Executive Summary

The Users Committee was very impressed by accounts of NRAO's operation of
the VLA and VLBA and by progress on the GBT, ALMA and Expanded VLA
projects.At the same time, we were greatly disappointed by the sudden,
premature closing of the 12m telescope.We feel that the GBT project is at
an especially critical phase, and that decisions made now about resource
allocation and equipment development will greatly influence the ultimate
success of this instrument.

Some of our principal recommendations are summarized below, not in order of

* We urge the NRAO to cooperate closely with university-based consortia
that propose to take over 12m telescope operations and to establish a
cooperative agreement with the successful consortium to enable testing of
prototype ALMA systems.

* We encourage the NRAO to seek continued collaboration with the university
community, especially in the development of the ALMA and the EVLA projects.
Such collaboration is essential to the success of these projects and to the
health of the university radio astronomy community.

* We believe that the success of the GBT will be judged by its eventual
performance at high frequency (3mm). Therefore, we encourage the NRAO to
maintain a strong engineering capability to deal with mechanical,
structural and dynamical metrology issues that are likely to arise during
the commissioning phase. We also encourage the NRAO to plan for the
commitment of resources that will be necessary to achieve 3mm operation
once the initial commissioning at lower frequency is complete.

* We encourage the NRAO to give high priority to the development of the GBT
high-frequency (68-95 GHz) receiver and to the 1.4 GHz phased array.We
also ask for timely implementation of essential observing modes in the GBT
correlator such as cross-correlation and synchronous pulsar time-resolved

* We are very encouraged by the detailed GBT commissioning plan.However,
we recommend that proposals for commissioning-phase observations not be
solicited until these observations can be scheduled with reasonable

* We encourage strong support for AIPS in the foreseeable future, and we
encourage rapid development of the AIPS++ end-to-end processing of VLA

* We recommend that NRAO keep the user community well informed about
decreased availability of the VLA during upgrade to the EVLA, should this
new project be funded.We endorse the skeptical review panel policy
regarding large VLA time requests.

* We caution the NRAO not to submit the VLA Phase II (New Mexico Array)
proposal prematurely in light of other capital investment proposals that
are pending.

* We request a permanent NRAO Users Meeting web page. This page will
solicit input to User Committee deliberations from a broader representation
of the community and disseminate the community the results of the committee



The committee approves of the work NRAO has done with the university
community, yet encourages even more collaboration.This will be especially
important for the millimeter wave community with the loss of the 12m
telescope.In particular, the university facilities may be able to provide
locations for testing ALMA concepts if the 12m is not available for this

The committee encourages NRAO to actively pursue involving the Japanese in

As in last year's report, the committee supports the idea of one TAC.



The User's Committee understands the budgetary constraints that led to the
necessity of the premature closure of the 12m and its timing.However, the
Committee deeply regrets the closure.The 12m has set a standard as an
efficient, user-friendly, world-class telescope.The closure has severe
consequences beyond the termination of scientific output, including: the
lack of an ALMA technology testbed until the prototype antennas become
available, the potential demise of a broad millimeter-wave astronomy user
base in the US, and the disruption of Ph.D. dissertations.The 12m report
stated that 96 students used the telescope from 1994-1998.

The Committee makes the following recommendations to minimize the

1.) Continue to cooperate with university based consortia that propose to
take over 12m operations.This cooperation should be detailed and
significant, extending to the NRAO Tucson staff helping to solve
occasionally-arising difficult technical problems for which an intimate
knowledge of the equipment is necessary.The NRAO Tucson staff should also
be fully available for consultation about technical issues with which they
are familiar. An active, rather than a passive, degree of participation by
NRAO Tucson staff will help bring the new staff up to speed and help keep
the 12m to retain its excellent multifaceted role in single-dish
millimeter-wave observations by the broad user community.

2.) Make a cooperative agreement with the new 12m consortium to enable
testing of prototype ALMA systems.Under new directorship it should still
be possible to test real-time software, optical pointing, use of the
Quadrant Detector to monitor quadrupod motion, and correlation polarization
techniques.These systems could be left operational at the telescope after
testing to the benefit of the new consortium and the users.

3.) Consider whether correlation polarization techniques can be tested with
the GBT.

4.) NRAO should seek funds to institute a small number of graduate and
postdoctoral millimeter-wave fellowships offered annually.These
fellowships will help continue the broad user base and millimeter-wave
expertise in the US.These fellowships can evolve into ALMA fellowships
when the array is operational, analogous to the prize fellowships awarded
by the large NASA missions.The fellowships should be competitively
available to all fields of millimeter and submillimeter astronomy:
interferometery, spectroscopy, continuum work, and instrument development.
They should be available to students and postdoc outside of NRAO to
stimulate activity at universities.

