2 June 2022

AAS 240 Public Policy-Related Sessions

Julie Davis

Julie Davis American Physical Society (APS)

With AAS 240 just 10 days away, the Public Policy Team is looking forward to returning for our first in-person meeting in two years. This meeting promises to be jam-packed with amazing science content and happy reunions with our friends and colleagues, but we hope you will take some time to attend some of the policy-related sessions too! In this brief post we highlight sessions where you can learn about AAS policy work and that of the federal agencies who enable your science. Many topics have intersections with policy, ranging from DEI issues to the future of Arecibo Observatory to open access data and publishing. Perhaps most importantly, this meeting will be the first since the release of the new decadal surveys for Astronomy & Astrophysics as well as Planetary Science & Astrobiology, and many sessions will touch on this issue.


Monday, June 13th


AAS Policy Advocacy for the Decadal Surveys

Pasadena Convention Center, Conference Room 102

10:00 AM PT – 11:30 AM PT

Join the AAS Public Policy Team for a panel discussion on the importance of advocacy for realizing the priorities of the decadal surveys. Panelists include Astro2020 chair Dr. Robert Kennicutt (Texas A&M); incoming AAS President Kelsey Johnson (UVA); Director of JPL, Dr. Laurie Leshin; and Deputy Director of the Community Science and Data Center at NOIRLab, Dr. Dara Norman. The panel will be moderated by the chair of the AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy, Dr. Joel Bregman (U.Michigan).


Diversification In Astronomy & Astrophysics At NASA GSFC

Pasadena Convention Center, Conference Room 101

10:00 AM PT - 11:30 AM PT

This session will discuss current efforts towards diversifying undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and early-career opportunities within the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. A reflection on the personification of these efforts will be discussed, challenging the current status quo on how diversity, equity, and inclusion are defined. In addition to these discussions, this session will provide an opportunity for participants to ask panelists how they can craft their NASA journey.


NSF's NOIRLab Town Hall

Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom C & Virtual

12:45 PM PT - 1:45 PM PT

NSF’s NOIRLab is the US national center for ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy. At this panel discussion Town Hall, we will describe new capabilities at our facilities, our plans for the future, and our response to the Decadal Survey recommendations. Come share your thoughts on how NOIRLab can best serve the astronomical community in the future.


NASA Town Hall

Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom D & Virtual

12:45 PM PT - 1:45 PM PT

Senior representatives from NASA's Science Mission Directorate and Astrophysics Division will discuss NASA’s science program and outlook. Topics will include highlights of operating missions, progress of missions in development and implementation, NASA's continuing response to the 2020 Decadal Survey, the status of the research program, impacts of the pandemic, and anticipated opportunities for both nonflight basic research awards (grants) and flight mission investigations.


Addressing the Impacts of Satellite Constellations on Astronomy:

The Pathway Forward

1:00 PM PT – 3:00 PM PT

Sheraton Pasadena Hotel, Justines Ballroom & Virtual

Join the AAS Committee on Light Pollution, Radio Interference, and Space Debris for a summary and updates on the issue of satellite constellations and astronomy. For the first hour, hear about on-going work, including the new IAU Center for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference. There will be brief coverage of AAS policy actions and advocacy tips for members, along with results from a membership survey. After a brief break, there will be break-out discussion groups on various aspects of the issue.

After the 2020 World-Wide Protests:

Progress and Failures of Implementing Substantial Change in Astronomy

Pasadena Convention Center, Hall C

6:00 PM PT - 7:30 PM PT

In the wake of social unrest in 2020, the AAS, NASA, and many departments of physics and astronomy released statements promising to work towards making astronomy more equitable, inclusive, and to address anti-Black racism in the field. A pioneering force in this paradigm shift was Ashley Walker, who worked with the grad student-run publication Astrobites to publish a series of highlights called #BlackInAstro. Subsequently, we celebrated the inaugural #BlackInAstroWeek, Ashley's passion project, on the week of Juneteenth 2020.

