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Kevin B. Marvel
Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society

The Society recently undertook an exercise meant to enable strategic thinking about the future of our scientific publishing enterprise. As you probably know, the Society owns and operates the Astrophysical Journal (including ApJ Letters and ApJ Supplement) and the Astronomical Journal, four of the most important publications in the astronomical and astrophysical sciences. Although we did not found these journals, we've been publishing them for more than 70 years. We operate them with the strategic goal of serving the scientific community by keeping costs down, maintaining a robust business model, and enhancing them technologically when necessary. For example, our journals were among the first to go online, and we were one of the first physical-science journal publishers to modify our proprietary period downward to 12 months, the de facto requirement recently imposed by OSTP.

The world of publishing, and the world of communication and entertainment generally, has undergone a revolution, and change remains rampant. Publishers are trying new experiments in providing and producing content. New business models are being tried, and some seem to be working. Even information consumers are switching to new modes of consumption, utilizing portable devices much more than was predicted to stay in touch with friends, access information, and facilitate their daily life activities.

By setting aside time to think about possible future scenarios and their impact on our journals, the participants in the Journals Futures Workshop, held in April in Dallas, Texas, produced an insightful report for the Publications Board and Council to consider. Although as an organization we have thought strategically — at least short term — about our publishing activities, we have never thought about them on a 10- to 20-year timeline. Doing so was a highly valuable activity, resulting in thoughtful new ideas, criticisms of our current status quo, and multiple visions for a bright future for our publishing activity.

Although we do not derive funds from our journals for ongoing Society activities like many organizations do, our journals do have to operate as a business, ensuring that the costs of their production are covered, that we have resources to ensure their long-term availability and technological enhancement, and that they have adequate reserves to weather challenges over time. I am happy to say that the journals are in great financial shape right now, with reserves of roughly 1.5 times annual operating expense and adequate additional reserves to ensure the curation of our archival resources. Costs of production have actually dropped and, as we are in good financial health, we are rolling these savings back out to our authors and to our members in 2014. If approved by Council, the author charges for text will drop by $5 per digital quantum (resulting in roughly $150 savings for a typical paper). Additionally, AAS members who renew before the end of the current calendar year will receive a one-time coupon for a discount on their personal share of author charges for a paper in the subsequent year. This coupon will represent a tangible benefit to our members and incentivize timely renewal of membership, which saves on administrative costs.

To ensure better service to our members and to expand our capabilities to achieve the goals set for the Society by Council, we have undertaken substantial staff training this past year. Beginning with communication and team-building exercises for the managers and now including all staff, these efforts are having a significant impact. We are operating more like a team and less like a group of aligned individuals. We have expanded our communication skills and ability to resolve conflicts and solve problems. Tooling up our staff capabilities is fundamental to our long-term success, as is making sure we have the right number of people and the right people on board.

Currently we are recruiting for three positions: the John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow, an additional IT staff member, and an abstract administrator. When these slots are filled, we will be fully staffed for the first time in a while, further enabling us to achieve our goals. With the growth of the number of AAS staff over the past seven years and presaged by our now retired Society secretary John Graham, we are moving into new office space. Thankfully, space was found in the same building we reside in now, reducing downtime, cost, and confused mail delivery. We will soon be located on the third floor of the AGU building, Suite 300. The buildout of the space will conclude in July, and we anticipate a smooth transition to our new space later this summer.

Finally, I am grateful to the Council for permission to take a short break from my duties, a kind of mini-sabbatical, beginning on July 1 of this year. Motivated by several recent studies in the non-profit sector, I will take six months to drop the day-to-day activities of my job and reconnect with the scientific community. I will teach a science policy course at the University of Arizona and a non-profit management course at New Mexico State University. I'll also spend time undertaking scientific research and fulfilling a life-long desire to craft a biography of the famous 19th-century astronomer F. W. A. Argelander, author and motivator of the Bonner Durchmusterung star catalog. I will be back in the saddle, happily, prior to the 223rd AAS meeting in Washington, DC, in January 2014.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

At a press conference on 28 May in Hong Kong, the Shaw Prize Foundation announced the Shaw Laureates for 2013. The Shaw Prize consists of three annual prizes: Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences, each bearing a monetary award of $1 million. The presentation ceremony is scheduled for Monday, 23 September 2013.

