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Christopher Biemesderfer
Director of Publishing

AAS Journals in 2013

The Society’s scientific research journals — the Astronomical Journal (AJ) and the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) are in good health, and our publications team continues to work together to guide the evolution of our journals in a changing scholarly communications environment. We are striving to improve our services for authors, especially with regard to the management of digital data by utilizing a publishing paradigm, but also as scholars are expected to be more accountable to funders and other agents of oversight. The political environment surrounding access policies (including Open Access) is more challenging now that mandates are going into effect, and we are obligated to devise compliance strategies for authors subject to those mandates.

Data in the Journals

The AAS journals have published data digitally for more than 20 years, starting with a CD-ROM series in the 1990s. Since 2001 we have actively produced well-structured and self-describing tabular data sets; we’ve published well over 7,000 in the last 13 years. Recently the editors have started asking authors for “the data behind the figures,” and in the last two years between 40 and 50 of those data sets have appeared as parts of articles. Our production team is working on improvements to the ways that the tracking of data sets is integrated through the review and production processes, to permit us to manage related and diverse data sets with flexible methods (allowing complex relationships) and to allow for considerably more growth.

As more data sets are published using more or less formal publishing techniques, the community expects those data sets to have attributes of other formal scholarly communications. In particular, people expect to be able to refer to (cite, link to) data sets as scholarly objects, and they expect to accrue some sort of credit for the publication of data. In the current online environment, both of those goals are reasonably well achieved with a system of persistent identifiers and the apparatus associated with them, much as the CrossRef infrastructure accomplishes these goals for articles. An initiative called DataCite was formed about four years ago, and it is maturing into a reliable infrastructure for citing data sets. The AAS is affiliated with DataCite, and in the coming year we intend to introduce mechanisms in our journal publishing systems to support DataCite identifiers.

Another expectation of the community is that formally published data sets will themselves persist in time. To accomplish this, a system of trusted digital repositories is needed for the long-term curation and preservation of data. This is an active area of development. A number of organizations, some large and some not so large, are trying various approaches for providing the services that are necessary to assure the digital longevity of data.

Public Access

Lately, a good deal of open-access (OA) advocacy has been predicated on providing “public access” to research results. In the last year two important efforts have been undertaken in the US and in the UK, and we have carefully monitored those activities.

In February 2013 Dr. John Holdren, the Director of the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a memo to agency heads instructing them to “develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication.” Focus is divided between access to data and access to the published literature, but the instructions are fundamentally the same. In recent months several initiatives have arisen in response to the direction regarding access to the scientific literature. These efforts are intended to aid federal funding agencies in ensuring that articles that report on the results of federally funded research are publicly accessible according to the intentions of the US government. Based on the guidance in the OSTP memo, we believe the AAS journals already offer compliant publication platforms for US-funded researchers.

The Research Councils of the UK (RCUK) are responsible for investing public money in research in the UK. The RCUK acted last year on recommendations from the “Finch Group” — a study group chaired by Dame Janet Finch — to impose open-access requirements on the publications of researchers funded with UK public monies. That mandate went into effect on 1 April 2013, with strong emphasis on the RCUK’s preference for gold OA solutions, that is, those managed by journals, not by authors. In early September 2013, another report was issued by the UK government (a committee, not the Parliament) that strongly opposed the push for gold OA. In the wake of that report, several commentators observed that the RCUK policies as formulated will need to be re-examined. We will continue to monitor the developments. We believe that the existing policies of the AAS journals allow UK authors to be compliant with the April RCUK mandate via its green OA provisions.

In considering public access, it’s worth mentioning again that in mid-2012 we made our online journals available at no charge to public libraries in the US. The program is intended to enable the accessibility of the Society’s journals to the taxpaying public in the United States. Public libraries with an interest in our journals must register, and we make a nominal attempt to verify that the request is from a bona fide public library. Only a small number of libraries have applied, probably because our delayed-open-access policy makes it largely unnecessary. The AAS regards this effort as one more mechanism the Society provides to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.

Author Accountability

In the wake of all the attention to “transparency,” in government and otherwise, it’s not surprising that expectations about transparency in scientific research and its reporting are being raised. There is a host of initiatives that have started over the last five years that address various aspects of accountability in research, and the journals are an important place where interrelationships can be brought together. These initiatives include ORCID for researcher (author) identification, FundRef for tracking awards related to research publications, and even CrossCheck for detecting instances of potential plagiarism.