The #BlackInAstro series localized the national zeitgeist to the field of astronomy, and spurred many of the aforementioned statements and promises once Black astronomers shared candid reflections of their experiences. Fittingly, on Juneteenth 2021, Astrobites published the first of a two part article investigating the fidelity of institutions in our field to the promises made after 2020's unrest and momentum. As the article highlighted, often efforts to make substantial change are sidelined by superficial actions.

How have these institutions fared? What actions have been taken? Are the lives of people who belong to marginalized groups any different? Is there a notable decrease in anti-Blackness in academic institutions? In this splinter session, the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy presents a discussion of progress made in the astronomy community as well as the remaining obstacles. Seeing as though this is our first in-person meeting since the initial #Strike4BlackLives and the most recent relevant Astrobites piece a full year later, we would be remiss not to hold this space to collectively review the last two years’ events. A panel of professionals and students will contribute their experiences, and any writers of the Astrobites article present at the conference are welcome to participate and discuss the process of creating this piece.

Finally, we discuss evidence-based recommendations for implementing systematic reform. We present findings from prior reports including those of TEAMUP and SEA+Change and develop action items for the AAS community in the context of where we are now as a field.


NRAO Town Hall

6:30 PM PT - 8:00 PM PT

Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom C & Virtual

This Town Hall will inform the AAS membership about the status of science, science operations, and development programs at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). An opening reception will be followed by a presentation that will update the membership regarding: (a) scientific opportunities and technical development at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA); (b) recent science results from across the community and the Observatory, including the VLA Sky Survey (VLASS); and (c) scientific and technical planning for future radio astronomy facilities, including a next generation Very Large Array (ngVLA). The NRAO Town Hall will include time for discussion and answering audience questions.


Tuesday, June 14th

Plenary Lecture: Thomas Zurbuchen (Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate)

Pasadena Convention Center, Hall C & Virtual

11:40 AM PT - 12:30 PM PT

Abstract TBD


Astro2020 Decadal Town Hall

Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom C

12:45 PM PT - 1:45 PM PT

Hear from the chairs of the Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey, Drs. Robert Kennicutt and Fiona Harrison. Learn about the recommendations for the next decade of astronomy and beyond, and ask your questions!


STScI Town Hall

Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom D

12:45 PM PT - 1:45 PM PT

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) serves the astronomical community through the operation of multiple NASA flagship missions including Hubble, JWST, and Roman, the development of advanced data and science archives, including Kepler and TESS, and the dissemination of astronomical information to the broadest public audiences. Offering this breadth of resources to help the scientific community advance, STScI provides support and the primary user interface for the Hubble, Webb and Roman Space Telescopes. STScI will contribute to a wide range of workshops, science sessions, splinter meetings, and exhibits throughout the meeting.

The STScI Town Hall will serve as the center piece for our AAS 240 presence. We will report on the status of our existing and upcoming missions and describe new opportunities designed to advance astrophysics through the 2020s. We will highlight key initiatives associated with our major missions.. The Town Hall includes presentations from STScI leads and from community members. We will include time for discussion to receive community input regarding new capabilities and to answer questions about our activities in the coming year.


The New Great Observatories

Pasadena Convention Center, Conference Room 103

1:30 PM PT - 3:00 PM PT

The Astro2020 Pathways to Discovery report envisions a multi-wavelength, multi-decade fleet of New Great Observatories co-operating on transformative scientific discoveries in the 2040s and beyond. This splinter session will bring together scientists and technologists to foster a new inclusive community in support of this ambitious aim. The session will feature invited talks reviewing the Decadal Recommendations for space-based large missions, contributions from participants in the mission concept studies, and discussions of the achievable pathways to a fleet. The session will culminate in a panel discussion aimed at identifying key efforts by the community to help advance these mission concepts. The intended audience is the general astronomer who is curious about the science, technology, and programmatic aspects of these missions and who is interested in getting involved with community-based efforts to make them a reality. The organizers are making a concerted effort to assemble a diverse set of presenters and to reach the general membership of the AAS for an inclusive audience.


