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

The following is adapted from a post on the ORCID blog, which was itself adapted from a post on the ImpactStory blog:

Have you ever tried to search for an author, only to discover that he shares a name with 113 other researchers? Or realized that Google Scholar stopped tracking citations to your work after you took your spouse’s surname a few years back?

If so, you’ve probably wished for ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID).

ORCID iDs are permanent identifiers for researchers. Community uptake has increased tenfold over the past year, and adoption by new institutions, funders, and journals is increasing on a daily basis. ORCID may prove to be one of the most important advances in scholarly communication in the past 10 years.

Here are 10 things you need to know about ORCID and its importance to you:

  1. ORCIDs protect your unique scholarly identity
  2. Creating an ORCID identifier takes 30 seconds
  3. ORCID is getting big fast
  4. ORCID lasts longer than your email address
  5. ORCID supports 37 types of "works," from articles to dance performances
  6. You control who can view what information
  7. ORCID is glue for all your research services
  8. Journals, funders & institutions are moving to ORCID
  9. When everyone has an ORCID, scholarship gets better
  10. ORCID is open source, open data, and community-driven

To learn more about all this, see the full blog posts at ORCID.org or ImpactStory.org. And don't forget to sign up for your own ORCID iD if you haven't already done so, and make sure you add it to your AAS member profile too!

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

One of the great things about working in astronomy is that the press and public are keenly interested in what we do. That’s the good news. The bad news is that few of us receive any training, in our education or on the job, in how to communicate effectively with the press and public. Yet funding agencies increasingly expect researchers to reach beyond the scientific community to share discoveries and insights with a broader audience.

To help fill the gap between expectations and preparation ― and to help you avoid panic if a reporter calls ― the AAS is partnering with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to present our first-ever half-day AAS/NRAO Media Training Workshop on Sunday afternoon, 1 June 2014, in conjunction with the 224th AAS meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. The program runs from 1 to 5 pm in St. George AB at the Westin Copley Place and includes a halftime refreshment break.

Engaging and interactive, the workshop will focus on communication theory — concepts that can help bridge the gap between scientists and public — and real-world techniques and resources that you can use to be a highly effective communicator. Topics will include what makes a science story newsworthy, how press releases are created and distributed, what do to if you think you have a newsworthy result worth publicizing, how to work with the public-information officers (PIOs) at your institution and funding agencies, how to prepare for a press conference, how to describe your research in pithy yet accurate terms, and tips to survive your first on-camera interview. Presenters include NRAO PIOs Charles Blue and David Finley, former Boston Globe science writer and current MIT PIO David Chandler, and former AAS press officer Steve Maran.

The workshop costs $55 and is open to all attendees but will be especially valuable to early-career astronomers. To register, use the Meeting Workshop Registration Paper Form linked from the AAS 224 registration page. Note that the late-registration deadline for the Boston meeting is 15 May.

B. Scott Gaudi
Ohio State Univ.

NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG) will hold its 10th meeting on Friday, 6 June 2014, just after the 224th AAS meeting, in Boston, MA. ExoPAG meetings are open to the entire scientific community. They offer an opportunity to participate in discussions of scientific and technical issues in exoplanet exploration and to provide input into NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP). All interested members of the astronomical and planetary-science communities are invited to attend and participate.

ExoPAG-10 will continue to focus on soliciting input from the wider exoplanet community on ways in which NASA might facilitate exoplanet research over the next few years, as well as input on how it should prioritize its ExEP activities. Suggestions for topics and/or speakers at the meeting along these lines are welcome. There will be reports from the active Study Analysis Groups (SAGs), as well as from the newly constituted Science Interest Group (SIG) entitled "Toward a Near-Term Exoplanet Community Plan."

Questions and suggestions can be sent to Scott Gaudi, ExoPAG chair, and/or Douglas Hudgins, ExoPAG executive secretary. News and information about NASA's ExoPAG and the ExoPAG-10 meeting can be found on the ExoPAG website.

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

The Congress’ two week recess—time lawmakers spend at home in their states/districts—comes to an end on Monday (28 April 2014). When we last left off in this space (much too long ago) we were discussing how the President's Budget Request (PBR) for FY 2015 came into being over the last year and a half or so. As I write, staff for the appropriations committees in both chambers of Congress are collating input from stakeholders like us and from Members of Congress as they work on drafting appropriations bills for FY 2015. Today, we’ll dive into this appropriations process in a little more detail.

The PBR that dropped over the early part of March was but the opening salvo to the (public portion of the) federal budget-setting process, which is now underway in the Congress (the House of Representatives customarily acts first). As is usually the case, the opening salvo was more or less swatted away, with some Members of Congress pronouncing the budget request “dead on arrival.”

