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Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society.

January 6th, 2004 -- Atlanta, GA


The executive committee meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division was held on January 6th, 2004 at the Atlanta, GA, AAS meeting, convening at 7.30pm. Present were Josh Grindlay (chair), Roger Blandford (vice-chair), Matthew Baring (secretary-treasurer), Joel Bregman, Kathy Flanagan, Pat Slane, Ilana Harrus (press officer), Steve Murray (vice-chair-elect, non-voting), and by invitation, Bob Milkey (AAS Executive Officer). Josh Grindlay called the meeting to order.

HEAD Election: Secretary/Treasurer Matthew Baring communicated the results of the HEAD election, namely that the newly-elected Vice-Chair was Steve Murray, and that the three newly elected members of the Executive Committee are Deepto Chakrabarty, Fiona Harrison, and Kim Weaver. 269 HEAD members voted including 5 paper ballots. Chair Josh Grindlay thanked the nominating committee (Omer Blaes [chair], Neil Gehrels and Harvey Tananbaum) for putting forth an outstanding slate of candidates. He also thanked the other candidates for standing for election and being willing to serve.

Rossi Prize for 2004: After lengthy discussion at the end of the meeting, and a vote, it was decided that the 2004 Bruno Rossi prize is being awarded to Harvey Tananbaum and Martin Weisskopf for their vision, dedication, and leadership in the development, testing, and operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Treasury report: Matthew Baring delivered the secretary-treasurer's report. He summarized the membership statistics, noting that HEAD now has approximately 890 members, a very modest increase over the course of the year from around 870. He also reported that HEAD assets have dropped to approximately $20,000, with estimated income for 2003 being around $5,400 ($4,700 in dues, $700 in interest), and the expenses for 2003 were approximately $5,620 ($3,000 awards, $1,420 travel by award winners, $900 EC meeting expenses, $300 copying/mailing/etc.). He indicated that the accounting from the Mt. Tremblant meeting was still unresolved, as detailed below, leaving uncertainty in whether HEAD had a net expenditure or a net gain. Hence conclusive accounting, always subject to final AAS audit, is pending the resolution of Mt. Tremblant income and expenses.

A discussion of the Mt. Tremblant meeting finances ensued. The Executive Committee expressed concern at the lack of closure with Westover Consultants concerning the accounting. Matthew reported that the major outstanding item to be resolved was a reimbursement of taxes amounting to around $15,000, paid to the Canadian government. Westover has taken steps to secure this reimbursement, yet has not given a definitive indication on when closure on this matter will be attained. Gale Quilter of Westover has been sporadically reporting developments to Alice Harding (Ex-Chair), and has indicated that a full reimbursement would ensure an approximately "break-even" status for the Mt. Tremblant meeting. Bob Milkey indicated that the AAS desires a resolution of the tax reimbursement by Mid-February in preparation for its annual accounting audit, which may involve interaction between the AAS accountants and Westover. Josh also noted that this tax complication should be considered when non-US cities are discussed as possible future HEAD meeting sites. The Committee agreed that a letter should be sent very soon to Westover asking for a definitive statement on how and by when the meeting finances will be resolved.

Matthew indicated that two items in the preliminary final accounting by Westover differ from the indications the Executive received from Westover at the time of the meeting. These concerned the number of pre-registrations and on-site registrations: in March at Mt. Tremblant, Westover indicated a total somewhat in excess of 300; the preliminary accounting has recently indicated around 270. The Committee agreed that the letter to be sent to Westover will also ask for a clear statement of the number of no-shows/reimbursed registrations.