The committee applauds the continued receiver development, computing
resource improvement, and support of VLBI observations by the 12m staff in

On behalf of the users, the Committee thanks the 12m staff and NRAO in
general for observations and excellent support for the last decades.The
resident scientists and engineers have enabled the growth and establishment
of milimeter-wave astronomy not only in the US, but throughout the world.
Many millimeter-wave astronomers have used the 12m and were trained with
it.The staff at the 12m, as at all NRAO facilities, have always been
dedicated, hard working, and first rate.The users will miss not only the
telescope, but all the support and assistance of the staff.



The Users Committee is pleased with NRAO's management of the VLA
and with NRAO's increased emphasis on the expansion of the VLA's
capabilities.There is some concern at the postponing of important
VLA maintenance items such as painting and tie replacement due to
budgetary constraints.The Committee has the following specific
recommendations concerning the VLA.

1.) The Committee recognizes the importance of expanding the capabilities
of the VLA and the downtime necessary for such advances.The
Committee recommends that NRAO keep the user community informed
of any decreased availability in the VLA well in advance so that
users can make necessary preparations.

2.) The Users Committee is impressed by NRAO's work on the VLA/Pie Town
fiber optic link, which will increase the resolution of the VLA to
nearly twice that of the A-configuration for northern sources.
The Committee recommends that NRAO continue work on the basic
capabilities of the link and calibration software in preparation for
the upcoming A-configuration.Capabilities not yet available for the
link (e.g. fast switching) should be implemented as soon as possible.

3.) The Users Committee recommends that NRAO continue testing of the
Java-based scheduling software, JOBSERVE, and make it available
to the community as soon as possible, preferably in time for
scheduling observations in the upcoming VLA/Pie Town configuration.

4.) The Committee applauds NRAO's expansion of the VLA's high-frequency
capabilities and recommends that NRAO continue construction and
installation of new 22 and 43-GHz receivers as funding permits.

5.) The Committee recommends that NRAO continue work on expanding the
capabilities of the current VLA data reduction path within AIPS++.



The committee enthusiastically endorses the NRAO Phase I plan to
significantly expand the VLA into the EVLA.As the VLA digital electronics
are of 1970's design and are becoming an increasing limitation upon array
performance, the upgrade and expansion project is essential to the
long-term scientific productivity of the array.We are also enthusiastic
about the proposed inclusion of Canada and Mexico in the project.The
Committee is pleased that this project received user input at an early
stage, and is pleased that NRAO was prepared when an opportunity arose.We
also look with interest upon the eventual Phase II plan to add eight new
antennas and create the New Mexico Array.

We are concerned, however, that the Phase II proposal not be submitted
prematurely, in light of the other NRAO capital investment proposals that
are pending. The resources of NRAO are stretched thin in many areas, and we
see difficulties ahead for NRAO and its users if the current overcommitment
is increased significantly.NRAO should also consider the impact on
University technical research groups of the financial drain on NSF to be
expected from concurrent ALMA, EVLA Phase I, and EVLA Phase II funding.We
suggest that NRAO uses the time consumed by Phase I to refine the Phase II
concept in concert with the University community.

We recognize that there are many issues yet to be resolved regarding the
EVLA project.Apart from funding, these issues mostly involve the
timetable of the project, the use of NRAO "redirected" resources, and the
effects of the upgrade project upon continued functioning of the existing
array.We encourage the NRAO to formulate and publicize as soon as
feasible an implementation plan addressing these issues.Specifically,
this plan should describe how the $11.2M in redirected resources will be
spread out over the lifetime of the project and what the impact of this
redirection will be upon other NRAO initiatives and operations. The plan
should also describe as accurately as possible how and when the upgrade
project will affect existing VLA operations so, for example, graduate
students anticipating thesis work on the array can plan accordingly.

The Users Committee should be kept fully apprised of the progress on the
EVLA project. If issues arise for which scientific input is needed, an EVLA
advisory committee (patterned after the ALMA Science Advisory Committee)
might be used to provide this input.We anticipate that the timescale for
creating the EVLA will be significant compared with the timescale for the
development of technology.Therefore we suggest that before Phase II of
this project is proposed, a committee (like the committees that met before
the development of the EVLA Phase I proposal) should be convened to address
how best to accomplish the aims of the proposal with then-current
technology.Among the issues to be considered are the technology for the 8
new antennas, in view of rapidly developing research around the world into
innovative techniques for achieving lower costs per square meter of
collecting area.