The US Constitution gives Congress the "power of the purse," the privilege and responsibility to set the budgets for the whole federal government. The federal budget is broken up into two broad categories: “mandatory” and “discretionary” spending. Parts of the federal government that fall under the category of “mandatory spending”—which includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and farm subsidies, among other things—are not funded through the annual appropriations process; spending in this category is dominated by Social Security and Medicare. Mandatory spending programs are established by acts of Congress and automatically funded each year according to formulas (e.g., proportional to inflation and population growth among seniors).

While none of the federal spending on astronomical sciences falls in the mandatory category, it is important to understand that mandatory spending has grown from 45% of the federal budget in 1990 to 63% in the FY 2015 request. With the federal government intensely focused on shrinking the federal deficit (the difference between total spending and total income from taxes and fees), this fraction will only continue to grow unless there are reforms to these programs or increases in tax revenue. Both of these mitigations depend on acts of Congress, which you may have heard are hard to come by lately. The growth in mandatory spending is thus a strongly negative trend for federal funding of the astronomical sciences, which comes from the discretionary side of the budget.

All agencies and programs that fall on the discretionary side of the budget are funded one year at a time through appropriations bills, and they are required to (mostly) shutdown if these bills don’t pass before the start of the fiscal year each 1 October. This particular responsibility rests with the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate, each of which is divided into 12 subcommittees with distinct jurisdiction over specific parts of the federal government. For the three primary funders of the astronomical sciences, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) both fall under the purview of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) subcommittee while the Department of Energy (DOE) falls under the Energy & Water Development and Related Agencies (E&W) subcommittee.

The first step toward wrting the actual bills themselves is setting and partitioning the total pot of discretionary spending for the year. This is usually begins with Budget Resolutions passed by each chamber’s Budget Committee and then reconciled between the two chambers. The resolution sets the total discretionary spending amount for the coming fiscal year, a.k.a. the "302(a) allocation,” and allocates funding broadly by “budget functions,” which map (though not particularly clearly) onto the jurisdictions of the various Appropriations subcommittees. This year is somewhat different in that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (a.k.a. the "Murray-Ryan Deal") set the 302(a) allocation for both FY 2014 and 2015, so that has been done for several months already.

The next step is breaking up the 302(a) allocation into the total budget each subcommittee has for the parts of the government under its jurisdiction, a.k.a. it’s 302(b) allocation. These result from negotiations between the leaders of the Appropriations Committees and the Congress at large, with some input from the stakeholder community (read: advocacy). If these allocations have been determined, the results are not yet public.

As its name suggests, the CJS subcommittees' jurisdiction—everything that must fit in the same 302(b) bucket—includes much more than NSF and NASA, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US prison system, the US Census (whose funding ramps up midway through each decade; i.e., this year) and much more. With the top-line 302(a) allocation increasing by just $2B out of $1.014T according to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2014 and so many competing priorities within the CJS subcommittee’s jurisdiction—let alone the rest of the full committee—prospects for funding increases for NASA and NSF are slim to none.

Each of the 12 subcommittees in each chamber will write its own bill covering its jurisdiction, though the two chambers must come to agreement for all parts of the government before the appropriations go to the President for his signature. As they work on writing bills, each subcommittee convenes hearings to gather information from stakeholders and agency managers, while also collecting information via direct stakeholder input—letters, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. Over the last few weeks, the NASA Administrator, NSF Director and DOE's Energy Secretary have all been asked to testify regarding the PBR as it relates to their agency. In some cases, they've been called by authorizing committees as well as appropriators; there are more hearings to come, most notably in the Senate on Innovation on April 29.

The extent to which each Member of Congress can influence the budget of any specific agency depends largely on their standing relative to the subcommittee with jurisdiction over that agency (with the exception of the chambers’ leaders, who tend to have strong, broad influence). Members not on the committee have the opportunity to submit "member requests” in support of specific agencies or programs up to some date prior to the actual bills being written; at this point, all these deadlines have passed. The committee staff are hard at work as we speak drafting their bills based on all the input they’ve received; it is now basically only members of each subcommittee who have a say in what gets into the bill or accompanying report.

Once the bill is written, the subcommittee will hold a markup, wherein amendments can be introduced and voted on. The House CJS subcommittee has just announced that its markup will be this coming Wednesday 30 April 2014. After passage, the subcommittee will report the agreed upon version of the bill to the full committee for its own markup—an opportunity for members on Appropriations, but not the CJS committee to have input as well.

