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The Society's journals are its most important assets and serve as the primary and longest-lasting vehicles through which we fulfill our stated mission: to enhance and share humanity's scientific understanding of the universe. As with other aspects of our field, the times are interesting in science publishing. Various colors of open access are being mandated in different jurisdictions; with free access after one year, our journals are fully compliant with the recent US government dictates, though scientists in other nations face different constraints. Technological advances offer both cost savings for current activities and new opportunities for enhanced products. And the demographics of our authorship ― 40% of first authors in ApJ and AJ are now from non-US institutions ― present both challenges and opportunities.
This spring we conducted a survey of a sample of our members who publish in the Society's journals and held a workshop on the journals' future. We heard interesting presentations from creative publishers in other fields, reviewed the survey results, and explored a variety of scenarios ― both salutary and less so ― that might impact the future of our publications. The point was not to arrive at specific recommendations or an action plan, but to inform the deliberations of the Publications Board, the editors, and the Council as we navigate through the challenging times ahead.
The current state of our journals is excellent. The number of pages published by the AAS has increased 39% in the last five years; it could top 50,000 pages in 2014. Despite this growth, library subscription costs have increased more slowly than inflation over this period such that the number of libraries hosting our journals has increased over the past decade during which subscription cuts were the norm. The journal reserve funds are extremely healthy, allowing us to weather any anticipated storms with equanimity and to set aside funds to enhance our publications.
And the best news is that page charges (now called quantum charges) are declining. We reduced them by 12% in 2012; at the Council meeting in Indianapolis, we approved another 14% drop for 2014. I suspect very few of your other research expenses have dropped by one-quarter over the last three years. Furthermore, the Council also voted to offer AAS members a significant new benefit beginning next year: an additional 15% off the total charges for a single paper published in 2014 if membership dues are renewed by 31 December of this year. For most people the value of that discount will exceed the cost of membership ― yet another reason to join the Society and bring your recalcitrant colleagues along with you.
Being incapable of resisting the temptation to play the provocateur when given the platform, I'd like to follow all this good news with a proposition: when one publishes an article, one should publish the data that underlies one's conclusions simultaneously.
The greatest strengths of the enterprise we call science are the twin pillars of reproducibility and falsifiability. The latter ― the notion that a valid scientific hypothesis or model must admit the possibility that it could be confronted with data and proven incorrect ― is fundamental to our progress in crafting ever more refined and powerful descriptions of nature. Reproducibility is essential in this context. The presentation of any scientific result should be met with healthy skepticism, and for that result to take its place as a tile in the mosaic of science, its conclusions should be reproducible.
At the Journals Futures Workshop we were shown an example of a publication in which an astronomer had rotated and displaced an astronomical image in order to obscure its location from competitors. To me, this is not science. But without access to the original data, a referee or editor would be hard-pressed to uncover this subterfuge. Any reader interested in reproducing the result, however, would have quickly found the discrepancy if a link to the data had accompanied the article; indeed, I suspect if such a link had been required, the discrepancy would not have existed in the first place.
We are a data-rich ― and data-driven ― field. Our journals are already in the process of implementing a "data-behind-the-figures" feature that will forever obviate the need to trace plots against a window. But I am advocating something much greater: a link in articles to the data that underlies a paper's conclusions.
Yes, I know the objections: "Which data, raw or processed?" "Where will it be archived?" "That's unfair to my poor graduate student who hasn't finished wringing the last bit of science out of her data yet!" "I don't have the time or resources to make my data available." "I expended all this effort to get these data (build this instrument, fundraise for this telescope) ― it belongs to me!"
Space limitations preclude my rebuttals to each of these objections (though I am happy to provide them on request). There are, of course, a number of real issues that would have to be addressed were such a policy to be implemented. But I was encouraged by the results of our author survey that showed a solid majority of those authors now publishing in Society journals agree on the value of sharing data: 62% of AAS authors reported sharing datasets in the past two years (vs. 23% for plasma physicists publishing in AIP journals). A total of 86% of corresponding authors said they "probably or possibly" would be sharing datasets as a supplement to a published article in the near future, while only 2% said they definitely would not do so.
