AUI Strategic Goals


Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) is a non-profit research management organization established in 1946, dedicated to planning, building, and operating large national and international scientific facilities. AUI’s mission today remains the same:

AUI collaborates with the scientific community and research sponsors to plan, build, and operate cutting-edge facilities.
We cultivate excellence, deliver value, enhance education, and engage the public.

In 1947, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission commissioned AUI to plan, build, and operate Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) on the site of Camp Upton, an army base on Long Island, New York. BNL’s mission was to conduct research into the peaceful applications of atomic science. AUI managed BNL until 1998. AUI and BNL designed, developed, built, and operated several major facilities, including the National Synchrotron Light Source and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. During that 51-year period, six scientists won Nobel Prizes for research conducted at BNL.

In 1955, recognizing that the U.S. was falling behind in radio astronomy, an important field that the U.S. had pioneered, AUI submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to establish the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). NRAO proceeded to earn and maintain a reputation as the world’s premier radio astronomy observatory. AUI has operated NRAO under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation since its inception in 1956, and has overseen the construction of a long series of world-leading radio telescopes. The most recent and most ambitious project is the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, which was built by an international collaboration and for which AUI serves as the North American Executive. ALMA is the largest, most expensive ground-based telescope in history; it began scientific observations in the second half of 2011 and has been fully operational since 2014.

By 2015, NRAO was operating four state-of-the-art radio facilities, each the best in the world in its category: the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in Green Bank, West Virginia; the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) near Socorro, New Mexico; the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), 10 antennas on sites from Hawaii to the U.S. Virgin Islands; and ALMA, in collaboration with its international partners. NRAO also hosts the Central Development Laboratory (CDL), long a world leader in radio science enabling technologies: low noise amplifiers, millimeter and sub-millimeter detectors, optics and electromagnetic components, including feeds and phased arrays, digital signal processors, and new receiver architectures.

In October 2016, AUI started operating NRAO under a new Cooperative Agreement that was competitively awarded by NSF, and that will extend another decade. NRAO has been redefined to comprise ALMA, the VLA, and the CDL. AUI is continuing to manage, under separate Cooperative Agreement, the Green Bank Observatory (GBO), comprising GBT and ancillary facilities, and the Long Baseline Observatory (LBO), comprising VLBA. Both GBO and LBO are now being supported by both NSF and non-NSF funds. AUI is also engaged in a suite of STEM education and outreach programs, both nationally and internationally, with a particular focus on Chile, the host country for ALMA.

II. AUI Vision

While the positive impacts of big science have become more universally appreciated over the decades that AUI has existed, the challenges of big science – tight budgets, management and international governance, societal impacts, support for true science – have never been greater. Questions like: Who should invest how much, and in which areas of science? How do we best engage the next generations and develop a diverse workforce? How do we maintain scientific integrity and the public trust?

AUI’s vision is to be the most inclusive, dynamic and agile scientific facility management organization, creating scientific value in partnership with the academic research community. Throughout its history, AUI has demonstrated its commitment to scientific and technological innovation and continuous management improvement to meet the evolving needs of the research community. With institutional knowledge dating back 70 years, a record of successful research facility development and operation, and diverse partnerships and international alliances, AUI is uniquely positioned to serve the research community, government agencies, and research partners, as an adaptive, service-oriented and community-focused research management organization in the 21st century.

AUI’s management philosophy is grounded in its focus on science, and its Board has always incorporated deep experience and a strong commitment to science. World-class scientists, engineers and administrators participate on AUI’s Board of Trustees, representing scientific, engineering, computer science, administrative, and project management expertise. Since AUI Board members do not represent specific institutions, they can make decisions that benefit our research centers and user community without conflicts of interest. We appoint Trustees who bring needed insight and expertise as circumstances change. We make managerial decisions with knowledge and awareness of the scientists’ points of view and with a motivation to help them be productive.

AUI has created an organizational culture based on scientific values of curiosity, open- mindedness, intellectual honesty, integrity, independence, freedom of expression, and a quest for truth. All these factors contribute to our ability to manage facilities in ways that maximize scientific productivity in a changing environment. We recognize that the success of our research centers depends on the support they give their users, and the recognition of their value in the broader science community. We know that the loyalty of the community can only be gained and sustained through high levels of user support, community satisfaction, and science results. Such results in turn are generated by the work of satisfied, engaged, and productive AUI employees.

AUI is focused on the benefits of research for everyone, not just a privileged few. We engage the public in the results of our work. We seek diversity throughout our organization, in all aspects of what we do—for and on behalf of the community we serve. Our diverse societal recruiting, inclusive workplaces, ambitious “pipeline” workforce development programs, and our sharing of research are evidence of AUI’s commitment to broadening participation

III. Core Strategic Goals

In 2012, AUI established three core strategic goals; we remain committed to these:

1. Maintain and enhance NRAO’s status as the world’s leading radio astronomy facility:

  • Maximizing the scientific productivity of our existing facilities.
  • Supporting the university research community.
  • Developing advanced technologies that enable revolutionary and transformational facilities.
  • Developing our workforce to maintain our core competence in astronomy and radio technology

2. Explore future opportunities for transformational facilities:

  • Participating in the development and operation of emerging research facilities.
  • Positioning AUI to compete for additional contracts to build and manage major scientific facilities.
  • Working with NRAO to broaden the application of radio technology

3. Educate Students and the Public by:

  • Preparing the future scientific workforce by developing talent and leadership at all levels.
  • Broadening participation by groups traditionally underrepresented in the nation’s scientific and engineering enterprise.
  • Conducting outreach to increase public awareness and appreciation of science.

In 2016, the GBT and VLBA were separated from NRAO, and reconstituted as the Green Bank and Long Baseline Observatories, respectively, while awaiting an NSF decision about possible divestment. In addition, AUI has in recent years increasingly engaged in STEM education efforts, both in the US and internationally. We thus recognize two additional strategic goals.

4. Maintain and enhance GBO and LBO as world-leading radio astronomy facilities, symbiotic with NRAO, identifying additional stakeholders and preparing for potential competitions for their management.

5. Develop and expand an AUI program of STEM education activities, symbiotic with but beyond the scope of AUI’s observatories.

IV. Near-term Operational Goals

As AUI starts its eighth decade, we face a changing research environment in the US and internationally, with constrained budgets for research; substantially increased costs for developing needed forefront facilities; international collaborations becoming the norm; and an increasing emphasis on compliance, reporting and transparency. To address this changing environment, we have added five near-term operational goals:

  1. Develop a process-driven roadmap for assessing new business opportunities for AUI that can grow and diversify funding.
  2. Establish financial strategies and structures that support these efforts.
  3. Increase coordination across AUI and its observatories in planning, business development, and risk management processes.
  4. Maintain and improve compliance with all regulatory stakeholders.
  5. Continue to reassess and improve Corporate governance.

IV. Conclusion

For well over half a century, Associated Universities, Inc. has been developing a unique set of skills and competencies. We have learned to design, build, and operate large national and international scientific facilities in ways that maximize scientific productivity and financial responsibility. We have developed strong financial management practices. We have evolved our corporate governance to adopt best practices, and to respond to the changing research environment including its strong international nature. AUI’s skill set fills an increasingly important niche in the research enterprise. We look forward to applying our capabilities to new programs for the benefit of the international scientific community and for the broader public.

Revised 15 May 2017