Finally, we encourage the NRAO to involve the university technical
community as much as possible in the EVLA project, and the proposed
advisory committee may wish to consider this possibility.



The Committee applauds the recent efforts by NRAO to increase community
awareness for the capabilities of the VLBA, especially through the VLBA
topical session at the June, 1999 AAS meeting and through the development
of a "Novice's Guide to Using the VLBA".Although the impact of these
efforts have not been immediate, the Committee believes there will be
significant long-term benefits in visibility and an increased VLBA
subscription rate.The Committee has the following recommendations for
NRAO with regards to the VLBA.

1.) The Committee recommends that NRAO continue its efforts in the areas
of dynamic scheduling and automated calibration transfer which have
thus far resulted in increased VLBA usage and ease of VLBA

2.) There has been little response to the data calibration service
offered by NRAO, although 1 year may not be a long enough period
to constitute a reasonable test. The Committee therefore recommends
that NRAO offer it on a trial basis for one more year.If it is still
underutilized after 1 additional year, the Committee recommends that
NRAO discontinue this service, and concentrate its limited resources on the
ongoing development of usable calibration scripts for VLBA data reduction
that will benefit all users.
Despite dropping the formal calibration service, the Observatory
should do its utmost to help new users of the VLBA, and to
encourage use of the Array by astronomers outside the 'black belt
VLBI' community.

3.) With regards to the installation of 3mm receivers, it is the opinion
of the Committee that the greatest benefit to the community would be
realized by starting with a compact array. The committee therefore
recommends outfitting antennas in the Southwestern U.S. first.
The Committee therefore recommends that NRAO place the MK 3mm receiver
(in for upgrade) on one of these antennas (KP or OV), and that the first
of the new MPI sponsored receivers be deployed to complete the
Southwestern subarray.

4.) Since AIPS will continue to be the primary reduction package for VLBA
data in the near future, the Committee recommends that NRAO maintain
the current level of AIPS support.


Large Projects

The Committee applauds NRAO for instituting a new format for the review of
VLA proposals requesting large amounts of time and which therefore could
impact a large fraction of the user community.The Committee considers the
current process for the review of large proposals as one that should
continue.The NRAO should continue to ask senior astronomers, potentially
including a small number of those who are not traditional radio
astronomers, to serve on the skeptical review panel.

The Committee also feels that the current limits on the amount of time
allocated to large projects (10-20% of the total observing time and no more
than 50% at any given LST) are reasonable.The Observatory and skeptical
reviewers should, of course, remain flexible and allow particularly
compelling large projects to take up more than 20% of the total observing


Green Bank Telescope.

We were very impressed with the presentations about the GBT. Many receivers
are ready, the backends are mostly ready, the plans for startup and
operations appear to be well-laid. An orderly plan for developing the
telescope's capabilities at increasingly higher frequency was presented.

The committee feels that the ultimate success of the GBT will be judged to
a very significant extent upon its eventual performance at high frequency
(3mm).Therefore, we strongly encourage the NRAO to maintain a strong
engineering capability to deal with mechanical, structural and dynamical
metrology issues that are likely to arise during the commissioning phase.
We also strongly encourage the NRAO to plan for the commitment of resources
that will be necessary to achieve 3mm operation once the initial
commissioningat lower frequency is complete.

There are various technical areas that are NRAO's responsibility.We were
somewhat concerned that the proposed schedule for dealing with those areas
is optimistic.Optimism is good and necessary, but it should not adversely
impact the announcements of GBT readiness to the outside world. Proposals,
and in particular proposals during the commissioning phase. should not be
solicited until there is a high probability of being scheduled on a
predictable time scale.Specifically, we mean by this that if the call for
proposals states that scheduling these proposals will occur during a given
quarter or trimester, then there is a high probability that this will
actually occur without delaying into the next scheduling period; and, also,
that when an observer is informed of the tentative dates for scheduling for
a specific proposal, that these dates be reasonably firm with a low
probability of being delayed for more than a few weeks. These scheduling
aspects are important for the observers because the observers will need to
arrange their activity schedules to accommodate extended visits to Green
Bank.Such arrangements are often difficult to make, particularly during
the academic year, and it is important to avoid needless effort and
frustration that result from delays that occur for the sole reason of being
overeager in calling for proposals.