In my view, the time has come ― and the technological resources are available ― to make the conclusion of every ApJ or AJ article fully reproducible by publishing the data that underlie that conclusion. It would be an important step toward enhancing and sharing our scientific understanding of the universe.
With best wishes for a productive and/or enjoyable summer!
The following statement was issued by the AAS Council on 13 June 2013:
After careful consideration of alternatives, the Council of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) has decided to cease publication of Astronomy Education Review (AER) at the end of the volume year 2013 (volume 12). The Council recognizes and is fully engaged in the vital importance of improving science teaching and learning. Consistent with the AAS mission and goals, it intends to expand the Society's investment in astronomy-education activities that will assist its members in developing their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels, while also serving the larger astronomical community. Toward that end, the AAS Education Officer and the AAS Astronomy Education Board will assemble a task force to come up with ideas for the future and to review existing programs.
Effective immediately, authors who have new contributions intended for AER will be redirected to other education journals that publish professional articles on astronomy education research. Articles already in the review or production pipelines will be processed with full attention unless authors prefer to withdraw the articles. The complete corpus of articles published in AER since its inception will be available in perpetuity in their full online form; articles should always be referred to by their DOIs.
Through the generosity of Carlson Chambliss, the AAS established the Astronomy Achievement Student Awards to recognize exemplary research by undergraduate and graduate students who present posters at the semiannual AAS meetings. Awardees are honored with an engraved gold-plated brass Chambliss medal; Honorable Mentions receive a printed certificate.
The following students were honored for their posters at the 222nd AAS meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, 2-6 June 2013.
Graduate Student Medal Winners
Angela Van Sistine
Graduate Student Honorable Mentions
Undergraduate Student Medal Winners
Undergraduate Student Honorable Mentions
The AAS thanks all the students who entered their posters into the Chambliss award competition and all the judges who volunteered their time and energy to review the posters!
Is there STEM in our future? How can we make sure?
It’s not so easy a question to answer these days. The Obama Administration’s FY 2014 budget proposes sweeping changes in how it will support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education — abruptly ending scores of programs in its science agencies that boast many years of accomplishment (very many of them in NASA's Science Mission Directorate) and transferring the funding to three agencies for efforts not yet entirely clear. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) thinks this is a bad idea, and we’ve said so (see the public statement on our website at astrosociety.org). We think a better idea is that science education and science work best when they work together, and that the government should build on and leverage its successful existing programs to coordinate a robust STEM effort.
We’re obviously not alone in our concern about what this all means for STEM education and public outreach (EPO): the AAS has also issued a statement expressing dismay at the Administration's proposal, and there seems to be skepticism in Congress too (follow the links from "Performance Metrics for NASA's SMD EPO Programs").
In the meantime, as the budget process winds its way through Congress, the ASP, which has supported EPO practitioners by offering our annual meeting as a forum for sharing, learning and networking for nearly a decade, is adding an additional thread to its “Ensuring STEM Literacy”-themed meeting this summer: “Documenting NASA EPO Impacts.” The thread invites NASA-funded programs and projects to share their metrics and impacts at the meeting, to be compiled into a proceedings that will exist as a permanent and citable record of just how much impact NASA’s EPO programs have had and continue to have, with useful lessons and evidence of best practices for us all.
It’s not too late to make plans to join us for the conference, to be held on the lovely campus of San Jose State University in San Jose, California, July 20-24, with support from the AAS, for which we are grateful. In addition to the EPO symposium, the meeting will also include the every-three-year “Cosmos in the Classroom” symposium, bringing together college introductory astronomy instructors from around the country (and beyond) to network and engage in professional-development activities. The conference will gather formal and informal educators, scientists, communicators, and others to share their experiences and learn from each other as we strive to create a future in which science is widely understood, valued, and considered in debating and deciding the great questions of our time — and executed by a strong STEM workforce.