The Shaw Prize in Astronomy is awarded in equal shares to Professor Steven A. Balbus, University of Oxford, and Professor John F. Hawley, University of Virginia, for their discovery and study of the magnetorotational instability and for demonstrating that this instability leads to turbulence and is a viable mechanism for angular-momentum transport in astrophysical accretion disks.

Accretion is a widespread phenomenon in astrophysics. It plays a key role in star formation, mass transfer in stellar binaries, and the growth of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. Sources powered by accretion can even outshine those of similar mass powered by nuclear fusion.

Accreting matter typically carries angular momentum, which causes it to flatten into a disk that orbits the central body. It was recognized long ago that disk accretion requires a mechanism for the outward transfer of angular momentum. Moreover, astronomical observations had established that many accretion powered sources are surrounded by disks. However, for many years the mechanism enabling the outward transfer of angular momentum remained elusive. All this was changed by Balbus and Hawley. Their discovery and elucidation of the magnetorotational instability (MRI) provides what to this day remains the only viable mechanism for the outward transfer of angular momentum in accretion disks.

John F. Hawley was born in 1959 in Annapolis, Maryland, and is currently Associate Dean for the Sciences, VITA Professor, and Chair of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Virginia, USA. He obtained his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1984 and was Bantrell Fellow at the California Institute of Technology from 1984 to 1987. He has been associated with the Department of Astronomy at the University of Virginia as since 1987, first as Assistant Professor (1987-1993), then as Associate Professor (1993-1999), and from 1999 as Professor of Astronomy.

Established under the auspices of Mr. Run Run Shaw, the Prize honors individuals, regardless of race, nationality, gender and religious belief, who have achieved significant breakthrough in academic and scientific research or applications and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind.

Congratulations to Steven Balbus and especially to AAS member John Hawley!

[ Adapted from the Shaw Prize Foundation website. ]

Ralf-Ingo Kaiser
University of Hawaii

The recently established Astrochemistry Subdivision of the Division of Physical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (ACS)  invites members of the American Astronomical Society, of the AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD), and of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) to join the ACS Astrochemistry Subdivision as an Affiliate Member. Please complete a division application form and email or fax (614-447-3671) it to ACS Member Services. Note that the PHYS annual membership dues are $15, which should be remitted with the form. Please indicate that you would like to join the Astrochemistry Subdivision.

The Astrochemistry Subdivision provides an interdisciplinary "home" for individuals interested in astrochemically related research via experiments, theory, observations, space missions, and modeling. Astrochemistry is the study of the abundances and chemical reactions of atoms, molecules, and ions and how they interact with radiation in the gas phase and in the condensed phase in solar systems and in the interstellar medium (ISM) leading to the formation and breaking of chemical bonds. Astrochemistry presents both an interdisciplinary and a multidisciplinary field with ties to the traditional disciplines chemistry, planetary science, chemical biology, physics, and astronomy.

Here chemistry, defined as the change of matter, is vital in unraveling the chemical and astrobiological evolution of matter on the microscopic (elementary chemical reactions) and macroscopic (planets, moons, interstellar medium) levels. Since the present composition of each macroscopic environment reflects the matter from which it was formed and the chemical processes that have changed the chemical nature since the origin, a detailed investigation of the processes altering the chemical composition of the pristine environment is critical to rationalize its contemporary makeup and to understand its origin and chemistry. Astrochemistry exploits molecular tracers to rationalize the origin and chemical evolution of the interstellar medium and of solar systems by combining laboratory studies (chemical dynamics and kinetics, spectroscopy), theoretical chemistry, astrochemical modeling, astronomical observations, and space missions. This work requires a concerted interdisciplinary relationship between chemists, physicists, astronomers, chemical biologists, and planetary scientists.

