Strategic Plan

Adopted by AAS Council 13 June 2016.


The American Astronomical Society was founded more than a hundred years ago to further the field of astronomy in North America. Since its founding, it has evolved in several ways: from a relatively small group of professional astronomers to a society with more than 7,500 members, including students and educators; from an organization primarily concerned with meetings, to an organization which not only holds meetings but maintains the world’s premier astronomy and astrophysics journals; and into an organization charged with providing service to its members and promoting the health and advancement of the field as a whole. The Society's stakeholders include: its members; other astronomers worldwide; astronomy students and educators; and members of the public interested in astronomy.

In 2010, the Society published its first strategic plan. In this, our first five-year update, we demonstrate our commitment to addressing the evolving needs of the Society's members and stakeholders and to continual improvement of the Society’s operations, effectiveness, and strategic vision.

Mission Statement

The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity's scientific understanding of the Universe.


(1) The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.

(2) The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.

(3) The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.

(4) The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.

(5) The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

Plan (next 1-5 years)

Goal 1: Consolidate the Society's position as the preeminent leader of scholarly discourse, advocacy, meetings, and publications within the North American astronomical community.

Objective 1: Broaden networking with AAS stakeholders

  • Expand networking activities with other STEM organizations, Congress, and public and private sources of funding
  • Further enhance advocacy efforts

Objective 2: Increase awareness of AAS programs, benefits, and services to members and potential members, as well as key influencers and stakeholders

  • Define the value of astronomical research by developing a proactive outreach strategy
  • Determine outreach priorities based upon resource availability
  • Develop a program of outreach to amateur astronomers?
  • Increase awareness and number of Shapley lectures

Objective 3: Initiate practices that facilitate and convey the Society's leadership in the astronomy community, including the area of sustainability

  • Implement the findings of the Meetings Task Force as a means of continuing to enhance meetings
  • Leverage web-based/electronic communications and virtual meetings, as appropriate
  • Hold meetings in accessible and green locations
  • Enhance publications through the use of technology and broaden range of publishing activities; fully implement the Journals Task Force plan by the end of 2016

Goal 2: Ensure the continued relevance of the Society by demonstrating its ability to meet the needs and expectations of the astronomical community.

Objective 1: Increase understanding of current and potential members’ ever-changing needs and expectations, and refine the Society’s services and membership benefits accordingly.

  • Gather data on current and potential members to understand their needs and expectations through ongoing surveys and focus groups at AAS events
  • Study how the current services and benefits of membership can be enhanced

Objective 2: Expand representation of early-career members, and develop programs, services or benefits to encourage them to sustain their membership.

  • Increase representation of early-career members in Council and Division leadership roles.
  • Identify potential early-career leaders
  • Recruit all-but-dissertation students, and retain 50 percent of the cohort as members

Objective 3: Provide additional categories of AAS membership.

  • Explore membership categories for non-practicing astronomers (in industry)
  • Explore a membership category for amateur astronomers

Objective 4: Communicate the value of membership throughout the membership life cycle (astronomy student through emeritus astronomer) by means of value proposition messages directed to members at each career stage.

Goal 3: Re-imagine AAS efforts in education, public outreach, and professional development

Objective 1: Recommend and delineate appropriate roles for the Society in these areas

  • Establish task forces within one year of adoption of this plan to:
    • Report to Council on the Society's current activities in education, public outreach, and professional development
    • Develop recommendations to Council regarding the Society’s activities in these areas

Objective 2: Develop and execute professional development programs including, as appropriate:

  • Mentoring for members at all stages of their careers
  • Curriculum development for use by Society members, aligned with the needs of members as discovered from focus groups and surveys

Objective 3: Explore the expansion of professional development opportunities beyond meetings, such as increasing web-based activities and on-site workshops.

Goal 4: Ensure that the Society is fully inclusive and serves as a positive role model within the astronomical community

Objective 1: Ensure that the AAS Council, staff, polices, and culture embrace inclusiveness and diversity

  • Develop Council, committee, task force, and staff composition for better diversity and inclusiveness
  • Coordinate overlapping work of the relevant AAS committees, boards, and working groups (CSWA, CSMA, SGMA, Employment, AEB, WGAD), and examine the structure, coordination, and core purpose of committees that do equity and inclusion work

Objective 2: Advocate vigorously for increased diversity and inclusion within the astronomical community, and address barriers to inclusion within the AAS

Objective 3: Strive to increase genuine participation of under-represented populations throughout the Society, as well as the astronomy community, including those currently outside the purview of the diversity and equity committees such as disability, first-in-family, veterans, and other under-represented groups

  • Address recommendations from Inclusive Astronomy 2015

Goal 5: Revise the structure and functioning of AAS governance in order to raise the level of energy, engagement, and representativeness in the leadership

Objective 1: Review and restructure Council and committees

  • Establish a task force to consider the structure of the Council and committees, engaging Council members and staff in the process. The task force should meet face to face in order to engage participants fully. (Metric: 1 year)
  • Revise the AAS bylaws in line with changes in the governance structure.
  • Develop and implement tactics to increase engagement with the Divisions: e.g., use Divisions to help engage members and develop leadership talent for Council participation.

Objective 2: Increase representation of early-career members in the leadership of the AAS Council and Divisions

Objective 3: Enhance communication among the AAS Council, staff, and members

  • Understand communication preferences among these three groups.
  • Develop a communication plan for the three groups, noting that it may be a distinct plan for each group.
  • Improve communication methods based on these plans, e.g.: increased use of social media; new web-based communications ports/tools; and greater ease of use. Consider e-discovery ramifications.