Appendix C

WIYN Strategic Planning Retreat Report

June 14 & 15, 1997, Baltimore, Maryland

Strategic Plan - 1998

Appendix A - Org Chart

Appendix B - Oct 1997 Rpt

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Executive Summary



In the past year the WIYN Telescope became fully operational. With this transition the attention of the WIYN Consortium has turned from construction to planning for the future, and especially for new generations of instruments. However, as we entered into this process it became clear that we needed a better understanding of what vision we, the Partners of WIYN, have for this facility. As a consortium, the WIYN partnership also faces challenges; for example, how best to achieve a consensus to start along any particular path towards providing new capabilities and how to raise the necessary funds. A second objective of WIYN is therefore to develop a strategic plan to help guide our development. The WIYN Strategic Retreat provided a forum for the discussion of WIYN planning issues and the drafting of a provisional mission statement.

The Workshop took place at the Space Telescope Science Institute on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Meeting planning was coordinated by representatives from WIYN consortium members via a teleconference. Arrangements for use of this facility were made by Ms. Lorraine Reams of AURA, Inc. and we are also grateful to Dr. Robert Williams, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute for allowing us access to his building. Jay Gallagher (Wisconsin) organized the meeting, and Ms. Sue Rohan (Office of Quality Programs, National Institutes of Standards and Technology) was the Facilitator. Ms. Rohan's presence tremendously enhanced the effectiveness of this meeting. The meeting attendees were treated to a crash course in strategic planning, ranking of priorities, and group decision-making. All of the institutions in WIYN were represented, and a list of participants is attached, as is the initial version of the agenda.


Objectives of the Workshop

The Workshop had three objectives:

  1. Define a provisional mission statement for WIYN.
  2. Understand the different forces acting within WIYN, how these relate to the structure of the WIYN organization, and how best to direct these for positive future outcomes.
  3. Review specific options for the next generation of WIYN instruments and develop a consensus on what we should build next.



WIYN's Mission

The WIYN Telescope serves different functions for different partners. For example, at NOAO it is one of a large complement of telescopes maintained for competitive access by astronomers. For universities it is a combination of an educational and research tool that looms large as a primary astronomical facility. All of the partners are united in their desire to see WIYN continue to perform at a world-class level. But they are also constrained by funding, and we recognize that WIYN has a very modest operating budget relative to other telescopes in its size class.

In developing a draft Provisional Mission Statement for WIYN, the Workshop did not try to produce an final words, but rather described the components from which the Mission Statement should be constructed:

WIYN is a consortium of public and private educational institutions which seeks to:

The stakeholders and users of WIYN were identified as:


WIYN and the Astronomical Environment

4.1 Current Successes of WIYN

Although the WIYN Telescope has not been in operation for very long, it has already achieved substantial successes. Three groups made independent lists of WIYN successes, and here are some highlights from these lists:

Telescope and Instrument Performance:

WIYN produces the best wide field images of any telescope in operation on the North American continent. Its image quality is also highly competitive with the best imaging ground-based telescopes in the world (such as the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea or the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope on La Silla in Chile). The HYDRA continues to be an effective instrument for a range of programs requiring spectra of multiple objects over a 1 degree patch of the sky. The DensePak fiber array provides an example of an instrument originally developed by two partners that is now a WIYN ``supported'' instrument. It is opening a new era of imaging spectroscopy, and is an effective means of achieving integral field spectroscopy. University instruments such as HPOL (spectrograph that measures the spectrum and polarization of astronomical objects--Wisconsin), coronograph (to detect faint objects next to bright ones--Indiana), or speckle interferometer (obtains diffraction-limited angular resolution for measuring binary star pairs--Yale) are adding specialized capabilities.


WIYN is carrying out research programs in many fields of observational astronomy, ranging from studies within the Solar System to extremely distant galaxies.

Examples of ongoing programs include:


Operational Modes:

WIYN has provided a platform for experimentation with new observing styles. NOAO has run an observing "queue" for its users. In this system astronomers request certain observations which are then carried out in an optimized way by NOAO staff. The Universities are using remote observing as a means to make time-dependent observations, share nights, and enable graduate students to experiment with small independent research projects. Our experience also indicates the importance of exploring modes that allow the effective coordination between WIYN and other instruments on or beyond Kitt Peak.