For several years it has been apparent that the capability to automatically disambiguate authors would have benefits for scholarship, and various schemes have been proposed to uniquely identify individuals. ORCID, which stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID, was formed in 2009 to address this problem comprehensively. Over 300 organizations are participating, including academic institutions, publishers, scholarly societies, and others. It is anticipated that most tracking of a researcher's formal activities — proposing for grants, utilizing community facilities, publishing articles and data sets, etc. — will be coordinated using ORCID as the unifying identifier. We believe it is a worthy objective, and the AAS joined as a founding sponsor in February 2011. You can sign up for an ORCID identifier at

The purpose of FundRef is to allow researchers, publishers, and funding agencies to track the published research that results from specific funding bodies by collecting data from authors during manuscript submission. The main development for FundRef comes from the core group of publishers that created CrossRef for reliable article identification. The pilot phase of FundRef concluded successfully in early 2013, and the system is now being deployed operationally as a cross-industry initiative. We are assessing the most effective ways to implement FundRef within the AAS journals' production, and we hope to provide the capabilities in 2014.

In the wake of Dr. Holdren’s February 2013 memo, a group of organizations involved in FundRef proposed a public-private initiative called CHORUS (Clearinghouse for Open Research in the US) to provide a means for the agencies to comply with public-access mandates, mostly the language from the America COMPETES reauthorization. The project leverages the efforts of FundRef and CrossRef. The basic idea is to utilize the FundRef architecture to identify articles that have been federally funded, and then add mechanisms for the publishers of those articles to assert how their (authoritative and already extant) repository satisfies the open/public-access requirements of the US government. The solution takes advantage of systems that already exist or are fairly well developed at this point, and since the OSTP memo specifically says there is no new money for this effort, it can be implemented for very modest investment on the government side of the partnership. This way agencies don’t have to divert money from research activities to build redundant infrastructure. The AAS is an endorsing partner of CHORUS.

In addition to ensuring that proper citations and acknowledgements of support are integrated into scholarly communications, there is also growing concern that scientists conduct themselves responsibly. The AAS maintains ethics policies — a general one and one specific to the journals — as a reminder to the community about these expectations. One of the important elements in our journals ethics policy is the call for the submission of original work when new articles are submitted. This requirement for originality extends to the language in the paper, which must not replicate wording used elsewhere. With the availability of software tools such as CrossCheck, it now is standard practice to check the language of submitted manuscripts against that of other work. The AAS journals are making use of this capability to check all submitted manuscripts for problems with replicated text. When difficulties occur, which rarely happens, editors will contact authors and seek ways to remedy the difficulty. The best practice, however, remains ensuring that your submitted manuscript does not contain text reproduced from other sources.

AAS Journals in 2014

The AAS journals will remain excellent and in demand in 2014 as we make enhancements that will improve authors’ capabilities to report their research innovatively, that will allow researchers to draw connections among scholarly resources more effectively, and that will permit greater transparency for all stakeholders. The Society is enormously grateful for your involvement with our journals — as authors, as referees, as editors, as Councilors and Publications Board members, and especially as engaged researchers in the astronomical community.

Faye Peterson
Former Membership Services Manager
American Astronomical Society

Time is running out on the two special offers we're making available to members during this year's renewal season.

You have until 31 December 2013 to renew for two years at the 2014 rate, locking in the 2014 rate for 2015 too. This applies not only to your basic AAS membership but also to your division memberships. (Note: This offer is not available to junior members; instead, junior members get a two-years-for-the-price-of-one special rate when first joining the Society.)

If you renew by 31 December you'll also receive a 15% discount off your portion of the author charges for one paper in the Astrophysical Journal, ApJ Letters, ApJ Supplement, or the Astronomical Journal for 2014. (Note: This offer is available to all members, including junior members.)

Best of all, if you're eligible for both benefits, you can combine them: If you pay your 2015 dues by 31 December 2013, you'll receive the 15% author-charge discount in 2015 as well!

Paper renewal notices are going out very shortly to all current members who haven't yet renewed online. Online renewals keep everyone's costs down. Please renew at Do it now, and save money on your membership and author charges!

Kevin B. Marvel
Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society

The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share our scientific understanding of the universe. We do this in a variety of ways, including publishing journals and conducting meetings. As the US has more astronomers than any other country in the world, it is likely not surprising that both our journals and our meetings are the largest and highest impact in the field. The Council and our members should be proud of this status; we all work actively to ensure that we maintain this position of leadership.

As I've explained before, organizing meetings is very complicated and expensive, especially when the gatherings are large. Cost growth over time seems unconnected with inflation and is ever-increasing. Minimizing the cost for attendees at our conferences remains a high priority for us as we plan them, but it remains a challenge to hold a non-profit scientific meeting within the for-profit world of the hospitality and conference industry. Our goal is to provide a venue for the best possible scientific communication and interaction at the lowest possible cost for our attendees, including airfares, ground-transportation costs, hotel expenses, food costs, and registration fees.

