5 November 2014

Cast Your Vote for IAU Commission Reform

Richard Fienberg

Richard Fienberg, AAS Press Officer

This announcement is posted on behalf of IAU General Secretary Thierry Montmerle:

Based on the response to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Call for Proposals for Commissions, we are organizing electronic voting as an expression of interest of the community for the Commissions proposed in the Letters of Intent (LoIs).

This announcement has four purposes:

  1. to give you your voting instructions,
  2. to give the context and motivations for the vote,
  3. to explain the voting options, and
  4. to recall the next steps in the Commission Reform procedure.

Voting Instructions

We invite IAU members to participate in expressing interest in Commission Reform (Deadline: 31 December 2014) via the Mi-Voice platform. If you are an IAU member eligible to vote, you should have received a personalized email message from the IAU General Secretary with the unique voting code you'll need to cast your vote. If you did not receive such a message and think you should have, please check your spam filter and, if necessary, contact the IAU Secretariat.

You may vote for 0 Commission up to a maximum of 3 Commissions by checking the boxes next to each choice. You may submit your choices right away, or you may click "Save" after selecting only 1 or 2 Commissions, then return later to choose a 2nd or 3rd if you wish. However, please note that this does not enter any votes — it simply saves your choice(s) for you to submit later. If you choose the "Save" option, please make sure you return to complete your submission and cast your vote.

Context and Motivations for the Vote: Toward a New IAU

Reference documents:

First and foremost, the number of LoIs received (52), compared to the number of current Commissions (40), demonstrates wide support of the community for Commission Reform.

Second, pending a deeper analysis (which everyone is encouraged to do using the reference documents), it is possible to draw very clear preliminary conclusions, mainly based on the proposal titles. To summarize:

Evolution of the current Commissions (in round numbers):

  • ⅓ will not be renewed
  • ⅓ are proposing significant changes (different titles)
  • ⅓ are proposing minor changes (same titles)

Proposed Commissions:

  • 22 new (i.e., not replacing current) Commissions
  • 18 new topics (in several cases the same topics are proposed by different groups)

Altogether, adding the new Commissions and those undergoing significant changes, we obtain 36 LOIs proposing evolution out of 52 received (69%).

It is clear that the IAU resulting from Commission Reform after the General Assembly in Honolulu in August 2015 will be scientifically very different from the current IAU, demonstrating the impressive vitality and will for change of the IAU member community.

Need for an Expression of Interest and Voting Options

Since, for a long time, affiliation to a Commission was a condition to become an IAU member, and since the current ones will disappear in favor of the new structure, their membership can be expected to be completely overhauled.

Because of this strong evolution, in membership as well as in topics, there is a need for a selection of the proposed Commissions (by the Division Presidents and the IAU Executive Committee; see below), based on interest of the community and scientific relevance.

Consequently we are seeking an expression of interest from the community, in the form of an indicative electronic vote for the proposed Commissions, as described in their LoIs. This voting can also be considered as a preview of the sign-up vote for the new Commissions following their approval by the IAU Executive Committee next April (see below).

The results of the vote will also be helpful for proposers, who will have an idea of the impact of their LoIs on the community and may take it into account in the preparation of their full proposals (due 31 Jan. 2015; see below).

Here it is useful to recall two important points under the new "dynamic" Commission structure:

  • Commissions need not cover the whole scientific area of a Division, to leave room for future evolution.
  • Commissions are temporary structures (typically 6-9 years), subject to periodic reviews.

In view of the vote, it is also important to keep these points in mind:

  • Adherence to a Commission is not mandatory but indicates a will to be actively engaged in the work of the Commission.
  • Members are allowed to vote for a maximum of three commissions to keep their roles focused (note that this is the number required in the past to join the IAU).
  • Members will be able to join or leave Commissions at any time by informing the IAU Secretariat.

Therefore, the options for the indicative voting are as follows:

  • Number of Commissions to choose: from 0 (meaning "I'm interested but I don't want to choose now") to 3 (maximum)
  • A vote of 0 is final, i.e., no voting is possible later
  • A vote for 1, 2, or 3 Commissions, which becomes definitive once submitted (but partial voting may be saved as explained in the instructions above).

Note that a vote of 0 is not equivalent to not voting; 0 is like a blank vote in a political election, while not voting is counted as "abstain." The number of 0 votes will give a measure of the interest of the community in Commission Reform, even among those IAU members who don't wish to express interest in any particular Commission(s) at this stage.

Partial results of the vote will be periodically posted on the IAU website.

Apart from the vote, comments of general interest related to Commission Reform can still be posted on the Forum.

Next Steps

For completeness, here is a reminder of the relevant next steps and deadlines of the implementation of Commission Reform:

  • 31 Dec. 2014: Close of the indicative voting
  • 31 Jan. 2015: Deadline for submission of the final proposals for Commissions
  • 31 Mar. 2015: Recommendations sent to the IAU Executive Committee
  • 20 Apr. 2015: Approval and posting of the new set of Commissions by the IAU Executive Committee
  • 30 Apr. 2015: Opening of electronic sign-up for the new Commissions
  • 15 May 2015: Start of the electoral process for the Organizing Committees of the new Commissions
  • 15 Aug. 2015: The new Commissions are in place