HEAD home

HEAD Meetings



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

September 8th, 2004 -- New Orleans, Louisiana


The executive committee meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division was held on September 8th, 2004 at the New Orleans, Louisiana, HEAD meeting, convening at 8.00pm. Present were Roger Blandford (chair), Steve Murray (vice-chair), Matthew Baring (secretary-treasurer), Joel Bregman, Deepto Chakrabarty, Kathy Flanagan, Josh Grindlay (past chair), Ilana Harrus (press officer), Pat Slane, and Kim Weaver. Roger Blandford called the meeting to order.

Press Officer's report: Press Officer Ilana Harrus announced that Oliver Morton was the winner of the 2004 Schramm Award for his article "Moonshine and Glue" on high energy neutrino astrophysics. She updated the Committee on some of his background, and summarized logistics for the award presentation to take place the following morning at the HEAD meeting. This year, there were 20 entries in the competition, somewhat fewer than in 2003.

Ilana suggested possible improvements to the Schramm Award competition, specifically that news-type articles announcing science discoveries should be assessed separately from review-type articles. She raised the possibility of splitting the Award to give a prize for each of these categories. This issue and the issue of travel support were discussed. The consensus reached was to sort entries into the two categories, but to continue evaluating the contributions as in previous years, selecting one or two winners as appropriate to share the prize, but not deciding based on category. It was decided that funds for the prize should be held constant, and to continue offering support for the winner(s), depending on need, to travel to the corresponding HEAD meeting to accept the award and participate in press activities.

Pertaining to the selection process, Ilana proposed increasing the number of journalists on the Schramm panel. Steve suggested having appropriate personnel from prestigious academic journals serve on the panel, and also perhaps journalism faculty at universities with strong science-writing programs. These ideas met with general approval.

Ilana also proposed broadening the range of topics qualifying for the Schramm Award. This issue was addressed at the January, 2004 Committee meeting, from which a list of qualifying topics was drafted, approved by the Committee, and placed on the HEAD Web site this last Spring. The Committee expressed discomfort with expanding the definition of High Energy Astrophysics beyond what is currently accepted, and felt that the definitions on the Web site were appropriate.

Ilana summarized briefly press activity at the New Orleans meeting, indicating that there were fewer journalists than hoped at the meeting so far. It was mentioned that the loss of the Genesis craft upon re-entry may have been an influential factor in press attendance.

Finances for the Mt. Tremblant HEAD Meeting: Secretary-Treasurer Matthew Baring reviewed the fiscal history surrounding the Mt. Tremblant HEAD Meeting. The principal issue is that Westover Consultants have not closed the books on the meeting by providing a final invoice, now some 17 months after the meeting. Matthew indicated that he had phone contact with Gale Quilter of Westover on September 2nd, and that Gale had indicated that an invoice was to be mailed to past chair Alice Harding, Bob Milkey (Executive Officer, AAS) and Matthew. Follow-up on securing this invoice was suggested by Matthew should the invoice not be forthcoming.

Matthew indicated that in the phone conversation, Gale mentioned that the repayment of taxes paid to the Canadian government for various items had been guaranteed by government authorities, but that bureaucratic paperwork is not yet complete. Moreover, Gale stated that the anticipated invoice would reflect an approximate break-even account for the meeting, a picture indicated in February, 2004, by Westover.

A major outstanding item for the Mt. Tremblant Meeting concerns the payment of the AAS for BAAS abstract handling. This amounted to around $10K, but Bob Milkey informed Matthew just prior to the New Orleans meeting that this payment has not been received by the AAS. Matthew indicated that Gale had remarked in their phone conversation that she would look into Westover's paperwork concerning this debt to the AAS, and get back to him soon. Roger expressed willingness to write a letter to Westover to help expedite payment.

The Committee expressed unanimous dissatisfaction with Westover Consultants' performance in handling the Mt. Tremblant finances and other meeting issues, and recommended that the services of Westover should not be engaged at future HEAD meetings.

New Orleans HEAD Meeting Review: After one day of the conference had concluded, the Committee felt that everything was moving smoothly and would make for a very successful meeting. The Committee is very much satisfied with the performance of Eureka Scientific.

