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From the Executive Office

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 13:15

I don’t know if it is just me, but the pace of activities in the AAS offices has seemingly ramped up significantly in recent years, reaching a peak this summer. We have so many engaged leaders doing so much and so many big efforts under way, it is a challenge for me just to stay in touch with them all and manage the email flow. This is great, because it means we are doing more to achieve our mission — repeat it with me now: "To enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe." The downside is I’ve developed calluses on my fingers from typing so much email!

The Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy, under the new and able leadership of past Past President Debbie Elmegreen, will soon be meeting for a strategic-planning exercise and discussion of how to make our public-policy efforts more proactive. I look forward to the results of this activity because with two highly qualified staff members dedicated to public policy, some resources to bring to bear, and the engaged participation of a cadre of experienced volunteers we can truly expand our impact in DC. Just recently Josh Shiode, our John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow, spearheaded an effort to get more than 70 organizations to sign on to a letter advocating positive changes to legislation that would modify the conference-travel restrictions on federal employees and contractors. Although legislators (some, anyway) know the value that scientific conferences bring to invested taxpayer research dollars, they also hate the optics of perceived "boondoggle" trips, such as the GSA fiasco that led to the imposition of the travel restrictions. We hope this letter will bring about positive change and are continuing to work the issue.

The AAS is preparing for the IAU General Assembly next August. In just one year, the world’s astronomers will be gathering in Honolulu for the 29th General Assembly. Registration will go live in early September. The scientific program has been established, and we are working hand-in-hand with the IAU and the Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu to carry out the best GA ever. However, we cannot have a successful meeting without your participation. Please take a minute to review the scientific sessions on the IAU website and soon the GA website and consider attending and submitting an abstract to the wide range of Focus Meetings and Symposia available. (Abstract submission will also go live in September.) Please note: You do not have to be an IAU member to attend the conference. All are welcome and encouraged to participate. For US astronomers, we do encourage you to become an IAU member and to fully participate in the range of activities of the IAU through its divisions, commissions, and working groups, which are undergoing a restructuring and refocusing this year. Applications will be available in late September and will be widely announced.

We are continuing our internal office-efficiency improvements. During the last year we’ve used some external consultants to help us with communication and teamwork. Now we’re putting our lessons learned into practice. We have just completed a complete calendar review for the coming 12 months, looking for conflicts and opportunities for making things more efficient. We soon will be reviewing some of our most complex internal processes and developing joint solutions to improving them. It will be a fun and valuable process for us all.

Coming up this fall will be the establishment of our ebooks effort, ongoing strategy development by our Journals Task Force, the astronomy-department-chairs meeting, the fall ExCom and Division leadership meeting, the DPS conference in Tucson, planning for upcoming SPD, HEAD, and DDA meetings, planning for the next AASTCS conference on extreme solar systems, and a whole range of expected (and unexpected!) activities and opportunities. It is fun keeping busy when you know that the impact of your work is clear and valued. This is the main reason all of us at the AAS Executive Office work so hard on your behalf and the reason we all love our jobs so much. Have a great end of summer — and don’t forget to turn off the computer and go outside and look up!

Kevin B. Marvel
Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society
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