Once each bill is passed by the full committee, it will go to the chamber floor for consideration (again, House does this all first). It is on the chamber floor that those outside the committee have another opportunity for input, but that depends on the rules used in bringing the bill to the floor. It is possible for the leadership of each chamber to bring bills to the floor, but without the possibility, or with limited possibility, for amendment (though this is much harder to do in the Senate than in the House, by design). The leader of the Senate, Harry Reid (D-NV) recently committed a full month’s worth of floor time in the Senate, split between June and July, for considering the appropriations bills.

Sometimes multiple subcommittee bills are combined into one bill called an omnibus (somewhat like the "stapler thesis” I put together out of the papers I published during graduate school). This can occur at various points in the process, and with different numbers of bills. According a recent Congressional Research Service report on the process:

Packaging regular appropriations bills can be an efficient means for resolving outstanding differences within Congress or between Congress and the President. The negotiators may be able to make more convenient trade-offs between issues among several bills and complete consideration of appropriations using fewer measures. Omnibus measures may also be used to achieve a timely end to the annual appropriations process.

This brings us back to the point that Congress has the ability to govern itself and set its own rules, an ability it exercises regularly and to both good and ill effect.

So we’re a decent fraction of the way through this whole, complex process already, basically on schedule to pass spending bills before the start of the fiscal year without crisis. And if history has shown us anything, it’s that starting on schedule is a great predictor for finishing on schedule. Wait, no, sorry, I had that backwards… This year is a mid-term election year, with many members facing serious challenges and some predicting that the Senate majority will change parties. As Congress moves forward with the appropriations process, we may very well see these politics come into play and potentially de-rail this whole “regular order” thing they’ve got going now. We shall see!

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

Well, I guess I jumped the gun a bit yesterday, because today brought much more detail on the proposal from the House of Representatives' Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS). The subcommittee released the report that accompanies their bill this morning, in preparation for tomorrow's markup in the full House Appropriations Committee. The report indicates the subcommittee's intent in passing the bill, detailing how they intend for the top-line numbers and other language in the bill to be interpreted by agencies in their jurisdiction. For NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), for example, the report indicates how much the subcommittee intends for each division—and in some cases, programs within the divisions—to receive under that top line. This subcommittee also has jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation (NSF), but there is little relevant detail in the report for the astronomical sciences at NSF.

Let's start with a top-line breakdown of SMD's budget, and then go through the other relevant language in the report (all numbers are millions of USD; the FY 2014 Operating Plan can be found here). 

Account FY 2014 Op Plan FY 2015 Request FY 2015 House CJS
NASA $17,646.5 $17,461.0 $17,896.0
    Science Mission Directorate $5,148.2 $4,972.0 $5,193.0
Earth Science $1,824.9 $1,770.0 $1,750.0
Planetary Science $1,343.4 $1,280.0 $1,450.0
Astrophysics $678.3 $607.0 $680.0
James Webb Space Telescope $658.2 $645.0 $645.0
Heliophysics $643.3 $669.0 $668.0

As noted yesterday, both the NASA top line and the SMD top line would see significant increases over the PBR, and SMD would see a modest increase relative to the FY 2014 level. The largest increases under that top line would go to Planetary Science and Astrophysics, relative to the PBR.

As you probably know, the President's Budget Request (PBR) this year proposed to mothball the Astrophysics Division's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) in FY 2015 outside of any scientific community review processes (e.g., NASA's Senior Review). There was much discussion around this proposal in Congress and in the scientific community after the request was released, and many have been watching closely to see what the appropriators would do. The subcommittee signaled clearly in the report that they intend for $70M to go toward SOFIA operations costs in FY 2015; for reference, NASA's operating plan for FY 2014 includes $84.4M for SOFIA this year, and the FY 2014 budget request indicated a notional budget of $87.3M for SOFIA in FY 2015. So there will still be work to do to fund SOFIA at projected levels, for which the appropriators have directed NASA to "continue seeking third-party partners whose additional funding support would restore SOFIA’s budget to its full operational level." SOFIA is an 80/20 parternship between NASA and the German Space Agency (DLR).

The Hubble Space Telescope was also proposed for a $23M reduction in FY 2015 based on the assumption that the program could use reserve and carryover funding from previous years (see NASA's FY 2015 budget request). The subcommittee's bill would reduce that cut to $18M stating, "The recommendation for Astrophysics restores the $5,000,000 unallocated reduction proposed for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)." 