Wednesday, June 15th


Broadening Participation at the National Science Foundation

Exhibitor Theater Presentation

Pasadena Convention Center, Hall A/B

10:00 AM PT - 10:30 AM PT


NSF Town Hall

Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom D

12:45 PM PT - 1:45 PM PT

Updates and Highlights from NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences


The Arecibo Observatory, An Engine for Science and Scientists in Puerto Rico and Beyond

Sheraton Pasadena Hotel, Magnolia

1:00 PM PT - 3:00 PM PT

Over its 60-year lifetime, the Arecibo Observatory’s radio telescope was an engine for scientific discovery, contributing groundbreaking results in its three key research areas of astrophysics, planetary science, and atmospheric science. Just as critically, the Observatory has also been a leader in education and outreach, helping to inspire young scientists, and launch the careers of thousands of students from Puerto Rico, the U.S., and beyond. An essential component in the planning for the future of the Observatory is maintaining and growing these programs even as proposals for a new telescope are being developed. In this splinter meeting, we will begin with a summary on the status of the Arecibo Observatory and on the state of astrophysics in Puerto Rico. We will then have a brief series of talks summarizing some of the Observatory’s education and public outreach programs and their impact. The second part of this splinter meeting will be devoted to a panel discussion centered more broadly around the necessity, sustainability, and growth of the Observatory’s many excellent early-career research, education, and outreach programs.


SOFIA Town Hall

Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom C

6:30 PM PT - 7:30 PM PT

The US-German Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is currently operating in its 9th observing cycle, and continues to enable and produce high-impact science results ranging from Earth studies to high-redshift galaxies. SOFIA continues to be the only observatory that provides community access to the mid- and far-infrared wavelength range, preparing the astronomical community both scientifically and technologically for the ambitious roadmap set forth by the Astro2020 Decadal report.

During this Town Hall, the SOFIA Director, Margaret Meixner, and the SOFIA team will report on the status of the observatory, the ongoing Cycle 9 observations including Legacy Programs, the open archival science research opportunities, as well as the timeline for instrument upgrades and developments.

This Town Hall will also be an opportunity for direct feedback from the SOFIA user community regarding current operations and future plans.


Thursday, June 16th  


Planetary Decadal Survey Town Hall

Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom C

12:45 PM PT - 1:45 PM PT

Hear from Planetary Science and Astrobiology decadal chairs Drs. Robin Canup and Phil Christensen on missions and recommendations for the next decade of planetary science and ask your questions!

Astrophysics Division Scientific Information Policy

Sheraton Pasadena Hotel, Magnolia

1:00 PM PT - 2:00 PM PT

A panel consisting of members of the Astrophysics Division and the astrophysics community will speak to the NASA Science Mission Directorate Scientific Information Policy, and answer queries about the same. We have set up a public Q&A session portal at https://arc.cnf.io/sessions/r8zx/#!/dashboard which we invite you to use to submit questions and suggestions ahead of the splinter meeting. You can also send queries and suggestions to [email protected]

The information produced as part of NASA’s scientific research activities represent a significant public investment. NASA holds this information as a public trust to increase knowledge and serve the public good. This information includes publications, data, and software created in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Results of federally funded research and development need to be shared openly in order to maximize the benefit and reach of the information. Data need not only to be archived but also to be curated – that is, the data are assured to have continued accessibility and usability for multiple decades. The availability of software enhances the discoverability, accessibility, and reproducibility of NASA science while maximizing the benefit of NASA to society.

This policy builds upon recommendations from SMD's Strategy for Data Management and Computing for Groundbreaking Science 2019-2024 and will be based on existing Government directives, NASA policy, community best practices, studies by the national academies, and community-led studies. The Astrophysics panel will attempt to clarify details of its implementation for our division.

We look forward to your questions and we hope to see you at the Splinter session.