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Nancy D. Morrison
University of Toledo

The June 2014 issue of Status, the magazine of the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA), has been posted on the CSWA website:

Contents

  • CSWA Survey: Two-Body Careers in Astronomy, Erica Rodgers (Space Science Institute)
  • Note from the Editor
  • How Workplace Climate Changes the Knowledge We Generate, Meg Urry (Yale University)
  • On Planck's Law, Blackbodies, and the Physics of Diversity, Jedidah C. Isler (Syracuse University)
  • Math and Verbal Performance of Men and Women Under Competition and Time Pressure, Nancy Morrison (University of Toledo)

Tables of contents of current and past issues of Status are available at http://www.aas.org/cswa/STATUS_TOC.html.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer & Director of Communications
American Astronomical Society

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) and the AAS Committee on Employment have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers both inside and outside of academia. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those various paths.

Fifteen new career profiles have been posted in recent months:

  • Alicia Oshlack — Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Head of Bioinformatics
  • Patrik Jonsson — SpaceX, Software Engineer
  • Rick Fienberg — AAS, Press Officer & Director of Communications
  • Jessica Kirkpatrick — Director of Data Science at InstaEDU
  • Anonymous — Community College in California, Professor of Astronomy
  • Caroline Simpson — Florida International University, Associate Professor of Physics
  • Agnes Kim — Penn State Worthington Scranton, Assistant Professor of Physics
  • Anonymous — Senior Scientist on Soft Money
  • Douglas Arion — Carthage College, Professor of Physics & Astronomy; Professor of Entrepreneurship; Director of Carthage Institute of Astronomy; President of Galileoscope, LLC
  • Anonymous — Science Museum, Education & Public Outreach Officer
  • Anonymous — Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Astrophysicist (retired)
  • Andria Schwortz — Quinsigamond Community College, Associate Professor of Integrated Science
  • Neil Gehrels — NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Chief of Astroparticle Physics Laboratory
  • Anonymous — Small Liberal Arts College, Assistant Professor of Physics
  • James Marshall — INNOVIM, Senior Staff Scientist

These and earlier profiles are available via our Career Profiles page, which has links to the interview responses, some of which are on the CSWA Women in Astronomy blog and/or the AstroBetter blog.

As new profiles are published, we’ll add links from the Career Profiles page and let AAS members know about them via this website and our e-newsletter.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer & Director of Communications
American Astronomical Society

Robert Wilson, Paul Milgrom, and R. Preston McAfee, whose basic research on game theory and auctions enabled the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to first auction spectrum licenses in 1994, were announced on 17 July 2014 as recipients of the 2014 Golden Goose Award.

They will receive their awards on 18 September at the third annual Golden Goose Awards ceremony in Washington, DC, along with other 2014 awardees. The ceremony will be held at the Library of Congress, with science correspondent Miles O’Brien serving as Master of Ceremonies.

The Golden Goose Award honors researchers whose federally funded research may not have seemed to have significant practical applications at the time it was conducted but has resulted in major economic or other benefits to society.

Including that first FCC auction in 1994, the agency has conducted 87 auctions, raising over $60 billion for the US Treasury and enabling the proliferation of wireless technologies that make life convenient, safe, and connected. Additionally, the basic auction process they developed has been used the world over not only for other nations’ spectrum auctions but also for items as diverse as gas stations, airport slots, telephone numbers, fishing quotas, emissions permits, and electricity and natural gas contracts.

“Without access to spectrum, America would be trapped in a wireless purgatory,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), whose idea for a Golden Goose Award inspired its creation by several organizations, including the American Astronomical Society, in 2012. “This trio used game theory to incentivize a critical tool that helps Americans communicate, connect, and educate.”

“Every year, the Golden Goose Award highlights the real social and economic benefits of federally supported basic research,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), another congressional supporter of the award. “The theoretical work done by Professors Wilson, Milgrom, and McAfee has revolutionized federal auctions and returned the federal government’s investment many times over. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am especially aware of the importance of investing in the sciences and leaving the decisions on research priorities to the scientists to the greatest extent possible — not politicians.”

The awardees came together in a rather circuitous way reflecting the evolution of game theory from entirely theoretical, curiosity-inspired research on how people and organizations make decisions to a process for conducting efficient, fair, and enormously complex real-world auctions.

Robert Wilson was a Stanford University economics professor interested in game theory, including how it applied to formulating auctions for maximum results. His early work was supported by the US Atomic Energy Commission, which was interested in game theory, not auctions, and the Office of Naval Research, which wanted to improve the bidding process for contractors vying to build ships. Eventually, in the 1980s and 1990s, the National Science Foundation (NSF) supported his game theory research on auctions and other economic transactions.