Since the 1990s, SMD missions have devoted some fraction of their budgets to education and public outreach (E/PO) activities, most recently 1 percent. The FY 2014 request proposed a dramatic reorganization (as part of a government-wide science, technology, engineering and math education reorganization proposal) that would have shifted an estimated total of $48M worth of E/PO activities out of the directorate, either to the NASA Office of Education or out of the agency entirely. This year's request proposed a consolidated program for all SMD E/PO via a budget line of $15M for all SMD E/PO bookkept in the Astrophysics division.* This would represent a cut of more than two-thirds relative to past levels, a cut the House CJS subcommittee would partially reverse by allocating $30M to these activities. 

In total, while the proposal increases the Astrophysics Division budget by $73M above the request, the total amount of budget direction in the report is $90M. Accounting for the $12M in the request for SOFIA, this leaves about $5M worth of budget direction that is not covered by the $73M division top-line increase. Thus, there may still be tough choices ahead under this proposal.*

Within the Planetary Science Division, there is much more suballocation within the report:

Account FY 2014 Op Plan FY 2015 Request FY 2015 House CJS
    Planetary Science $1,343.4 $1,280.0 $1,450.0
Research and Analysis $130.0 $165.4 $170.0
New Frontiers $231.6 $281.5 $286.0
Mars Exploration $288.0 $279.3 $302.0
Discovery $285.0 $230.8 $266.0
Outer Planets $152.4 $95.7 $181.0
Planetary Science Technology $143.1 $137.2 $155.0

First off, all parts of the Planetary Science Division's budget saw at least modest increases within the $170M increase for the division overall. Within the large Outer Planets increase, there is a $100M allocation for pre-formulation of a Europa mission that meets the science goals of the most recent decadal survey. There is also language in the Technology section of the report allocating an additional $18M (of the $155M) for "assessments and development of promising technologies and techniques for the study and characterization of the surface and subsurface of Europa, including such technologies as landers, rovers, penetrators, submersibles, seismometers and sample analyzers." 

The $5M additional for New Frontiers (relative to the request) is directed to go toward formulating future missions, an area of major concern in the PBR, which has no funding for future missions in its five notional out-years. Of the total for Mars Exploration, no less than $100M is to go toward the Mars 2020 mission. While expressing their concern about the slow cadence of Discovery missions relative the decadal survey recommendation, the subcommittee also allocated $30M, of the additional $36M for Discovery overall, toward future mission development. With that, they direct NASA to accelerate its 2017 Annoucement of Opportunity forward to 2016. 

The Heliophysics Division and James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) both see fewer column inches in the report compared to the rest of SMD. For Heliophysics, the subcommittee directs NASA to increase cadence of Explorer missions in the future, urging them to accelerate funding for future missions from FY 2017 to FY 2016 (presumably in the next budget request). Otherwise, the division is funded at the request level (subject to rounding error) and no changes below the top-line are directed. JWST is funded at the request level as well, which is on target with the re-baselined plan set in 2011. In the report, the subcommittee directs NASA to provide quarterly briefings rather than quarterly reports, as it watches closely over the flagship project's progress toward a 2018 launch under its $8B cost cap.

The full House Appropriations Committee is set to consider this proposal tomorrow morning (8 May) at 10 am, at which time there may be amendments that could change any of the above. Once the bill passes out of committee, it must pass the whole House before moving on to be reconciled with a companion bill in the Senate (which is still being written). In other words, we are far from through, and nothing is yet set in stone. We'll be keeping our eyes on all of it as we move forward!

*This post has been edited to clarify a factual error regarding the SMD E/PO budget line bookkept in the Astrophysics Division budget. The post previously misstated that this would be a new budget line, when in fact it existed in previous budgets. In FY 2013, this line held $10.1 million for SMD-wide E/PO, which was in addition to the 1% of each mission's budget. The substantial change in organization for E/PO is that missions would no longer contribute 1% of their budgets to those activities.

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

On Wednesday, 23 April 2014, we joined a chorus of peers in submitting testimony for the upcoming hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee titled: “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments.” Our testimony outlines how we view the astronomical sciences as an integral part of what policymakers and advocates often refer to as our national “innovation ecosystem.” The term is used as shorthand for the interconnected system of federal agencies, universities, and private sector corporations and non-profits who together drive innovation through research and development.

Another piece of local jargon you will find in our testimony, and that of many others, is the “innovation deficit.” This term was coined recently in an effort to convey the notion that as the federal government scales back or stagnates in its investment in reserach & development (R&D), as we have been doing over the past several years of austerity, we are creating a deficit of innovation compared to what we could do and what other nations are doing. China and South Korea have been particularly aggressive in growing their investments in R&D over the same time period (it is the derivative, not the absolute value, that most groups focus on). The most recent release of the NSF Science and Engineering Indicators — a bi-yearly survey of R&D practitioners, including universities and private corporations — showed that Asian countries now outspend North American countries on R&D for the first time in history. Some forecasts predict that China’s government spending on R&D will overtake the US by the early 2020s.