The AAS actively plans for meetings several years ahead of time. We do this because signing a contract for a conference venue far in advance can save substantial money, as does signing contracts for multiple events at the same location or at different locations managed by the same vendor. Hotels are willing to provide incentives to organizations that book ahead and/or who book several meetings in their properties because it helps regularize their revenue stream and logistical planning. This desire is an opportunity for organizations like ours.

Our selection process begins with AAS meeting staff receiving bids from locations and negotiating possible benefits for the conference, either direct benefits to meeting attendees (like free Internet access) or to the Society (like contributions to our opening or closing receptions, which redound to the membership in the form of lower registration costs). Our staff do this by interacting with venue representatives at industry events, visiting locations from time to time, and assessing new properties and venues as information becomes available.

Once an attractive possibility is identified, we present the location to the Council for their consideration and approval. Sometimes there is discussion and debate about the location, driven by consideration of the cost and/or the overall attractiveness of the location to our community. Interestingly, for example, the initial proposal for a meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, was rejected by the Council, primarily based on an assumed higher cost of airplane tickets. Subsequent discussion, informed by an online search for actual airfares, resulted in a positive vote to meet in Anchorage. That meeting in June 2012 turned out to be one of our more successful summer conferences, very much enjoyed by the attendees both scientifically and personally.

The Council has opted to have the AAS winter meeting in Washington, DC, once every four years. This provides a venue that policy makers and other government officials can attend more easily. The large number of attendees that our winter meetings now attract, the number of parallel sessions we need to schedule, the increasing square footage needed in the exhibit hall, and other concerns mandated that we leave our old location at the Marriott Wardman Park north of Dupont Circle. The only two valid options given our logistical constraints were the downtown Convention Center and nearby hotels or the new Gaylord National Harbor hotel and conference facility across the Potomac in Maryland.

The registration fee for a meeting at the Convention Center would have exceeded $800, while the Gaylord provided space and services at sufficiently lower cost to keep the registration rate below $500. Additionally, downtown DC hotels cost roughly $100 a night more than the Gaylord. Although it is certainly the case that DC room rates in general are higher than those in other parts of the country, the Council believes that, given the crucial role government plays in supporting our discipline, our meeting in DC with some regularity is important enough to burden attendees with the higher hotel cost — but not to the point of forcing an extra $100 per night on them.

Any meeting venue has aspects that are not optimal. The Gaylord isn’t smack-dab in the middle of the city, but National Harbor boasts many restaurants and other attractions that aren’t all affiliated with the hotel and convention center. Also, we’re arranging a number of transportation options to enable attendees to leave the conference venue to explore DC and its surroundings (I for one will be taking the ferry to old town Alexandria at least once during the meeting). We’re also working to arrange free transport between the Gaylord and Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

Will we meet all expectations? Likely not. However, when considering the excellent meeting facilities, the substantial benefits provided to attendees, the constraints imposed on us by our size, and our desire to meet close to Washington, DC, we’re in the best possible place. After meeting in our usual venue in Seattle, Washington, in January 2015, we will convene in two other Gaylord properties in January 2016 (Florida) and 2017 (Texas), after which we'll return to the Gaylord National Harbor in 2018.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

Are you giving a talk or putting up a poster at the 223rd AAS meeting in Washington, DC, in January? If so, have you considered whether your presentation might be of interest to the media? I'm going through all the abstracts (all 2,100+ of them!) looking for results worth featuring in the news briefings I'm organizing, but some are equivocal and don't reveal whether the findings being presented are incremental, paradigm-shifting, or somewhere in-between.

Please have a look at the article "What Makes an Astronomy Story Newsworthy?" If you think your DC presentation should be considered for inclusion in a press conference, discuss your findings with the public-information officer (PIO) at your institution who covers astronomy. If you're not sure who that person is, look on your institution's website under "media relations," "press," or "news."

Presenters and PIOs often ask about the AAS embargo policy. It's online. If your PIO agrees that you have something newsworthy on your hands and that you're free to speak to reporters about it at the January meeting, ask him or her to contact me by email or by phone at +1 202-328-2010 x116 by Monday, 2 December 2013. Thanks for your help!

Gina Brissenden
Education & Outreach Coordinator
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

The Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize — established through the support of his father, John Doxsey, and other friends, family, and colleagues — provides graduate students and postdocs within one year of receiving or receipt of their PhD a monetary prize to enable the oral presentation of their dissertation research at a winter meeting of the AAS. The first awards were made for the 217th AAS meeting in Seattle, Washington, in January 2011.

