passed the polar cusp during some IMF Bz northward periods, thinking naively thinking that the magnetosphere was strictly a half wave rectifier of the solar wind electric field. Extreme NBZ currents can be driven during periods of extreme IMF northward field and this produces heating that expands the thermosphere and produces satellite drag. This has not yet been examined for both norther and southern cusps to determine both the relative magnitude of the heating nor any spatial asymmetries that may develop. New observational platforms in the Antarctic together with advanced numerical space weather modeling now make this topic one that can be seriously investigated.
Variability and Predictability of the Solar-Driven Earth SystemComments 5
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October 19, 2018I strongly endorse bringing the Sun-Climate theme back to LWS. I found the draft to be a well-articulated, broad plan for Sun-climate studies within the program.
October 19, 2018This FST is highly relevant in that it addresses science deemed high priority in NASA roadmaps and decadal surveys. It will also facilitate synergies with NSF CEDAR New Dimensions thrusts (connections between solar and Earth processes, variability in the space-atmosphere interaction region). This FST is timely in that a new generation of scientists has arisen among the HEPPA and VarSITI/ROSMIC international communities there is a need to bridge the gap between those efforts and future organized programs.
October 19, 2018I strongly support including the Sun-Climate theme in the LWS solicitation, and think that the draft text is compelling. I have just a few minor suggestions: (1) expand the time scales of “primary interest” to include shorter periodicities, such as those linked to coronal hole recurrences; (2) include AIM in the list of relevant observational sources in the implementation strategy; (3) since this theme crosses the Heliophysics / Earth Science boundary, include other observational sources such as data from the NASA Aura or other Earth Science satellites in the implementation strategy.
October 17, 2018I thoroughly concur on bringing the Sun-Climate theme back. I thought it was one of the more successful parts of LWS before it went away (sequestration?). I would say, though, that the focus should be on Solar driving of Climate, rather than just atmospheric physics.
September 9, 2018I am glad to see that the Sun-Climate theme is being considered for inclusion in the LWS focused science topics this year. I was not aware that topic suggestions were solicited during the summer or I would have suggested this theme myself. Currently, there is only limited NSF support for such work if it fits into one of their programs (e.g., climate and large-scale dynamics program). I also am glad to see that the plan is for proposed studies to acquire or refine "a mechanistic understanding of how solar variability and solar-driven geomagnetic variability lead to or alter atmospheric structure and coupling, with the intent of including these processes in global climate models." There is evidence that solar variability (probably mainly UV variability) on the 27-day solar rotational time scale can produce changes in tropical lower stratospheric temperature and static stability that affect convection in the troposphere with a detectable impact on intraseasonal climate variability (Hood, GRL, v. 43, p. 4066, 2016; Hood, JAS, v. 75, p. 857, 2018). But the full causal chain is still not well understood and needs more work. A better understanding could lead to improvements in global climate models with benefits to both extended range weather forecasting and simulations of longer-term (11-years and Maunder Minimum) solar effects on climate.
Data Science and AnalyticsComments 5
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October 19, 2018As ties between computer science and heliophysics become more established, this opportunity is very timely and should bear immediate fruit. Amongst all of the divisions in the Science Mission Directorate, the Heliophysics Division is the one with the most data, and thus is in a position to immediately take advantage of new techniques in information science. The way in which proposals could either be stand-alone or be part of another FST is also a very good idea.
October 12, 2018Most of new sciences are discovered by data analysis. Massive data sets are available now and they are well beyond the capability of individuals or groups to fully digest. We need universal or relatively generalized methods and software that help to discover "anomaly" (new science) in data and/or validate existing theories or hypotheses.
October 2, 2018This FST is long overdue. It promises to develop new data analytics tools to complement the existing correlational analysis that is often employed in our field. These data analytics tools use more sophisticated mathematical or statistical methods that can detect nonlinearities that may exist in the dataset. As NASA (non NASA agencies) launch more and more satellites that return ever increasing large data rates, there are needs to develop new tools to analyze these large datasets.
October 1, 2018This is a very important and timely FST, and I would strongly encourage the LWS committee to make room for research dedicated to machine learning as applied to heliophysics. One potential issue with such proposals is that review panels tend to misunderstand the focus of the research, or at least tend to review them according to criteria that are not really relevant. I would encourage the LWS committee to clearly define what the objectives of these proposals would be, and communicate that in the AO.
September 13, 2018This is great idea; as stated in the submission, there are many areas of research in this field that could benefit from the application of data science techniques, and mastering the application of these techniques takes time and energy that is difficult to fit into a typical ROSES science proposal. Explicitly funding the development of the methods in pursuit/support of the other science topics will help to build valuable tools and bring greater knowledge and expertise into the workforce that can be leveraged in future work.