Come join us in San Jose this summer, for either symposium or both as we consider what we are doing, what impacts we’re having, what we can do besides, and what we can do together to help ensure greater STEM literacy for the future. Visit our meeting website to learn more about what we have in store.
Is there STEM in our future? How can we make sure? Come join the discussion, as we collectively work to ensure STEM literacy as we head deeper into the 21st century.
See you in San Jose?
It is an exciting year for integration and testing of the JWST Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). The ISIM comprises the four JWST science instruments and fine guidance sensor, integrated into a common structure at the telescope’s focal plane, as well as power and command and data handling electronics, mounted in a warm electronics module nearby (see Greenhouse, M. A. 2013 in AAS Newsletter 168 and Greenhouse, M. A. et al. 2010, Proc. SPIE, 7731 for more details). In important program milestones, two of the four JWST Science Instruments were delivered last year: the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and the Fine Guidance Sensor/Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS); see Figure 1. After completing post-shipment functional tests, optical metrology, and electrical checkouts with ISIM electronics systems, these instruments have since been installed into the flight ISIM structure (Figure 2). Preparations are well under way for the first of three planned ISIM cryo-vacuum tests; that first test is scheduled to begin later this summer, following on the recent successful completion of two important precursor cryo-testing activities.
Figure 1a: The MIRI undergoing incoming inspection at the Goddard Space Flight Center, after delivery of the instrument by the MIRI Consortium.
Figure 1b:The FGS/NIRISS undergoing incoming inspection at the Goddard Space Flight Center, after delivery of the instrument by the Canadian Space Agency.
Figure 2: The flight ISIM structure, after installation of the MIRI and FGS/NIRISS instruments and some MIRI cryocooler hardware. Note the 2m scale bar provided for reference.
One of those precursors was the cryo-certification and calibration of a critical piece of optical test equipment that will be utilized throughout the ISIM cryo-vacuum test program: the Optical Telescope Element Simulator (OSIM). As its name implies, the OSIM (see Figure 3) is intended to simulate the optical beam that will be delivered to each of the Science Instruments when the ISIM is mounted behind the JWST telescope — delivering, with its suite of light sources, an input beam of the proper f/#, chief ray angle, and absolute position, with a precise and well-calibrated wavefront, anywhere in an instrument’s field of view. An initial cryo-vacuum test of the OSIM in 2012 demonstrated excellent optical performance and stability of the simulator, as well as proper operation of its various mechanisms and light sources; the second test, recently completed, performed the detailed cryo-calibration of OSIM pointing control to enable it to place its beam accurately with respect to a set of alignment references, in all six degrees of freedom. The OSIM hereafter will remain in place in Goddard’s largest vacuum chamber throughout the upcoming series of ISIM tests (over roughly the next two years), minimizing the potential for disturbance to its optical calibration. It is important to note, however, that the OSIM does contain suitable alignment diagnostic equipment to enable its pointing calibration to be adjusted, as required, for any small shifts induced by subsequent cryo-cycles or the installation of the ISIM onto the system.
Figure 3: The JWST telescope simulator, the OSIM, being lowered into Goddard’s largest vacuum test chamber (the opening visible at the top is ~8 meters in diameter), for its (since completed) cryo-vacuum certification and calibration test. The OSIM will remain undisturbed in the chamber throughout the upcoming ISIM cryo-test campaigns.
