NRAO continues to receive support in divestiture issue
Concerned citizens and state officials met at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank Sunday to discuss the continued fight to save the Green Bank facility from the National Science Foundation’s recommendation of divestiture.
In August, the NSF Portfolio Review Committee released a recommendation to divest all funding from the Green Bank NRAO. If the NSF accept the recommendation, the Green Bank facility will lose all its federal funding.
Associated Universities, Inc. [AUI] President Ethan Schreier reported that AUI has a comprehensive response, released Monday, to the divestiture recommendation.
“We’ve been working on a more lengthy and detailed response, pointing out some inacuracies in the portfolio review report and pointing out the scientific and educational impacts of closing the GBT and the Very Long Baseline Array [VLBA],” Schreier said. “I think we have a common goal, preserving this facility and all it means, not only for the international community but the local community here in terms of education and economic impact.”
Referencing the NRAO Family Day event that occurred earlier Sunday, Schreier said it’s obvious how important the facility is to the community.
“Astronomy is a very important discipline, not just for research, but for science, engineering and mathematics education,” he said. “Astronomy appeals to the public, as we saw from the 600 people today. This site is a prime example of what astronomy can do for education.”
Schreier added that AUI is dedicated to working with the community and the government to keep the facility open.
“We’re confident that we will be able to work together and change the recommendation,” he said. “I want to remind you it’s only a recommendation.”
Congressman Nick Joe Rahall joined Schreier in his conviction that the Green Bank facility should be saved.
“This observatory means a great deal, not just to Green Bank in terms of its educational and economic contribution, but the importance to our nation’s scientific community, so it does seem a ridiculous recommendation,” he said. “It may be a year off or five years down the road, but now is the time to start countering it and to start coming up with a more positive scenario for the future of the GBT.”
Rahall recalled his last visit to the NRAO, which was with the late Senator Robert C. Byrd.
“I recall very well meeting with him and all the community in the [Starlight Café] and listening to his remarks as he expressed his commitment to this facility and all that he had done over the years to get the initial funding,” Rahall said. “That’s something that will always remain in my memory. Not only because he was the great leader of our state that he was, but because he instilled in me a deeper commitment in this facility right here in Green Bank. Being here this afternoon and seeing the kids also is a reminder of what this facility is about.”
Rahall joined efforts with Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller to write a letter of concern to Subra Suresh, director of the National Science Foundation. He said the three of them are focused on working with the NSF to change the recommendation.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me that we have close to $100 million of federal dollars already invested here,” he said. “To see that go down the drain doesn’t make economic sense in these times of tight budgets. The fact that it may cost more to relocate the functions and the facilities of GBT to another location, it’s certainly going to cost more than the annual budget of GBT that is being proposed to be eliminated. That doesn’t make much economic sense.”
Also speaking on behalf of the NRAO were Phil Lewis, Southern Area Coordinator for US Senator Jay Rockefeller; Peggy Hawse, Regional Coordinator for US Senator Joe Manchin; Pocahontas County Commission President David Fleming; Dr. Phil Jewell, Deputy Director of the NRAO; and Dr. Bob Jones, Dean of West Virginia University’s Arts and Science division.
A petition against the divestiture may be signed online at www.change.org, just enter Green Bank NRAO in the search bar. The Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation developed the website www.savethegbt.org which contains literature and updates about the divestiture plan.
A copy of the AUI response to the NSF portfolio review, as well as a copy of the letter from Rahall, Rockefeller and Machin, will be available at www.pocahontstimes.com
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com