Anna Ho
MIT

This guest post comes from Anna Ho, currently an undergraduate at MIT, headed next to Heidelberg as a Fulbright Scholar and then on to Caltech for graduate school. Anna was the only undergraduate student participant from the AAS in 2014 Congressional Visits Day. This post originally appeared in slightly different form on the MIT Admissions Blog.

— Joshua H. Shiode, John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow

* * *

My name is Anna Ho, and I am a student at...

No, no. That’s not the point.

My name is Anna Ho, and I am a constituent living in Cambridge. I am a student at MIT majoring in physics.

Ugh, I sound like a robot. Sound cheerful! BE cheerful! IT’S SO EXCITING TO BE HERE!

Hi! Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with us. My name is Anna Ho, and I’m a constituent living in Cambridge. I’m a senior at MIT majoring in physics, but today I’m here representing the American Astronomical Society.

…and I’m very nervous, because I’m an idealistic 21-year-old who would really like to think that it’s better to Engage than it is to Criticize from Afar, and somehow I find myself here in DC to meet with my representatives. I’ve heard that people charge into policy work feeling like they’re going to change the world, and soon become disenchanted and frustrated. And I’m afraid that on Congressional Visits Day, I will find out that all of these “meetings” with my representatives are just formalities to win my vote.

Our training begins on Monday, March 24. Around 10 of us have arrived in DC already, and we start by going around the room and introducing ourselves. The guy to my left works at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, building cameras for telescopes. The woman to my right does research on the Sun at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. There’s a professor from Northwestern somewhere behind me. There are a handful of graduate students, and I’m the token undergraduate.

The first speaker is Josh Shiode. Josh has a PhD in astronomy from UC Berkeley and is now the John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow at the AAS. Translation: he brought his scientific training and communication talents with him to the policy world of Washington, DC. He communicates in two directions: he advocates on behalf of the astronomy community to policymakers, and he keeps the astronomy community informed about important changes in policy. This week his job is to prepare a delegation of 15 AAS members to lobby on Capitol Hill. This Monday afternoon, his talk is called “Congress in Context.” I frantically take notes, trying to go from Zero Knowledge to Enough Knowledge.

Congress in Context: Josh walks us through how a bill becomes a law (the takeaway: very few do) and introduces us to important vocabulary. The deficit, for example. Non-defense discretionary spending (“our stuff!”) and the nature of its shrinking. The Budget Control Act, the Bipartisan Budget Act, high spending on mandatory programs, the difference between authorizations and appropriations (the theory and the reality), examples of authorizing committees, examples of appropriating committees.

Current status: the President’s Budget Request — which proposes spending levels for each agency — is out. Now Congress is working on actually allocating funding (“appropriations”), in theory within the authorized bounds. There are many organizations lobbying on Capitol Hill for a piece of nondefense discretionary pie, and we are one of them.

No pressure.

After a short coffee break (astronomers have caffeine running through their veins) we reconvene for a talk by Anna Quider, who works at the US State Department. Anna is another PhD astronomer who decided to dedicate her life to policy, and her job this afternoon is to introduce us to our audience.

Our audience: congressional staff. Before you walk into the House or the Senate, she says, you need to understand who these people are. Each member of Congress has a group of congressional staff (“staffers”) who distill and relay information to the congressperson about particular issues, to help him or her cast an informed vote.

This sounds like an enormous responsibility, so I am astonished to learn that some staffers are not a whole lot older than I am. “For many staffers,” Anna tells us, “this is their FIRST JOB EVER.” They’re smart 20- or 30-something-year-olds, expected to become experts in a wide variety of areas often outside their educational background. When Anna Quider was a staffer, her portfolio included education, small business and entrepreneurship, national security, innovation, and all of science and technology. When the staffer in charge of healthcare issues left, Anna was given that job, and told, “Well, science is the next closest thing.” 

To help staffers, there is a nonpartisan knowledge tank on Capitol Hill called the Congressional Research Service. But even with this resource, consider what the job entails: teaching yourself about a vast range of complicated and important issues that you have limited (or no) academic experience with, picking out the salient points, then relaying information up the chain to a member of Congress. With this in mind, Anna shows us a typical staffer schedule: it is packed from 8 am until 9 pm, with no obvious breaks. 

“The fact that [the staffer you contacted] took your meeting request is a small miracle,” Anna said. “You have a foot in the door. These are a PRECIOUS TWENTY MINUTES.” She mentions that our 30-minute scheduled meeting might end up lasting two minutes and be held standing in a hallway, or even turn out to include a bunch of other scientists from other organizations.