More than 130 dissertation abstracts were received for the upcoming 223rd AAS meeting in Washington, DC, and nearly 80% of them were entered into the 2014 Doxsey Prize competition. Choosing only a small number of these to win the prize from among so many worthy applications was not easy.

The judges selected 10 Doxsey Prize winners and 4 honorable mentions. All will receive complimentary registration for the DC meeting. The prize winners will also receive a modest stipend to help pay their travel expenses. Winners and honorable mentions came from a diverse group of institutions and geographical locations.

Following are the 2014 Doxsey Prize winners and honorable mentions — please tell them congratulations if you see them at the meeting!

Winners (PhD Institution)

  • Edmond Cheung (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz)
  • Bart Dunlap (Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
  • Courtney Epstein (Ohio State Univ.)
  • Chat Hull (Univ. of California, Berkeley)
  • Jedidah Isler (Yale Univ.)
  • John Jardel (Univ. of Texas)
  • Jamie Lomax (Univ. of Denver)
  • Ferah Munshi (Univ. of Washington)
  • Timothy Rodigas (Univ. of Arizona)
  • Dan Sirbu (Princeton Univ.)

Honorable Mentions (PhD Institution)

  • Stacey Alberts (Univ. of Massachusetts)
  • Katherine Follette (Univ. of Arizona)
  • Michael Pagano (Arizona State Univ.)
  • Chalence Safranek-Shrader (Univ. of Texas, Austin)

Much gratitude goes out to this year’s volunteer Doxsey Prize Judges for their earnest efforts:

  • Jennifer Bartlett, US Naval Observatory
  • Jennifer Hoffman, Univ. of Denver
  • Djazia Ladjal, Univ. of Denver
  • Dan Schwartz, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • David Silva, AURA/NRAO
  • Jay Strader, Michigan State Univ.
Joshua H. Shiode
John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

The indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester (or sequestration) began in 2013. That first round of cuts included more than $0.5 billion from basic science research budgets at NASA, NSF, and the DOE; more cuts are scheduled to reduce budgets each year through 2021.

The AAS Executive Office wants to hear how these cuts have affected our members. Any and all information gathered by the Society will be used completely anonymously in any communications our public-policy staff might undertake with government leaders.

To respond, please use our online form. You’ll need to be logged in as an AAS member to submit the form, so if you haven’t already signed in, please click the “Sign in” link in the top right corner of the page.

Thanks for your feedback!

Jonathan E. Grindlay
Harvard-Smithsonian, CfA

The second data release (DR2) for the Digital Access to a Sky Century @ Harvard (DASCH) is now available from the project website. DASCH provide images and fully-processed astrometry (~0.5–3 arcsec, depending on plate series) and photometry (RMS ~0.1–0.15 mag) from the digitized Harvard plates for the full century (1885–1992) of coverage. Lightcurves (~500–2,000 points, typically) and magnitudes are readily available for each resolved object, with limiting magnitudes typically B = 14–17 depending on plate series and exposure times.

DR2 covers galactic latitude b = 75°–60° as well as improved data processing and access to DR1 (b = 90°–75°) and the five initial Development Fields listed on the website. Each DR covers the full range of galactic longitude (l = 0°–360°) in the given galactic latitude band; see the website for the DR1 to DR12 sequence planned. DR1 and DR2 together cover 2,686 deg² from 27,193 plates, or only about 6% of the estimated total. Data from an additional 17,896 digitized plates of the five Development Fields are also part of the ~90 Tb of data now online.

Improved data-access capabilities are now provided: lightcurve data and images for up to 10 objects at a time can be downloaded either individually (in several formats) or as a single tar file. The number of objects per download may be increased if server loads allow, but our intent is to enable rapid (~10 sec) access to any given (or few) objects of interest. Improved astrometry is now available, with recent inclusion of UCAC4 proper motions for the given plate epoch for both full plate calibration objects (from the APASS or GSC2.3.2 or KIC catalogs) as well as the object of interest. This results in fewer nearby “DASCH objects,” which are either new variables or (more likely) are not properly matched to a catalog object, and are usually due to either PSF issues or [previously] astrometry or proper-motion errors. Plate defects are still not totally filtered out but can be eliminated in lightcurve plots by clicking on “Hide: plate defect." The APASS calibration for DASCH provides the best photometry (and color corrections, given its B, V, g, r, i filters) and will soon (we hope) be upgraded to DR8 that will improve sky coverage as well as multiple measures of each star.