Bob gave a concise explanation of how HEAD accounting works within the AAS framework. He observed that HEAD's reserves were considerably less than other AAS Divisions, and urged HEAD to view an increase in fiscal security as a high priority. Various ways to effect this were discussed. Matthew noted that the recent increase of HEAD dues, intended to cover increased expenses in the Rossi and Schramm Prize awards, and to promote greater graduate student presence at HEAD meetings, would help, but that it would be prudent to defer any additional outlays. Roger raised the possibility of soliciting corporate sponsorship for HEAD activities, perhaps from aerospace industry involved in high energy astrophysics space missions. This was met with general approval, though no immediate action plan was established. Bob suggested that HEAD meeting registration fees could be adjusted slightly to meet HEAD goals pertaining to graduate student attendance and/or prizes. The mechanism for this will be discussed with John Vallerga of Eureka Scientific as preparation for the New Orleans HEAD meeting.

Press Officer's report: Press Officer Ilana Harrus summarized briefly how prominent high energy astrophysics has been in the press over the last year, providing a pointer to the November 2003 Newsletter on the HEAD website as a source for "HEAD in the news" articles, where over 50 press releases are archived for the six month period.

Ilana proposed that the appropriate deadline for Schramm Award applications prior to the New Orleans HEAD meeting in September 2004 would be around May. This was agreed upon by the Committee. In preparation for the process of selection, Ilana proposed that two updates to the HEAD Web site be made, as helpful information to potential Schramm applicants. These were (1) a detailing of the make-up of the jurors, namely the Press Officer, the two previous Schramm winners, second-year members of the EC, and one member of the press, and (2) a clarification of the science relevant to HEAD that can be discussed in submitted articles. Both were readily agreed upon. Various ideas for what constitutes HEAD science were put forward. Ilana agreed to draft a statement with examples of what is HEAD science and what is not for circulation among the Committee, to facilitate convergence to a final form for placement on the Web site.

The issue of whether to expand the Schramm prize to include documentaries in television, film, video and radio was discussed. While some Committee members were in favor, in principal, logistical difficulties in appraising them were raised by Ilana, and it was agreed to defer such a step for the time being.

New Orleans HEAD Meeting: Various organizational issues were discussed. Josh emphasized that a First Announcement must be mailed to members soon, possibly in late January/early February. He posed the question: do we follow the science format of the Mt. Tremblant meeting that proved quite successful? While there was support for this format, Kathy proposed an alternative approach: to solicit abstracts and then select invited highlight talks from the pool of contributions. This model, based on approaches of some other meetings, was aimed at promoting increased topicality of science, particularly for newly-launched missions. Roger advocated retaining a structure with key note speakers on important topics. After ensuing discussion, a blend of these ideas was adopted for New Orleans, namely that each session would have one invited keynote speaker, and that a solicited highlight talk would be selected from submitted abstracts in addition to contributed talks. As an action item to start the ball rolling, Roger requested a copy of the First Announcement for the Mt. Tremblant meeting. Matthew indicated that John Wefel of Louisiana State University had agreed to Chair the Local Organizing Committee for the meeting, to assist Eureka Scientific in various local logistics.

2006 APS/DAP/HEAD Joint meeting: Josh observed that discussions with the APS concerning a joint meeting in 2006 had gone well over the summer, with the APS and its Division of Astrophysics (DAP) showing considerable interest in meeting HEAD needs. While final approval from the APS is pending, there is tentative agreement that HEAD and APS/DAP will hold meetings with a partial (one-day) overlap, with the HEAD meeting extending solo beyond the APS meeting. HEAD will host non-parallel sessions, and retain control over invited speakers and selection of contributions for HEAD sessions.

Josh indicated that the Solar Physics Division (SPD) of the AAS had expressed a desire to conduct its 2006 meeting in conjunction with an APS/HEAD joint meeting. Pat and Steve argued that this would be an undesirable additional complication. However, Pat suggested that instead HEAD should build solar studies into a more prominent focus in HEAD meetings; Matthew proposed that the New Orleans meeting might be an appropriate forum for an exclusively solar session, upon which there was general agreement. After further discussion, Josh indicated he would contact the Chair of the SPD to elucidate their interests further. A formal decision on joint SPD/HEAD meetings was deferred.

The meeting was adjourned.

These minutes were prepared by Matthew Baring, Secretary-Treasurer, High Energy Astrophysics Division, American Astronomical Society.

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