Thanks to Anna, I have a mental image of the very hard-working but very busy person I will be meeting with on Wednesday. Obviously I can’t waste this person’s time. What is special about me? What information can I uniquely deliver?

The last session on Monday is led by Jen Greenamoyer, a senior government relations liaison at the American Institute of Physics. With her, we will finally begin to hammer out what exactly to say during our meetings. The talk is titled “Delivering Your Message on Capitol Hill,” and I take away five key points:

  1. Believe it or not, scientists are held in high esteem by policymakers because we have the reputation of being credible. That’s part of why you were able to get this precious meeting time. So: BE CREDIBLE. Talk about what you know, and admit if you don’t know something.
  2. Know as much as you can about the member of Congress and the staffer. Research the individuals in advance, learn about their priorities and interests, look around the office while you wait for the meeting, and ask the staffer about him or herself. Tailor your message accordingly.
  3. Be clear and specific about what you are asking for, and ground your conversation and requests in geography and local impact. Remember: Congress is pegged to DISTRICTS. And don’t suggest that science funding should be an entitlement.
  4. Politicians speak in anecdote. Be a memorable anecdote and convey your dedication to your research. Back-and-forth exchanges are much more memorable than one-way spiels.
  5. Offer to serve as a resource in the future.

Heads swimming, we break into groups for a role-play activity. I become Jason Ellis, lobbyist for an organization called Save Our Coastal Resources (SOCR). The Space Telescope Science Institute astronomer to my left becomes Congresswoman Katherine Greer, a Republican from Oregon who is currently undecided about how to vote on a bill. The Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer to my right becomes Allison Lowder, a lobbyist for the US Shrimpers Association.

We each have something like 5 minutes to skim a briefing on the bill, then hold a “meeting” with the congresswoman trying to persuade her to vote one way or the other. Allison Lowder holds her meeting while I run out to the bathroom, and I come back pumped to argue on behalf of SOCR. “The sawfish will become extinct if no steps are taken to protect it,” I say. “All life on our planet is connected and dependent on each other, and there is serious threat to this species….” At the end, I feel pretty good about my spiel. But Congresswoman Lowder votes “no,” and Allison Lowder cheers. What did I do wrong?! As we switch groups, Congresswoman Katherine Greer turns to me and says, “You know why I voted no?” Grumpily, I ask why. “Because she“ — she points to Lowder — "went first.”

That night, in front of the mirror:

My name is Anna Ho, and I’m a constituent living in Cambridge. I’m a senior at MIT majoring in physics, but today I’m here representing the American Astronomical Society. In the fall, I’m going to start a PhD program in astronomy.

Here is my contact information. If I can be a resource for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

On Monday the talks were about science advocacy in general; today, the focus is on astronomy. It’s Tuesday, all 15 of us are finally here, and we’re sitting in a conference room at AAS headquarters. At 9 am, Executive Officer Kevin Marvel gives us a warm welcome before leaving to “go sign checks or something” (he makes us laugh at 9 am, which is no mean feat).

For the next three hours, the AAS Director of Public Policy, Joel Parriott, joins forces with Josh to bring us up to speed. They review terminology from yesterday, this time highlighting particular authorization bills that directly affect our field. They fill us in on current astronomy policy issues, most of which involve the National Science Foundation. Themes from yesterday resurface: your primary currency is your credibility, if you prove to be a useful resource people will come back to you, your face and your personal story alone are worth the visit.

I take notes as usual but am a little distracted by the thought that whoa, the AAS Director of Public Policy is sitting next to me. I snap out of my reverie when someone down the table asks what to do if we’re asked about the NSF Portfolio Review. Asked about the what?! The response is that if we get asked about the NSF Portfolio Review, we are to go out and have a beer to celebrate that someone up on Capitol Hill actually knows what the NSF is. If we get tough but informed questions, that’s a reason to celebrate.

At this point, the Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Alabama in Huntsville chimes in to remind us that our job is to promote our field, not to bash other fields or other organizations. “I don’t think it ever benefits anybody,” he says, “to speak from the perspective of negativity.” Much more effective to present a united front, instead of bickering amongst ourselves while the politicians go deal with other issues.

After lunch, we travel to the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). We sit through a series of talks. The highlight is a Q&A with staffers: Sean Gallagher from Congressman Rush Holt’s office is particularly enthusiastic and articulate. “We’re a filter for our boss,” he tells us, “but we tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep. You are our educators.” Takeaways include:

  1. People are on a one-year cycle. Really long-term arguments are not the way to go.
  2. Legislative staff often consider themselves researchers. Be a resource. If you would like to be called on, establish a relationship with your member of Congress.
  3. Don’t get into the weeds about your research unless the staffer specifically asks you.
  4. Prepare for 2-, 5-, 15-, and 30-minute versions of your meeting.
  5. ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL. Tie the importance of your work to your local district.
  6. Make it a two-way conversation.

