When news reporters write headlines, they think about the most succinct and compelling encapsulation – the take home message – for their stories. This is much trickier than it looks, as some formulations can distort the essence of a story or omit important elements. In this collection, Space Editor-in-Chief Lee Billings conducts an in-depth analysis of what might be included in the Decennial Astronomical Report, which is due to be released at any time by the National Academies of Sciences, the engineering and medicine of the United States. It will help set national priorities for astronomical research and budgeting for the next decade and beyond, as the title of our article suggests (see “This Report Could Make or Break the Next 30 Years of American Astronomy” ).

Reading the Billings article, I couldn’t help but remember writing the headlines. As John O’Meara, chief scientist at the WM Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, astutely tells Billings, to get public buy-in for space funding, the 10-year report would do well to come up with a single mission goal for people to rally – “What causes life in the universe?” ” for example. This is no small feat considering the many stakeholders and interests around the table, not to mention the myriad of questions astronomers hope to answer in the years to come. As they say in journalism, a strong headline can be what determines if someone reads your article. Apparently, the near future of cosmology may also depend on a winning banner statement. We will soon see how successful the authors of the 10-year report are.