1.) Commissioning. Observations by outside users must begin quickly both
because early science results are important for the telescope and because
operation of outsider programs will help ``shake down'' GBT systems.The
current plan is to solicit proposals from black-belt observers oriented
towards quick scientific results and exercising the various technical
capabilities of the telescope and its associated equipment.The accepted
proposals would be small in number and would be shared-risk proposals
requiring the observer to reside in Green Bank for relatively extended
periods of a couple of weeks or so.This plan a good compromise between
full-time commissioning and full-time observing.

2.) Gemini proposal submission tool.The users committee is comfortable
with the use of a Java-based form, similar to the Gemini Phase I Tool, for
the submission of GBT proposals.It is important that such a system must
be very robust, easily installed, and functional on several computing
platforms. Since it can be difficult to compose in them, there should be a
way to include a file of text or at least cut and paste into the
appropriate window.It should be fully tested before it is made public.

3.) GBT Receivers.We discussed at some length priorities in receiver
development.The long-term goals of the Observatory should be (1)
continuous coverage of all accessible frequencies and (2) development of
array receivers, not an area of traditional NRAO expertise. These long-term
goals should be pursued in parallel.

For single-frequency receivers, we agreed that last year's priority list
still applies.To reiterate, in order of priority we recommend:

1. 68-95 GHz (W-band Module 1). This is important for the
development of 3-mm capability of the GBT. With no receiver there would
be a tendency for the laser metrology group, and the observatory as a
whole, to relax on this development. This must not happen.

2. 26-40 GHz (Ka band). Spectral lines in this band have not been
explored very well, partly because this band was a stretch for the 140-foot
telescope. This is also a prime band for highly redshifted CO, which is
very high-profile science.

For imaging receivers, we again agreed with last year's report,
as modified by current developments. Specifically:

1.We STRONGLY endorse the development of the 1.4 GHz (L-band)
phased array. We were SIGNIFICANTLY DISAPPOINTED to learn that the
development of this array is currently planned to extend over the next
several years. It is important for two reasons:
one, mapping capability at L-band is needed if the GBT is to make a
significant contribution to observational astronomy at this wavelength;
two, if the development is successful the technology should be
transferable to higher frequency systems, so this array should be
constructed before significant development of imaging arrays at other
frequencies is made.

2.20-26 GHz: This would be an array of horns, which is not new
technology but is very important astrophysically.The NH3 molecule is
perhaps the GBT's most valuable tracer of physical conditions in
molecular clouds and, moreover, the GBT will work well in this frequency
band early on.

3.We were happy to hear about the proposed very large array of
3-mm wavelength bolometers that might be developed in collaboration with
other institutions. It is important for NRAO to be involved in this
development so that it can reap the benefits when the first instruments
are actually constructed. This said, however, the NRAO should not commit
many resources in the near term because the GBT cannot work at
mm-wavelengths until the laser metrology systems are fully functional.
Some judgement on the part of NRAO administration is required to assess
the proper balance.


a.) Telescope operators.We are glad that the GBT operators have been
taking active roles in the telescope commissioning and, particularly, the
all-important area of documentation.We urge that the documentation not be
de-emphasized in favor of what might seem to be more pressing short-term

More importantly, we were happy to learn that the concept of ``observing
assistant'' will supplant that of ``telescope operator''.The plan is to
have assistants who have taken courses and passed examinations in various
areas of observational astronomy, and to reward their increased knowledge
and capability with higher salary.This creation of a promotion path for
operators means that NRAO is serious about involving these people in
observations, and most particularly remote and queue-based observations.

b.) GBT correlator The GBT correlator will provide impressive spectral
resolution, bandwidth, and simultaneous multiple line coverage.As such,
it will be a good match to the wide bandwidths of the GBT receivers.

We are disappointed that some important observing modes, including
cross-correlation and synchronous pulsar time-resolved spectra, have not
yet been implemented.We urge that these capabilities be completed
quickly.This requires software development, and there is currently no
programmer for which this is a prime responsibility.It is important that
this situation be corrected soon and the GBT correlator's full
functionality be developed.

c.) GBT archive.The GBT should have a well-designed, smoothly-run data
archive system.This is important both for the convenience of users and
for future access to archival data.The observatory should develop a plan
for public access to data, perhaps after an 18-month period, as at the
VLA).GBT is a brand-new telescope, and in principle designing in an
archive right from the start is an excellent idea.It is even conceivable
that policies about required calibration during observing might be
considered to ensure that the data are taken in such a way as to be usable
later on--although such policies would have to be flexible, and not prevent
observers from using novel and program-specific calibration schemes.