Suddenly, I realize what information I can uniquely provide during my meetings. I pull out my notebook to scribble down the first draft of my message.

It’s Tuesday night and I’m lying on my stomach in my hotel room bed.

Tomorrow morning I will lead meetings with staffers from two Massachusetts offices: Representative Michael Capuano’s office and Senator Ed Markey’s office. I’m frantically reviewing.

Michael Capuano. Very passionate about higher education. Makes sense, considering that the 7th congressional district has over a dozen research institutes, universities (including MIT and Harvard) and teaching hospitals. One-fifth of Nobel Prize winners have lived, studied, or worked in this district. Capuano has a lot to be proud of.

Capuano’s staffer: Andrew Eaton. BA in political science from U. Conn. Portfolio includes budget, tax, social security, education, science, welfare, US Postal Service.

Ed Markey. Already supportive of expanding investment in science research programs. This meeting can probably be short.

Markey’s staffer: Dan Pomeroy. PhD in high-energy experimental physics, has worked at the Large Hadron Collider. This meeting can definitely be short.

My name is Anna Ho, and I’m a constituent living in Cambridge. I’m a senior at MIT majoring in physics, but today I’m here representing the American Astronomical Society. In the fall, I’m going to start a PhD program in astronomy, but when I started college I didn’t think that I was cut out to be a research scientist. The summer after my sophomore year, I did an internship funded by the National Science Foundation. I loved it so much that I went back the next summer and did it again. I learned that I wanted to do research because I had the opportunity to try doing research. And I had that opportunity because of this program. I became a scientist because of this program.

I set my alarm for 6 am and dream about sleeping through meetings.

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

The National Academy of Science has announced the election of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 15 countries in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Among the newly elected members are four of our AAS colleagues:

  • Daniel Eisenstein, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Fiona A. Harrison, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
  • Stephen A. Shectman, Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, Calif.
  • Joseph Silk, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., and Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris

Those elected in 2014 bring the total number of active members to 2,214 and the total number of foreign associates to 444. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council — provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

Congratulations to Drs. Eisenstein, Harrison, Shectman, and Silk!

Linda Shore
Executive Director
Astronomical Society of the Pacific

I am thrilled to greet to you as the new executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) and deeply honored to be chosen to spearhead the ASP’s mission to support astronomy educators, professionals, and enthusiasts. My first encounter with the ASP was as a graduate student in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at San Francisco State University. I was teaching an astronomy course for non-majors and found myself desperate to locate astronomy slides that would help students visualize the wonders of the universe. This was a decade before the advent of the World Wide Web, so I couldn’t just conduct an Internet search and download Hubble images. Using a 35-mm slide projector to display photographs taken by the world’s largest ground-based telescopes was the “high tech” way to bring the magnificence of the planets, the beauty of nebulae, and the majesty of galaxies into the classroom.

Fortunately the university was near ASP headquarters, to which I made regular visits to get help. Had it not been for the ASP’s support, teaching resources, and incredible collection of 35-mm slides, I would not have become a successful astronomy lecturer. Without this early success as a novice astronomy teacher, I would not have pursued a career in science education, never conducted research on astronomy preconceptions at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, never written a dissertation on the impact that professional development has on improving the astronomy knowledge of teachers, and never caught the attention of the Exploratorium, where I served as the director of the Teacher Institute for 20 years. Ultimately, I would not have ended up as the first woman to become executive director of the ASP ― the very organization that got me started down this road in the first place.

Never underestimate the power of the ASP to change lives.

Somewhere right now, there is a high-school student looking at the ASP’s Facebook page and “liking” the announcement of a new and unusual exoplanet. A graduate student in astronomy is reading a PASP article on active galaxies as she prepares ideas for her dissertation. An amateur astronomer is thinking about hosting a star party for an elementary school and is searching the NASA Night Sky Network website in search of astronomy activities developed by the ASP. A park ranger is using ASP materials to prepare an evening stargazing event for visitors. Literally thousands of people make use of ASP materials each year to learn astronomy or to teach it to someone else.