We would also like to thank those of you who supported the establishment of the Astrochemistry Subdivision! We hope that this creates a thriving Astrochemistry Subdivision that is able to serve the community.

Roc M. Cutri
Caltech, IPAC

The 2013 NEOWISE Post-Cryo Release consists of over 900,000 3.4 and 4.6 micron images and a database of over 7.3 billion source detections extracted from those images, acquired by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE; Wright et al. 2010 AJ, 140, 1868) between 29 September 2010 and 1 February 2011 after the satellite's solid hydrogen cryogen was completely exhausted.  During this 125 day period, known as the NEOWISE Post-Cryo survey phase, the telescope and payload warmed to approximately 73.5 K, and the 3.4 and 4.6 micron detectors continued to operate with nearly the same sensitivity as in the full cryogenic mission phase with only a small increase in the number of high noise pixels.  WISE obtained multiple, independent observations of approximately 70% of the sky during the Post-Cryo phase, completing a survey of the inner Main Asteroid Belt and a second coverage epoch of the inertial sky.  WISE Post-Cryo survey operations and science data processing are funded by the NASA Planetary Division as part of the NEOWISE program (Mainzer et al. 2011, ApJ, 731, 53) and as part of a NEOO program grant.

The 2013 NEOWISE Post-Cryo Data Release supersedes the NEOWISE Post-Cryo Preliminary Release made in July 2012.  For the 2013  Release, the Post-Cryo data have been completely reprocessed using updated calibrations and reduction algorithms that are optimized for the changing characteristics of the WISE telescope and detectors temperatures increased during the Post-Cryo phase.

The NEOWISE Post-Cryo Release products provide the best individual flux and position measurements for solar system objects that were identified by the NEOWISE Moving Object Pipeline, and they are a resources for studying time-dependent properties of inertial sources found in the WISE All-Sky Release Catalog.  The All-Sky Release remains the best compendium of inertial sources of mid-infrared emission over the entire sky.

A quick guide to the NEOWISE Post-Cryo Release data products, data access instructions and supporting documentation is available on the index page. Access to the WISE data products is available via the on-line services of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive.

Research using NEOWISE and WISE data products is eligible for support under the NASA ROSES Planetary Mission and Astrophysics Data Analysis Programs.

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

Laura Trouille
Director of Citizen Science
Northwestern University & The Adler Planetarium

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

Below is our interview with Andy Cantrell, an astronomer turned math teacher. After his first postdoc, he worked with a recruiting agency for private schools to find his new position. He describes his working environment as 'warm and supportive, and extremely family friendly'. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every first and third Thursday of the month.

What field do you currently work in?

What is the job title for your current position?
Mathematics teacher.

What is the name of your company/organization/institution?
The Blake School

What city, state, and country do you live in? Work in?
Minneapolis, MN

What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received?

What is/was your ultimate/final academic position in astronomy/physics?
1st postdoc.

What has been your career path since you completed your degree?

  • 2009-10: Postdoc with C. Bailyn at Yale.
  • 2010-11: Lived in Japan, where my wife was doing dissertation research.
  • 2011- present: Mathematics teacher at The Blake School.

What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia?
The most important factor was simply that I loved teaching and wanted that to be my primary job. I also wanted a career path which would allow me to settle down earlier and give me more time at home with my family.

If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time?

What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?
The depth and breadth of my experience with math and its applications has allowed me take students places that most calculus classes never go; for example we end the class with an exploration of the heat equation and its connections to analysis. My teaching experience as a graduate student, and the admirable mentoring I got from Charles Bailyn, was also invaluable in setting me up for a career teaching.

What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications?