In practice, devising archival systems is difficult, especially given the
wide variety of observing modes expected at the GBT.It is not realistic
for NRAO to commit sufficient resources to developing a proper archiving
system during the next year.Rather, this must be a long-term goal that is
pursued in a measured, proper way so that archived data can be recovered in
a consistent and reliable fashion.

d.) GBT front-end receiver turret.Last year it was reported that a
relatively minor modification to the receiver room turret would allow
switching between receivers without stowing the telescope.We are
disappointed that any such plans have been put on a back burner.Fast
switching between receivers will be crucial for spectral observations of
time-variable sources.It also will increase telescope efficiency.

e.) Office space.Visiting observers have had difficulty getting
sufficient office space at Green Bank.It is important that sufficient
semi-private space, including both workstations and empty desks, be set
aside for visitors. An additional item of importance is a cable connection
so that observers can hook their laptops to NRAO's net.

f.) Software.We reiterate the importance of supplying a suite of software
packages for data reduction at the GBT, as requested by the users.Some
users have expressed a preference for other software packages in addition
to or instead of aips++ to reduce their data; moreover, some will not be
able to because their data reduction will require software capabilities
that do not exist in AIPS++.Two packages of particular importance are IDL
and CLASS because they are widely used in the astronomical community.

g.) Computers.Last year, we made the point that Green Bank's support of
computers for visiting observers is quite weak and made some specific
recommendations to address this problem.We were not presented with a plan
at this year's meeting.Specifically, the GBT correlator will be
operational on day one and require about 1MB per spectrum---so the problem
is of ``freight train'' status!

h.) Green Bank Site.We were concerned and saddened to hear of the
impending loss of contracts with the US Naval Observatory for VLBI
monitoring and also VSOP/HALCA.This will apparently necessitate laying
off some technical staff in Green Bank.In principle this has no direct
impact on the GBT operations, but in practice a larger staff provides more
expertise in different areas and the layoffs will not have a positive

i.) Laser metrology.We were very pleased to see the high accuracy of the
laser metrology measurements of the feed arm oscillations.The news that
the intrinsic accuracy for measurements on non-horizontal paths might be as
good as 10 microns -- ten times better than for measurements that are on
horizontal paths close to the ground---is indeed very good.

The laser metrology system is important for GBT pointing, surface
correction, and feed arm motion.These aspects take on increased
importance at the high frequencies and we enthusiastically recommend that
their development continue with full vigor.



The Committee notes the continuing heavy reliance on AIPS by the community,
even following the initial public release of aips++.Strong support for
AIPS must remain for the foreseeable future, even beyond the transition
period from AIPS to aips++.By now many people have written tasks in AIPS.
It will be a major job to learn how to port these tasks to AIPS++, because
of AIPS++ admittedly steep learning curve.

The Committee strongly endorses certain goals:

1.) Continued support for NRAO instruments, in the form of bug fixes
and support for new observing capabilities, and
2.) a sufficient staffing level.

A simplified installation procedure for 31DEC99 would be appreciated, but
the Committee does not believe that limited NRAO resources should be
invested in producing a CD version of 31DEC99.One or more overseas mirror
sites may be useful to reduce demand from overnight jobs on the CV network.
Continued work on easing the complexity of data reduction for VLBA via
scripts is desirable for attracting and retaining new users of that



The Committee applauds the progress of aips++, including the two public
releases, in the past year and the increasing usage by NRAO staff
themselves.The Committee is also encouraged by the efforts to introduce
the community to aips++, including the sessions at the NRAO Interferometry
Summer School and outreach efforts at AAS meetings and similar fora.

However, we are also aware that the package still contains many bugs and
this makes it very difficult to use. Fixing these bugs is very important
because people trying aips++ will be discouraged by them and will be
reluctant to continue acting as guinea pigs.

The Committee recommends continuing and increased efforts to introduce what
is clearly a powerful software package to the community.Additional
"training sessions" around the US, both at AAS meetings and universities,
are encouraged.Regarding new capabilities, the Committee recommends that
the aips++ group's two highest priorities should be

* End-to-end processing for VLA data (the so-called "thick path")
allowing a user to take data from any VLA observing program and
edit, calibrate, and image it within aips++. This is extremely
important and long overdue -- we note that the project has a long
history of missed functionality targets. This has been expensive
for radio astronomy, robbing other critical packages of vitality
because aips++ is constantly portrayed as imminently replacing them.

* Active involvement in the commissioning phase of the GBT with
respect to verifying and debugging dish's capabilities. While we
understand that dish has been more widely tested than some other
aspects of aips++, reactions from users have not been uniformly
positive.As dish may be essential for the rapid demonstration of
the power and success of the GBT to both the astronomical community
and the tax-paying public, we suggest that it might be valuable to
have the aips++ dish expert present at Green Bank for the first few
months of commissioning.