Retroactive Membership: Secretary-Treasurer Matthew Baring proposed that HEAD membership should be granted automatically to all registrants at the New Orleans HEAD meeting who were AAS members but not HEAD members, following precedent established at previous HEAD meetings. The Committee readily endorsed this proposal.

Public Policy Issues: Chair Roger Blandford discussed the situation concerning changes in NASA perspectives on science, with particular reference to outcomes of interest to the high energy astrophysics community. Amid the current dynamic situation, Roger sought Committee support for various initiatives of his to advocate HEAD interests to outside communities, including political elements.

In particular, Roger mentioned his contacts with the Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) of the AAS, and announced his intention to attend an upcoming AAS Executive Committee meeting. He mentioned his intention to raise the question of future NASA funding for High Energy Astrophysics missions and the impact of HST reservicing, and solicited comments from the Committee.

Roger also raised the possibility of HEAD becoming involved in astronomy Congressional days - events where AAS representatives visit Congress to interact primarily with staffers who have significant impact on establishing science policy. The Committee was strongly in favor of such advocacy. Josh remarked that the usual times for such visits to Capitol Hill are in March, and Roger noted that avoidance of the immediate post-election timeframe was desirable due to transitions on the Hill.

The Committee isolated dates in the October 13-15 timeframe to coordinate with the Constellation-X Facility Science Team Meeting, when a significant body of HEAD members would be present in the Washington area. Discussions identified scientists at the postdoctoral and assistant professor levels as being the most appropriate to interact with Congressional staffers to advocate fiscal policies that would auger for a bright future for astronomy. Roger indicated that he will talk to Kevin Marvel of the AAS to set the arrangements in motion. The Committee indicated a desire to repeat such a visit around March or April 2005.

Next HEAD Meeting: Chair Roger Blandford raised the issue of the venue and arrangements for the next HEAD meeting. Late last year, the HEAD Committee agreed to hold a joint meeting between HEAD and the American Physical Society (APS), at the APS April Meeting of 2006, which will be held in Dallas. Concerns with this arrangement were raised by several members of the present Committee, observing that HEAD members have voiced a particular objection to the 2002 Albuquerque joint meeting with the APS, and continue to be concerned about prospects of another joint meeting.

Roger and Josh emphasized that motivations for having a joint meeting were strong, with HEAD increasing its standing in the broader science community, a desirable step given the current political environment. Notwithstanding, there was lengthy discussion of the concerns the membership has over such a meeting, specifically that it would not conform to the agreeable style of traditional HEAD meetings. Suggestions that the Committee review its decision were raised, as were concerns that reneging on the current agreement with the APS would not be good public policy.

Matthew noted that this current agreement includes HEAD hosting sessions on days adjacent to the APS meeting, with temporal overlap only on one day. Moreover there would be no HEAD sessions in parallel with sessions of the APS Division of Astrophysics (DAP) of interest to the HEAD membership, nor in parallel with other HEAD sessions.

It was decided to acquire more specific information from the APS concerning dates, hotel arrangements, etc., to confirm that HEAD would be able to host a meeting as much as possible like traditional HEAD meetings, a principal goal. Roger indicated that he would hold a telecon next week, with HEAD Executive Officers in conversation with APS Officers to reiterate HEAD issues and concerns, and to ensure that a joint HEAD/APS meeting would meet the expectations of the HEAD membership for HEAD meetings. The venue and arrangements for the next HEAD meeting will continue to be discussed.

HEAD Sessions at the January, 2005 AAS Meeting: Vice-Chair Steve Murray updated the Committee on plans for the HEAD special sessions at the upcoming AAS meeting in San Diego. Plans have been to have one session devoted to Swift, and another devoted to supernovae and supernova remnants. Concerns were raised that delays in the Swift launch incurred by damage to Kennedy Space Center by hurricane Frances might slip the start of the mission to January, 2005. Steve indicated that the Swift team were keen to have a special session. He asked for suggestions for session topics that might serve as a replacement for the SNe/SNR session. Ideas for sessions on INTEGRAL results, and pulsars/the double pulsar were discussed briefly.

The meeting was adjourned.

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

summaries of meetings

calendar of meetings

newsletter archive

awards and prizes

information on membership

HEAD home
    Comments, questions, or feedback to headsec@aas.org, Updated September 17, 2004