A second noteworthy cryo-vacuum test completed recently was the verification of an important thermal shield assembly that surrounds the MIRI when mounted to the ISIM. The MIRI Shield provides thermal isolation of that mechanically cryo-cooled Mid-Infrared instrument (whose wavelength coverage extends to 28 µm, with detectors operating at 6-7K) from the rest of the ISIM assembly, which is passively cooled in flight to the 35-40K requirements of the observatory’s near-infrared instrument suite. An initial cryo-test of the MIRI Shield demonstrated vulnerability to unwanted thermal contacts and excessive parasitic heat loads into that system; after small modifications were made to the Shield, it passed a second cryo test with excellent performance and has now also been installed onto the ISIM structure.
With these important milestones behind us, the focus now turns to a first cryo-vacuum checkout of the OSIM/ISIM system. Cryo-vacuum testing of the ISIM will involve a test setup of unusual complexity, as the test will include: (1) the ISIM, mounted on top of the OSIM, within a suite of cooling panels intended to emulate the 35-40K thermal environment that the ISIM will see in the JWST Observatory, (2) the ISIM Electronics Compartment (a large assembly of electronics boxes that operates at room temperature) within its own thermal control enclosure two meters away, (3) a ground-test refrigeration system to provide the additional MIRI cooling required, (4) this large suite of hardware to be controlled and operated at temperature, and (5) a complex set of operational and contamination requirements to be obeyed during the cooldown and warmup periods. The full-up test assembly (the flight payload plus the associated ground test equipment) is nearly 8m across and 10m tall and will take several weeks to reach stable operating temperature for each test.
The formal verification program for the ISIM will be carried out in two cryo-vacuum tests with the full complement of science instruments and systems, bracketing the ISIM-level vibration and acoustics tests (for confirmation of stability of the system against those mechanical loads). That verification sequence will begin in 2014, after the delivery of the final two flight instruments, the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), which are currently undergoing their final instrument-level integration and test (I&T) activities before delivery to the ISIM I&T flow later this year.
In the meantime, utilizing the substantial portion of the ISIM assembly currently in hand, the JWST Project will take the opportunity to carry out a “risk-reduction” cryo-vacuum test of the combined OSIM/ISIM system beginning later this (northern) summer of 2013. Goals of the test include:
- evaluating the performance of the various thermal control systems involved in cooling the ISIM hardware to the desired flight-like temperatures, so that any issues with that test equipment can be identified and corrected;
- operating the ISIM systems and instruments together in the flight-like cryo-vacuum environment;
- using the calibrated OSIM to conduct initial optical checkout of the MIRI and FGS/NIRISS as mounted on ISIM, assessing their 6 degree-of-freedom alignments as well as evaluating image jitter and in-band stray light backgrounds;
- carrying out some important instrument-level verifications and calibrations that can be executed more efficiently with the OSIM test setup than could have been done with additional testing at their home institutions before delivery.
Finally, execution of this risk reduction test will provide invaluable experience in test operations, including: fine-tuning the process of developing and executing OSIM + ISIM optical test scripts; performing quick-look analysis of and efficiently logging, distributing, and archiving the data acquired; and practicing the significant human logistics (communications, roles and responsibilities) involved in a test of this level of complexity. The benefits to the smooth, safe, and efficient execution of the later ISIM verification tests will be enormous.
The ISIM testing happening now at GSFC is a major component of the overall JWST integration and test plan to prepare the observatory for its scheduled October 2018 launch. To see the ISIM coming together in real time, watch the online JWST webcam. To learn more about future milestones leading up to the launch, please visit our webcasted talk from the January 2013 AAS Town Hall on the JWST.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is currently accepting applications for its Fall 2013 Student Volunteer Program. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. EDT Friday, 28 June. Students who are U.S. citizens and who will be actively enrolled during the Fall 2013 semester are welcome to apply.
More information and application instructions are available on the OSTP page.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy advises the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. The office serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the federal government.
Student volunteers are accepted for one of three terms (Spring, Summer, or Fall), which each last no more than 90 days. While these positions are without compensation, the assignments provide educational enrichment, practical work experience, and networking opportunities with other individuals in the science and technology policy arena.