Describe a typical day at work.
I teach four classes a day, with the rest of the day spent either preparing materials for class or meeting with students or my colleagues. My classes are generally fairly freeform; I let myself follow up on ideas suggested by students, while also making sure we get through the core material of the class. The students I teach are smart, lively and fun; I often find myself disbelieving that anyone would actually pay me to spend the day talking about math with such a lively and interested bunch of people.

Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.
I found the job through Carney, Sandoe & Associates, a major recruitment agency for private schools. They were extremely helpful and patient in working with me to find a job which was a good fit for my skills and background.

What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?
I wish more advisors had real respect for positions outside academia. Even if they don't feel comfortable recommending or discussing positions outside their field, they should do whatever they can to mitigate the stigma often attached with leaving academia. I was incredibly lucky to have Charles Bailyn as an advisor, and he was completely supportive of my transition to teaching. I wish more of my peers had the same support that I did in making this transition.

How many hours do you work in a week?
40-45 hours

What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?
Very Satisfied.

I get to teach fabulous, fun, smart students; I have lively colleagues and excellent support from administrators; I get to teach math (and its applications) in the way I want, with full freedom both to shape my syllabus and to plan individual classes. Coming to work is a pleasure, and having full evenings with my family is also a pleasure.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable?
The most enjoyable aspect of my job is simply the interactions I have with my students: my enthusiasm rubs off on them and it is just a joy every day to see them getting fired up about math. They are also wonderfully good humored, and always make me laugh. Faculty meetings are among my most and my least favorite parts of the job: they are often inspiring discussions of how we as a community can best serve our students, but they also can drag on if the issues under discussion don't really grab the community of teachers. We have some paperwork to be done every year, documenting our progress on various fronts. This is probably my least favorite part of the job, but it is a small part of the job and not too objectionable.

What do you like most about your working environment? Dislike most?
The working environment is warm and supportive, and extremely family friendly. I enjoy being part of a community which cares so much about looking after the students in its care.

What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?
When I started my current job, I was given the opportunity to completely restructure the calculus curriculum to implement some ideas I had about how the class could be better structured to present calculus as a coherent body of knowledge. I was given completely free rein and had a wonderful year developing materials and watching kids (who mostly started out the year nervous about math) really light up with excitement as it all started to make sense.

In my second year of teaching, I was given the chance to apply the same methods to teach the AP class, and it has been a delight to fit all the AP topics within the structure of my curriculum. I've really enjoyed developing my own approach to calculus and am very pleased with how the students have responded to it.

How satisfied are you with your work-life balance in your current job?
Very Satisfied.

I have a four month old right now, and there are certainly days when I'd like to just stay home with her all day. That said, I could hardly me happier with being able to do meaningful work and still have many hours a day to spend with her.

How family-friendly is your current position?
Very family friendly.

Everyone involved with schools understands the importance and the challenge of raising children, and they have been extremely supportive of me after the birth of our first child.

What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?
Surround yourself by with people who believe in you and support what you want to do. The rest takes care of itself.

Do you still interact with people who work (directly) in astronomy and/or are you still involved in astronomy in some way?
Yes. I have been working with one of my high school students on a small research project which we plan to submit to the ApJ after the end of this school year. I have also sustained some collaborations with people working on projects I had been involved with before. Its been good to see these papers come out and I've been glad to have my name on a couple papers since leaving the field.

There is a worry among those considering careers outside of astronomy or academia that you can't "go back" and/or that you feel that you betrayed advisors, friends, colleagues. Have you felt this way?
No. While my advisor was extremely supportive of my transition, some of my other collaborators were bewildered by my decision to leave the field. Some have treated me as an outcast, but others have been happy to have my input and work with me if and when I have time. I chose my advisor based partly on his interest in teaching, and I feel very grateful that I had his support as I made this transition.

What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?
Cooking, birding, ceramic art, recreational mathematics

Can we include your email address for people who may want to contact you directly about your specific career route?