Collaborative Research:

Many WIYN research programs add significant value to observations made with other facilities. WIYN supports all of the current NASA astronomy missions, and its list of support for telescopes outside of ground-based optical instruments includes:


4.2 Current Trends

Astronomy is in a period of rapid growth at the same time that society is changing its expectations for returns from science. Thus we find that WIYN is a mid-sized telescope in an era of 8-10-meter diameter giants. Education and outreach are of increasing importance. Remote transfer and control of information is becoming routine, including remote observing with astronomical telescopes. And funding is growing tighter. These and other themes made the lists of the 3 groups that looked at trends in astronomy:


The Field:

The Science:


The Longer Term Vision for WIYN

An initial visit was made to the ten year vision for the WIYN Telescope.

In a decade we would wish for WIYN to be recognized as a world-class scientific facility having made outstanding contributions to specific areas of astronomy, and which is efficiently operated with advanced technology instruments.

Other concepts for the future of WIYN include:


Strategies to Meet the Future


A series of exercises allowed us to define several key strategic priorities for WIYN:

Strengthen the administrative effectiveness of WIYN:

  1. Establish a clearly-defined administrative system with the addition of an executive director position. The current organization is complex as indicated by the attached organization chart.
  2. Clearly define decision-making processes and roles within WIYN.

Establish a well-defined process for WIYN instrument development:

  1. Build a wider understanding of the current process (instrument planning via the SAC) within the WIYN Consortium.
  2. Match people with interests in building instruments to projects.
  3. Clarify how WIYN obtains and commits resources to instruments.
  4. Implement a specific instrument development plan that will include new instruments for WIYN. From discussions during the meeting the highest priority is to get started with an adaptive optics program.

Seek to exploit targeted capabilities of the WIYN Observatory:

  1. Adopt the "doing what we do best" approach to defining areas of excellence for WIYN.
  2. Measure what our best capabilities really are.
  3. Optimize the performance of the WIYN Telescope.
  4. Perfect an innovative, flexible telescope scheduling plan.
  5. Enhance remote observing with WIYN.

Expand the horizons for WIYN to include new opportunities beyond the current telescope:

  1. Consider the potential for collaborative science programs.
  2. Examine benefits form joint efforts in education and public outreach.
  3. Evaluate trades of telescope time with Kitt Peak.

Achieving these strategic priorities will introduce forces within the WIYN organization. These were analyzed via the attached interrelations diagram. The results demonstrate several important points for WIYN's organization:



A process for defining and assessing new instruments for WIYN exists, and is centered on the SAC. Unfortunately this process has not worked very well. The possible causes for this difficulty were discussed. Major issues include communications, matching of resources to projects, the critical need to involve instrumentally talented scientists, and the lack of a proven procedure for approving instruments. This is a frustrating problem. Members of the SAC who have devoted a great deal of time and attention to this matter were disturbed that many others in WIYN felt that no procedure was in place. This is another area where an executive in WIYN would be helpful, and where the WIYN Scientist is already acting to improve the situation.

A brief discussion of specific instrumental possibilities took place. Action items were the exploration of an adaptive optics project for WIYN and the possible development of a Cassegrain Port guider/instrument rotator that could be used for DensePak. Both of these projects are now being proposed. Further work on these projects have revealed another issue for WIYN to address: our categories for instruments do not appear to be sufficient to accommodate the actual breadth of instrument development paths.




Sue Rohan, NIST



Art Code, WIYN Observatory Scientist

Dave Sawyer, WIYN Site Manager


Indiana University

Con Deliyannis

Kent Honeycutt

Mike Pierce


National Optical Astronomy Observatories

Taft Armandroff

Bruce Bohannan

Sidney Wolff


University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jay Gallagher

John Hoessel (Day 1)

Bob Mathieu

Blair Savage

Eric Wilcots


Yale University

Charles Bailyn

Jeff Kenney

Bill Van Altena

Steve Zepf