HEAD Meetings



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

January 6, 2009 - Long Beach, CA

The Executive Committee meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division was held on January 6, 2009 at the AAS meeting in Long Beach, CA at 6:30PM. Present were Mitch Begelman (chair), Steve Murray (past-chair), Ann Hornschemeier (secretary-treasurer), Committee members Cole Miller, Ron Remillard and Vicky Kalogera, incoming Committee members Julia Lee and Paul Ray, Megan Watzke (press officer) and Kevin Marvel (Executive Officer - AAS). Mitch Begelman called the meeting to order.

The following issues were discussed --

Schramm prize discussion

The next Schramm prize will be awarded in 2010 at the Hawaii HEAD meeting. Megan Watzke noted that the number of "print" (e.g., magazine and newspaper) science journalists has been decreasing with time and encouraged the committee to consider broadening the scope of the Schramm prize to non-print media such as blogs, etc. There was extensive discussion about how one would quantify the impact of such material. Megan Watzke will work on drafting the new language with the committee. The new language will be circulated to the membership in the May 2009 newsletter.

IYA 2009 Discussion

The committee agreed to help advertise IYA 2009 activities using the HEAD newsletter and email listserv to encourage HEAD members to get involved.

HEAD Election Results

221 of the 982 eligible HEAD members voted in the 2008 election. Julia Lee, Scott Ransom and Paul Ray were elected to 2-year executive committee terms. Kevin Marvel noted that 23% voter turnout was actually pretty good given that return in regular AAS elections has been as low as 18%. The HEAD secretary will try to send out more reminders next year.

HEAD Finances

The HEAD account and budget was also discussed. There is currently a reserve of $46K in the HEAD account. HEAD lost $11K on its investments (which are held by Back Bay Financial for the AAS), similar to all other AAS investments. Kevin Marvel informed us that among the larger divisions, HEAD has the lowest cash reserves. For instance, DPS has $300K in reserves, allowing them to be more generous with prize money and fund other activities. Kevin also suggested that meetings, when they are very well-attended, offer an opportunity for the division to take in some revenue.

Update from Kevin Marvel

Kevin Marvel discussed upcoming political changes. AAS is working on changing the language in the appropriations bill to fix the NASA travel problem (strict financial limits now exist, preventing NASA civil servants and contractors from attending science meetings). AAS has been meeting with the NASA transition team. There is talk of a possible $2B increase to NASA's budget but it is unclear how much might go to science or astrophysics. Probably everyone should plan on a flat funding period ahead. The appropriations bill that should be passed quickly, will likely be very broad, with details to be worked out in the late spring. Late spring (April/May) would be a good time for HEAD members to visit the Hill. The committee discussed planning such a visit versus sending a few HEAD members to participate in the main AAS visit day. No firm decision was made yet.

HEAD Dissertation Prize

The HEAD Dissertation Prize will be awarded for the first time at the 2010 HEAD meeting in Hawaii. The committee decided that candidates for the prize must be nominated (nominally by the thesis advisor) and that self-nominations will not be accepted. The thesis summary should be 3 pages total not including figures/references. Since the January executive committee meeting is very long already (3+ hours generally) it was decided that some pre-selection (voting/triage) followed by a telecon would likely be the best way to do the selection. The deadline will be October 15, 2009 this year so that Ann H. can send out the Rossi nominations and the dissertation prize nominations to the committee at the same time.

The full list of required documents for the prize includes a 3-page summary of the thesis (not including figures and bibliography, not to exceed 5 pages total), a nomination letter (nominally by the thesis supervisor and acceptably by any HEAD member except the nominee, the letter must include a statement certifying that the PhD has been awarded), two additional letters of recommendation and a CV/publication list.

HEAD 2010 (Hawaii) Planning

The committee agreed to keep the HEAD meeting categories more or less as have been used in the past. These topics will be circulated around the committee for comment in the next few months. Invited speakers will be chosen over the summer, during a telecon in the second half of August. Ann will solicit ideas from the executive committee four weeks ahead of the telecon (in July). The plan is to notify invited speakers in September 2009. Tentatively, the abstract deadline will be December 1st. Special session proposals will be due to Ann by October 1, 2009. Ann will contact Eureka Scientific and Conference Connection about updating the HEAD 2010 website for due dates.

The financial sponsorship of the meeting was discussed. During the HEAD 2008 meeting, NASA missions provided ~$40K in sponsorship, reducing the registration fees by more than $100 per person. At the moment NASA missions are in a difficult position for sponsoring meetings and there is no other form of sponsorship. The committee agreed, upon suggestion by Kevin Marvel, to pursue other avenues such as proposals to groups like NSF. Ann will be meeting with Kevin Marvel to discuss this.

Bylaw Changes

There were several complaints during the 2008 election about the lack of privacy in HEAD voting. Since the secretary-treasurer receives emails from hundreds of people, this practice is also cumbersome. The current email mode of voting is written into our bylaws and bylaw changes take more than a year. The language of the bylaw change must be submitted to the AAS council at least 3 weeks before the next AAS meeting (in June 2009). It must be presented to the full HEAD membership at the HEAD business meeting AFTER the AAS council comments on it. This means no vote may happen on bylaw changes until after the January 2010 AAS meeting.

The executive committee agreed to pursue a change in the voting language that would permit voting by the AAS website. The language will be kept more vague however, such as "voting by electronic means" to allow for future developments in technology.

At the same time, several committee members have commented that three year terms would be more appropriate than two year terms. It was pointed out that by the time one 'learns the ropes' it is time to leave the committee. The executive committee will also present a possible lengthening of executive committee terms to the membership.

These prospective bylaw changes will be presented to the membership in the May newsletter after Ann Hornschemeier meets with AAS council secretary John Graham.

Rossi Prize

The committee agreed that the 2009 Rossi prize will be awarded to Charles Bailyn, Jeff McClintock and Ron Remillard for their measurement of the masses of Galactic black holes. They will deliver their prize lecture at the January 2010 AAS meeting in Washington DC.

As there were no further items, the meeting was adjourned.

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