We project the DR3 (b = 60°–45°) release for April 2014. With increasing sky coverage per Δb = 15° release as we approach galactic latitude b = 15°, the number of plates will increase over DR3–DR5, and then again over the southern galactic cap (DR6–DR10) and finally the galactic plane (DR11–DR12). Continued NSF support in our new grant will now enable more scanning and plate-processing staff to be hired to achieve the original production processing goal of ~400 plates/day and enable the full-sky DASCH database to be online by 2017.

DASCH is grateful for the support provided by NSF, now with grant AST-1313370. Coauthors on this report are Alison Doane, Edward Los, George Miller, Robert Simcoe, and David Sliski, all at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Roc M. Cutri
Caltech, IPAC

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) announce the AllWISE data release.

The AllWISE program combines data from WISE cryogenic and NEOWISE post-cryogenic survey phases to form the most comprehensive view of the mid-infrared sky currently available. By combining the data from two complete sky coverage epochs in an advanced data-processing system, AllWISE has generated new products that have enhanced photometric sensitivity and accuracy and improved astrometric precision compared with the earlier WISE all-sky data release. Exploiting the six-month baseline between the WISE sky-coverage epochs enables AllWISE to measure source motions for the first time and to compute improved flux-variability statistics.

A quick guide to the AllWISE data release, data-access instructions, and supporting documentation are available on the AllWISE website. Access to the WISE data products is available via the online services of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive.

AllWISE makes use of data from WISE, which is a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, and NEOWISE, which is a project of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology. WISE and NEOWISE are funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Keivan Stassun
Vanderbilt University

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV (SDSS-IV) collaboration invites applications for institutional membership as we ramp up toward launch in July 2014 of three simultaneous photometric and spectroscopic surveys of the northern and southern skies at the Apache Point Observatory (APO) and Las Campanas Observatory. This is an opportunity to gain access to a cutting-edge data set from the most effective wide-field spectroscopic telescope in existence. It has been consistently ranked as one of the top astronomy collaborations as measured by numbers of publications and may be of particular interest to departments without other guaranteed telescope access and/or individual junior faculty now starting up their research groups. Expressions of interest are welcome anytime, but we seek to establish the core SDSS-IV membership by February 2014.

Principal contacts are Michael Blanton, SDSS4 Director, and Keivan Stassun, SDSS4 Executive Committee Chair.

The SDSS-IV collaboration currently has more than 40 confirmed member institutions in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Additional details about the project and procedures for joining can be found on the SDSS-IV website and are briefly summarized below.

Membership is available at the full institutional participation level, the associate level for individal faculty, or groups of institutions (participation groups).  This is an opportunity to be a full part of the survey from the start, including opportunities for finalizing design and targeting decisions, full access to proprietary data products, participation in any of the key science projects, opportunities to propose ancillary science projects, opportunities for collaboration with a large international group of other leading scientists, postdocs, and students, and opportunities for mentoring student research interns and for outreach including underrepresented minorities and minority-serving institutions.

The three main simultaneous surveys will operate for four to six years, beginning in July 2014:

The APO Galaxy Evolution Experiment 2 (APOGEE-2) will use high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy to explore the formation history of the Milky Way using the "archeological" record provided by hundreds of thousands of its individual stars. We will map the kinematic and chemical patterns of stars using observations from the Apache Point site and from the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, obtaining a complete view of our galaxy's history. Simultaneously, APOGEE will measure the abundance of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and iron in planet-hosting stars, to study the role that these elements play in the formation of terrestrial planets.

The Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS) will precisely measure the expansion history of the universe throughout 80% of cosmic history, back to when the Universe was less than three billion years old, and improve constraints on the nature of dark energy, the most mysterious experimental result in modern physics. As part of the same survey it will conduct the first systematic spectroscopic study of variable stars, yielding a critical resource for the physical interpretation of sources discovered in time-domain imaging surveys such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

Mapping Nearby Galaxies at APO (MaNGA): Unlike previous surveys that measured light only at the centers of target galaxies, MaNGA will bundle sets of optical fibers into tightly-packed arrays, enabling spectral measurements across the face of each of 10,000 nearby galaxies. MaNGA's goal is to understand the "life cycle" of present-day galaxies from imprinted clues of their birth and assembly, through their ongoing growth via star formation and merging, to their death from quenching at late times.

Cost to Join
Full Institutional Membership includes an unlimited number of participants from the institution and requires a total contribution of $1.05 million. To accommodate institutions that cannot commit to a full membership, Associate Institutional Membership includes data rights for a specified number of Slots at $210,000 per slot. Finally, multiple individuals and/or institutions may join together as a Participation Group. Payments may be distributed over a five-year payment schedule.