Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

[Comment on “Planetary research loses” by Clark Chapman] R&A in space physics



The recent letter from Clark Chapman in the April 3, 1990, issue of Eos (p. 376), concerning planetary research supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration struck a resonance that warrants airing in view of the analogous situation that prevails in Space Physics research. The situation for Research and Analysis (R&A) and Data Analysis programs in Space Physics has a more complicated history in view of the fact that only recently has the Space Physics discipline been given its own division within NASA (with thanks to the particular efforts of Lennard Fisk and Stanley Shawhan). For many years, Space Physics research was spread among several divisions at NASA headquarters. Now, magnetospheric, cosmic ray and heliospheric, upper atmospheric and ionospheric, and solar physics have been gathered together under the umbrella of the Space Physics division. It was hoped that this highly desired and much heralded merger would give these related scientific subdisciplines greater coherence and greater visibility, and hence make them better able to compete for needed resources. However, even in the years before the Challenger disaster, it became clear that the issue is no longer simply one of competition between the research divisions within NASA. Across all disciplines, the struggle for survival by research groups outside of NASA centers has become crippling.