Establishing capabilities to analyze VLBA data within aips++ should be the
next priority. The Committee rates these capabilities of higher priority
than a port of aips++ to Windows NT.

With reference to specific questions posed by the aips++ group:

- Do they have any direct experience of running AIPS++? If so,
what general comments do they have?

Committee experience varied.One member had used aips++ for imaging, while
others had experimented with it.All had difficulty resolving conflicts
with libraries.In some cases these conflicts were substantial---aips++
could not have been installed without un-installing libraries used for
other essential applications.Those that had used it found it powerful,
but with a steep learning curve.Continued outreach to the community and
attention to providing a robust application across a wide range of
environments will be essential.Also, expanded documentation, particularly
documentation written by astronomers as opposed to computer scientists,
will be necessary.

- Which platforms should we support with the release? Currently
we do Linux (RedHat 6.* and SuSE 6.*), and Solaris 2.5, 2.6. Is
Windows NT important?

The current set of platforms is sufficient.Higher attention should
be given to expanding "basic" capabilities and to ensuring a robust
distribution capable of working in the variety of environments (e.g.,
different libraries) within the supported architectures; little
attention at this point should be devoted to expanding the suite of
architectures supported.

- Is the current strategy of 6 month releases plus patches acceptable?


- How important is development by non-consortium members? Do they know
of anyone wishing to write complex applications in AIPS++?

The Committee knows of no-one familiar enough with aips++ to wish
to expand its capabilities.

- Is our documentation useful? Should we continue with the newsletter?

The newsletter is helpful.The more that the documentation is written
by astronomers, the better.


Data Management

Regarding existing data management capabilities, the Committee lauds the
scientific productivity of the VLA archive.However, the Committee is
concerned that insufficient attention has been given to designing and
producing a similar archive for the GBT.The first priority of the Green
Bank staff in the coming year should, of course, be commissioning the
telescope; however, the archive is an important long-term project.

The Committee finds the concept of an Observatory-wide, beginning-to-end
data management concept attractive.However, given limited resources, the
Committee is concerned that sufficient attention has not been given to
establishing priorities and achievable short-term goals.

With reference to specific questions posed by the Data Management group:

Rank the importance of the following:
1 Improve proposal submission
2 Improve archive content and accessibility
3 Streamline data analysis via automated reduction scripts
4 Improve telescope scheduling tools



We are impressed with the organization and planning exhibited by the CDL.
Producing the number of amplifiers and mixers required by GBT, ALMA and
EVLA projects will be a formidable challenge.However, the requisite
planning for scaling up the rate of device production to that required to
support these projects seems well in hand.With the addition of the
building expansion and additional testing equipment, the CDL seems well
poised to carry out this formidable task.


Spectrum management:

The electromagnetic environment is steadily becoming more complex and more
hostile to passive services like radio astronomy.Both internally and
externally generated interference steadily provide the spectrum manager
with new problems.We were glad to learn of the Observatory's involvement
in two projects for development of custom chips for interference excision,
one with the SETI Institute, the other with the U. of Colorado.We heard
nothing of the suggestion that we made last year: that all sites adopt the
policy of the GBT project of testing all instrumentation in an anechoic
chamber to insure that internally generated interference does not
proliferate.However, with the currents years' budget, this is not

A special problem for the Observatory -- and for the US radio astronomy
community as a whole -- is the retirement of Dick Thompson.This occurred
at a particularly unfortunate time when other staff members are being
overloaded with GBT, ALMA and EVLA responsibilities.Effectiveness in the
complex national and international radio frequency management community
requires a senior and well respected member of the community to lead the
efforts.We hope that the observatory can find another senior staff member
to take on this role.The Users Committee stands ready to help out in
issues in which the sheer numbers of stake-holders matters, but we are
convinced that this cannot substitute for a senior person leading a
sustained effort.


Education and Public Outreach (EPO)



The Committee was very impressed with the progress made on a number of
fronts in EPO in the past year. The combination of an NRAO scientific staff
member (Beasley) with time dedicated to EPO and financial support has
resulted in some long-needed improvements in this area. We hope that these
efforts will continue to be supported financially both from outside and
from within NRAO. The Committee was particularly pleased with the following
developments, each of which addressed areas of concern raised in last
year's report:

-- A marked increase in the number of scientific and informational press

-- The improvements to the NRAO web site, visually and in terms of ease of

-- The plans to provide a radio image archive, both of NRAO images and of
images from the larger radio astronomy community.

A number of specific comments covering the topics in italics follow.