Paul Milgrom, who was pursuing his PhD in economics from Stanford in the 1970s, had Wilson as his faculty advisor. Following a successful dissertation on auction theory he moved on to Northwestern University. It was there, supported by the NSF, that he addressed the unique, but still highly speculative and theoretical issues arising from simultaneous auctions of multiple items. In 1982 he authored a paper on single-item auctions that is still considered the state of the art.

Preston McAfee was a University of Texas economics professor also deeply interested in auctions in the 1980s. He was a strong advocate that economic theory should be applied to solving practical problems.

Fast forward to 1993, when Congress granted the FCC authority to auction portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This was uncharted territory and an extraordinarily complex undertaking. The FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking contained a framework for the auction, which cited Milgrom’s work as its basis. Contacted for advice by a company that was interested in participating in the auction, Milgrom thought he could come up with a better design than that proposed by the FCC and reached out to his former thesis advisor. Wilson and Milgrom developed an auction process called a simultaneous multiple round (SMR) auction, also known as a simultaneous ascending-bid auction. Separately, McAfee was consulting with a different telecommunications company and came up with a similar idea.

The FCC asked the three economists to work together, and they designed the first auction. Wilson and Milgrom contributed the fundamental idea that all of the individual auctions should conclude simultaneously. McAfee’s work was especially important for dealing with other practical issues, such as how to address defaults by bidders and how to ensure participation by women- and minority-owned businesses.

McAfee is currently the chief economist at Microsoft; Milgrom is the Shirley and Leonard Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University; and Wilson is the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus, at Stanford University.

Rep. Cooper first proposed the Golden Goose Award when the late Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) was issuing the Golden Fleece Award to target wasteful federal spending and often targeted peer-reviewed science because it sounded odd. Rep. Cooper believed such an award was needed to counter the false impression that odd-sounding research was not useful.

In 2012 a coalition of business, university, and scientific organizations — the AAS among them — created the Golden Goose Award. Like the bipartisan group of Members of Congress who support the Golden Goose Award, the founding organizations believe that federally funded basic scientific research is the cornerstone of American innovation and essential to our economic growth, health, global competitiveness, and national security. Award recipients are selected by a panel of respected scientists and university research leaders.

— Adapted from a press release from the Golden Goose Award. Read the full release (PDF).

Richard C. Altrock
Astrophysicist
Air Force Research Lab.

The current deadline for submitting observing proposals to the National Solar Observatory is 15 August 2014 for the fourth quarter of 2014.

Information is available from the NSO Telescope Allocation Committee at P.O. Box 62, Sunspot, NM 88349 for Sacramento Peak (SP) facilities (sp@nso.edu) or P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, AZ 85726 for Kitt Peak (KP) facilities (kptac@nso.edu). Instructions may be found at http://www.nso.edu/observe. A Web-based observing-request form is at http://www.nso.edu/obsreq. Users' manuals are available at http://nsosp.nso.edu/dst/ for the SP facilities and http://nsokp.nso.edu/mp for the KP facilities. An observing-run evaluation form for the SP facilities can be obtained at ftp://ftp.nso.edu/observing_templates/evaluation.form.txt.

Please note that NSO will conduct cycle 3 of the Dunn Solar Telescope (DST) Service Mode Operations in October at Sacramento Peak in preparation for Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) operations. Cycle 3 will be dedicated to the observation of solar flares. Only November and December 2014 will be available for regular scheduling at Sacramento Peak.

Proposers are reminded that each quarter is typically oversubscribed, and it is to the proposer's advantage to provide all information requested to the greatest possible extent no later than the official deadline. Observing time at US national observatories is provided as support to the astronomical community by the National Science Foundation.

Joshua H. Shiode
John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
American Astronomical Society

This notice came to the AAS via the Energy Sciences Coalition:

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science is pleased to announce that the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications for the 2014 solicitation. Applications are due at 5:00 pm ET on Wednesday, 24 September 2014.

The SCGSR program supports supplemental awards to outstanding US graduate students to conduct part of their graduate thesis research at a DOE national laboratory in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist for a period of 3 to 12 consecutive months — with the goal of preparing graduate students for scientific and technical careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission.

The SCGSR program is open to current PhD students in qualified graduate programs at accredited US academic institutions, who are conducting their graduate thesis research in targeted areas of importance to the DOE Office of Science. The research opportunity is expected to advance the graduate students’ overall doctoral thesis while providing access to the expertise, resources, and capabilities available at the DOE laboratories. The supplemental award provides for additional, incremental costs for living and travel expenses directly associated with conducting the SCGSR research project at the DOE host laboratory during the award period.

The Office of Science expects to make approximately 100 awards in 2014, for project periods beginning anytime between January and September 2015.

Detailed information about the program, including eligibility requirements and access to the online application system, can be found on the SCGSR webpage.

The SCGSR program is sponsored and managed by the DOE Office of Science’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS), in collaboration with the six Office of Science research program offices and the DOE national laboratories, and the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE).

For any questions, please contact the SCGSR program manager, Dr. Ping Ge.