For questions, please contact Rebecca Grimm at email@example.com.
The U.S. National Research Council (NRC) is currently conducting a congressionally-requested study to examine the goals, core capabilities, and direction of human spaceflight. This study, which is being carried out by the NRC’s Committee on Human Spaceflight, will provide findings and recommendations to guide the U.S. human spaceflight enterprise in a sustainable manner. The Committee on Human Spaceflight recognizes the importance of reaching out to the communities interested in human exploration and is using several approaches to solicit input regarding the motivations, goals, and the possible evolution of human spaceflight. One important source of input is this call for short papers from communities around the world with an interest in human spaceflight.
The Committee on Human Spaceflight invites interested individuals and groups to submit input papers describing their own ideas on the role of human spaceflight and their vision for a suggested future. In developing their papers, respondents are asked to carefully consider the following broad questions:
1. What are the important benefits provided to the United States and other countries by human spaceflight endeavors?
2. What are the greatest challenges to sustaining a U.S. government program in human spaceflight?
3. What are the ramifications and what would the nation and world lose if the United States terminated NASA's human spaceflight program?
In discussing the above questions, respondents are asked to describe the reasoning that supports their arguments and, to the extent possible, include or cite any evidence that supports their views. In considering #1 above, submitters may consider private as well as government space programs.
This request for input papers is open to any and all interested individuals and groups. For more information on the committee and the goals of the study, please see the statement of task.
Formatting and Length Requirements
To facilitate document management, the Committee asks that submitters abide by the following formatting guidelines:
- Input papers should not be more than 4 pages in length. Papers can include web links to other documents among the references.
- Use a 10- or 12-pt font with 1-inch margins on all sides of the document.
- Use Microsoft Word (.doc). or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf). No other formats will be accepted.
- Authors are responsible for obtaining any permissions necessary to use, or for the NRC to reproduce, copyrighted material.
- Position papers must be less than 50 MB in size. For file-management purposes, please compress your figures if this does not detract from the clarity of your white paper. You should feel free to include hyperlinks to high-resolution versions.
- A cover page can be included (beyond the 4-page limit) that shows the title of the white paper, a short abstract, the primary author’s name, phone number, institution, and email address, and a list of co-authors with their respective institutions.
Utilization of the Papers
All submitted papers will be reviewed by the Committee on Human Spaceflight. Note that, because participants will be self-selected, these input papers will not be used to judge the prevalence of attitudes or opinions within various communities. However, they will help ensure that the committee hears about important issues from interested parties. The submitted papers will also be available for public viewing. All input papers will be considered nonproprietary for distribution with attribution.
Please submit your white paper by navigating and clicking on the appropriate link, which will take you to a page where you can upload your input paper as instructed. You must agree to the copyright consent form on that page before uploading your document. Doing so will ensure that your paper will be reviewed by the committee and that your contribution will be made publicly available.
Submissions must be made through the website by no later than 9 July 2013.
All submitted white papers will be made public.
We are requesting Letters of Interest from professional astronomers interested in the identification of electromagnetic (EM) counterparts to gravitational wave (GW) triggers found in the future science runs of the LIGO and Virgo Advanced detectors, which will start in 2015.
You can find more details in the document LIGO-M1300324.
You can also find details in the web page: www.ligo.org/science/GWEMalerts.php. We will update this web page with more news on the meeting and the process as they become available, please bookmark it and consult periodically if you are interested.
You can submit a Letter of Interest before 26 July 2013 (or email with any questions) to firstname.lastname@example.org . We expect those of you who will submit a Letter of Interest to attend one of the meetings that will be held in Amsterdam (29/30 August) or Chicago (10/11 September); details on these meetings will be posted on the website.
We look forward to your participation in a new exciting era of gravitational wave astronomy!
— Gabriela Gonzalez (Spokesperson, LIGO Scientific Collaboration) and Jean-Yves Vinet (Virgo Collaboration)