1.) Education Officer for NM
The Committee strongly supports the hiring of an Education Officer at the
New Mexico site, and feels that such a position could soon generate money
for education and outreach efforts by way of grants (e.g. proposed VLA
visitor's center, outreach materials). We hope that the model of success at
Green Bank in this respect will be transferred to the VLA/VLBA site.

2.) Educational and Outreach Materials
In general, NRAO should do whatever it can to increase the visibility of
radio astronomy and radio techniques in both the K-12 and undergraduate
environments. The Committee supports the development of an undergraduate
"course pack" in radio astronomy, though some members expressed concern that
such an effort (and EPO efforts in general) take away from the support of
the NRAO telescopes and users. Members of the Committee also noticed that
recent promotional materials from the Observatory have a more contemporary
look, and were pleased to learn that a graphic design company would continue
to modify the look of NRAO publicity materials.

NRAO might consider developing a series of "white papers" on "Radio
Astronomy and _____". If NRAO were to develop a simple template, authors
from the radio community could write the text (for a one page document at
the high school level). The documents could be posted on-line in PDF format
for teachers to download and print documents for distribution to their
classes. Asking scientists to write in their area of expertise would reduce
the text generating load at NRAO, and the contributions could be edited
(see Education Officer above) and formatted by NRAO to present a unified
look.Eventually, these "white papers" could be a valuable resource
describing topics like "Radio Astronomy and the Sun" or "Radio Astronomy
and the Milky Way". Optionally, a brief biography of the document's author
(with photograph) could be included in order to personalize the

3.) Efforts in K-12 Outreach and Education
Planetaria and science museums are perhaps the best places to get the
largest number of visitors who are interested in astronomy. For example,
since the opening of Hayden Planetarium in New York (last February) over
one million people have visited.Similarly, Adler planetarium had a very
large number of visitors since the HST traveling exhibit and major
renovations began. The Committee suggests that NRAO actively contact the
directors of large planetaria and science museums and see what NRAO can
offer to these institutions by way of information and images. We also
suggest that NRAO investigate the possibility of developing a traveling
exhibit on radio astronomy including VLA images and an interferometry
primer (similar to the Hubble Space Telescope traveling exhibit).

4.) REU and RET
The REU and RET programs continue to be a great EPO successes.NRAO could
perhaps do more to advertise these opportunities for teachers and students.
NRAO might write up a few biographical profiles of former summer students
(who are now radio astronomers at various universities) and have the
profiles accessible on-line. RET opportunities for high school and
college-level instructors should also be better advertised.

5.) NRAO Web Site
The Committee suggests that the NRAO web site add one additional "layer"
which would serve to split incoming traffic into "scientific users" and
"the public". An example of such a split is the Arecibo Observatory home
page (www.naic.edu).Note that some sections of their web site,such as
the summer student program, are accessible from both sides of the
scientist/public split. The public area could be the location for press
releases, popular-format (*.jpg) images, virtual tours, and the like, and
the "scientific users" side could have a format similar to the one
circulated at the meeting, written by Steve Myers.This prototype VLA
page, at http://www.aoc.nrao.edu/~smeyers/VLAhome.shtml, is very well
organized, and it makes a lot of information available quickly and easily.
The science side would be the repository for all of the software,
calibrator information, and other electronic "goods" that users need.

There is still a great need for an accessible, organized repository of VLA
images, both for research and for general interest use. Current offerings
for the public (e.g. http://www.aoc.nrao.edu/intro/image.index.html) have
very sparse coverage and scant scientific content. For example, the link
under Education marked "Radio Image Gallery" has pages last updated in 1997
(http://orangutan.cv.nrao.edu/nraonew.html) and contains mostly images of
telescopes, and the astronomy images in that directory have no scientific
explanation. Furthermore, it is not clear that a person interested in
finding radio images would have even gone to the Education link.

6.) Various issues of concern:

a. Some users have found that the graphics-intensive web pages are slow to
download, and worry about access to users without fast internet

b. There was discussion of the need for updated, more concise documentation
for using AIPS and AIPS++. In particular, a simple guide to VLA data
reduction using AIPS at the level currently being written for VLBA data by
Jim Ulvestaad would be useful for both undergraduate and graduate level

c. The Committee shares the concern expressed by T. Beasley that the
numbers of graduate students employed as "pre-docs" at NRAO facilities has
declined, but feel that this is unfortunately a symptom of a much larger
issue (declining enrollments in graduate programs), and not anything that
NRAO can necessarily rectify. Perhaps NRAO could try to more actively
advertise the pre-doctoral positions, or even make them available
competitively (in order to increase their visibility).