Now celebrating its 125th anniversary, the ASP was founded 10 years before the AAS. Our two societies collaborated throughout the 20th century and continue to work together in the 21st, most notably on the Astronomy Ambassadors program. Conceived by AAS Past-President Debra Elmegreen, it offers professional-development workshops and a community of practice to help improve early-career astronomers' ability to effectively communicate with students and the public. We are honored that the AAS saw fit to “outsource” much of the work of developing and conducting the program to the ASP. The workshops at the last two winter AAS meetings attracted 60 remarkable young astronomers from all over North America, and the outreach that they’re now doing as AAS Astronomy Ambassadors is exemplary. I look forward to working with the AAS to build on our early success in this program and to find additional ways to collaborate in our joint quest to share the wonders of the universe with a broader audience.

In the coming months I will be working with the ASP staff to expand our existing programs and develop new ones. We plan to create new opportunities for amateur astronomers to share their expertise and knowledge ― not only to mentor the next generation of amateurs, but also to work more closely with schools and the public. We will also expand our existing teacher professional development programs and help science teachers use astronomy as a vehicle for exciting students, increasing their scientific literacy, and developing their abilities to think critically.

To quote my favorite ASP bumper sticker, which I have posted near my desk as a reminder of what the organization did for my career, “Astronomy Is Looking Up!”

Kelle L. Cruz
Hunter College/CUNY & AMNH

Registration is now open for the conference "Reinventing the Physicist: Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education for the 21st Century," to be held 5-6 June 2014 at the American Center for Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, Maryland.

We live in an era of immense opportunity for physics graduates: their scientific training helps to make them key members of industry teams developing new technologies or translating cutting-edge research into viable products. The future of the physics discipline depends on implementing new approaches that provide training for success in what is increasingly the largest employment base for physicists: the private sector.

This conference will focus on strategies for implementing physics innovation and entrepreneurship (PIE) education into undergraduate classrooms and will be targeted toward physics-department leaders. Sessions will feature existing programs that have successfully implemented PIE components (such as the Scienceworks program at Carthage College and the Case Western Physics Entrepreneurship Program), as well "success stories" of students who have graduated from these programs and started companies or found successful employment in companies as a result of these programs.

The conference will also include targeted implementation workshops and resources for educators who are interested in developing PIE curricula or in promoting entrepreneurship among their students and faculty, such as the National Collegiate Innovators and Inventors Alliance (NCIIA), which offers funding, guidance, and access to a community of practitioners.

Conference Steering Committee:

  • Douglas Arion, Carthage College
  • Crystal Bailey, American Physical Society
  • Mark Bernius, Morgan Crucible PLC
  • Bahram Roughani, Loyola University Maryland
  • Randall Tagg, University of Colorado, Denver

For more information and to register (deadline: 12 May 2014), please visit the conference website.

John D. Monnier
Univ. of Michigan

The Planet Formation Imager (PFI) Kick-off Committee announces an open call for participation in PFI concept studies. The ambitious goal of the PFI is to image planet-forming disks in nearby star-forming regions with high enough spatial resolution to resolve the key physical processes at work — to witness planet formation live as it happens with ~0.1 AU resolution or better.

Scientists from more than a dozen different institutes in six countries have begun planning for initial concept studies, an effort led by project director John Monnier (University of Michigan), project scientist Stefan Kraus (University of Exeter), and project architect David Buscher (University of Cambridge). Our top priorities for the next 12-24 months will be to define the most compelling areas of science to drive the instrument concept and at the same time determine feasible architectures for meeting the science goals.

We seek contributions from the international astronomical community and invite participants to join the PFI Science Working Group or the Technical Working Group. For more information and to sign up to participate, please see the PFI website. Please note that the initial deadline to join the working groups is 16 June 2014.

Contact info@planetformationimager.org for more information.

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

Interested in hearing about science policy from your AAS Executive Office staff? The AAS will share expenses for a member of our policy staff to come out for a colloquium or more informal talk about science policy and our AAS advocacy efforts. Available for local talks are:

  • Josh Shiode, John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
  • Joel Parriott, Director of Public Policy & Deputy Executive Officer
  • Kevin Marvel, Executive Officer

Contact public.policy@aas.org for more information or to invite the AAS out to your institution!

 

Upcoming Colloquia

Date Location Speaker
1 Oct 2014 National Radio Astronomy Observatory - Very Large Array Josh Shiode
8 Oct 2014 University of California, San Diego Josh Shiode
10 Oct 2014 California Institute of Technology Josh Shiode
16 Oct 2014 United States Naval Observatory Josh Shiode

 

Past Colloquia

Date Location Speaker
28 Apr 2014 Boston University, Institute for Astrophysical Research Josh Shiode
19 Mar 2014 Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Astronomy and Astrophysics Kevin Marvel
26 Feb 2014 Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Observatory Council Joel Parriott