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.
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.
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
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.