d. While there was a short discussion of whether the topic of EPO was
outside the scope of the Users Committee Meeting, most of the committee
members agreed that it is important to hear each year the status of EPO
within the NRAO.

e. While the conference on "Gas and Galaxy Evolution" chosen to celebrate
the 20th anniversary of the VLA was in many ways a success, it did not
generate much publicity for NRAO, perhaps in part because it focussed on a
specific topic. The broad range in topics discussed for the official 10th
anniversary of the HST is part of what garnered such tremendous coverage
from the New York Times and other news organizations.There may be a
greater opportunity for positive publicity for NRAO with the upcoming 25th
anniversary, if there is a more generalized symposium covering a wide range
of topics.

f. We discourge the use of letter designations for frequency bands, and
encourage the use of wavelength or frequencies, in order to make radio
astronomy more user friendly.


University Involvement

Many more people from more diverse backgrounds are making use of NRAO radio
facilities than was true 30 years ago.While this multi-wavelength
approach should be encouraged and supported because it is producing good
science, a balance must be struck to insure that a new generation is
trained in the detailed knowledge of radio astronomy required to plan and
build new instruments and facilities.

The Users Committee encourages NRAO to continue to maintain strong ties to
the university community to promote the health of the radio users community
in the U.S.This may be especially important for the millimeter wave
community because of the loss of the 12m telescope.Most important to
consider are the smaller groups which do not have access to private
telescopes.They depend on NRAO facilities in order to carry on their
research.If this sector is not supported now, it will decrease the
significance of the US users community of ALMA in the future.For the U.S.
to compete successfully in an international enterprise, the infrastructure
must be adequately supported.

The Committee suggests a number of possible actions:

1.) Involvement of the university community at more substantial levels
in all the NRAO projects.
2.) Increased support for students to use NRAO facilities through
fellowship programs or living expenses.
3.) Support for independent researchers to spend their sabbatical times
at NRAO facilities.
4.) Provide greater support for the community especially in areas
where there is the perception that things are too difficult, e.g. VLBA,
5.) Outreach programs not only for the general public, but also for the
radio community and all of astronomy.This wouldultimately be important
for the health of US radio astronomy.


User Meeting Issues

We request a permanent NRAO web page for the Annual Users Meetings with
very visible links, to enhance user community representation in the User
Meetings. User committee members should be identified.One person (the
chair?) should agree to receive email messages about NRAO user issues.The
annual User Committee Reports should be posted on the site.

The length of the meeting seemed about right, with 1.5 days for
presentations and discussions. Executive session of ~30 minutes at the
start of the meeting, possibly during lunch, about 1 hour at the end of the
1st day, and ~2-3 hours the afternoon of the 2nd day to discuss the main
points of our preliminary report.

In contrast to last year's meeting, it was clear that the NRAO staff were
well aware of the previous year's User Committee Report.We were pleased
that the NRAO presenters devoted sufficient portions of their presentations
responding to relevant items from the previous year's report.We request
that this continue in future meetings.

Jeff Kenney, Chair
Yale University




Rachel Akeson<rla@ipac.caltech.edu>
David Boboltz<dboboltz@usno.navy.mil>
Steve Charnley<charnley@dusty.arc.nasa.gov>
Jason Glenn<jg@astro.caltech.edu>
Carl Heiles<cheiles@astron.berkeley.edu>
Paul Ho<pho@cfa.harvard.edu>
Jeff Kenney (Chair)<kenney@astro.yale.edu>
Joseph Lazio<lazio@rsd.nrl.navy.mil>
Colin Lonsdale<cjl@haystack.mit.edu>
David Nice<david@puppsr13.princeton.edu>
Pat Palmer<ppalmer@oskar.uchicago.edu>
Chris DePree<cdepree@ire.agnesscott.edu>
Tom Troland<troland@pa.uky.edu>
Steven White<white@astro.umd.edu>
Eric Wilcots<ewilcots@astro.wisc.edu>
Chris Wilson<wilson@physun.physics.mcmaster.ca>
Farhad Yusef-Zadeh<zadeh@oort.astro.nwu.edu>


Todd Clancy<clancyr@colorado.edu>
Imke de Pater<imke@floris.berkeley.edu>
Lincoln Greenhill<greenhill@cfa.harvard.edu>
Elizabeth Lada<lada@astro.ufl.edu>
Chris O'Dea<odea@stsci.edu>
Bob Rood<rtr@virginia.edu>
Evan Skillman<skillman@ast1.spa.umn.edu>