Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guest post: AAS Dinners to Discuss Dual-Career Couples

Today I am sharing a guest post by P. R. McCullough. Dr. McCullough received a PhD in Astrophysics from UC Berkeley in 1993, then moved to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign first on a Hubble fellowship, then becoming an assistant professor. Dr. McCullough moved to the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD in 2002 and is an associate astronomer there.

How many times have you read, "We seek a highly motivated and qualified individual ... "?

Young's double slit experiment, Cooper pairs, quantum entanglement, these and other phenomena are understood not by treating the associated individuals independently, but by acknowledging their duality. For Young's double-slit experiment, by considering the light passing through one slit or the other slit individually, you will get the wrong answer, every time, regardless of your own good intentions, your institution's policies, and even society's human-made laws.

Likewise, human behavior often is better understood by acknowledging pairs, coupling, or the duality of a situation. For example, if you wish to hire or to retain an individual for a position, you may ... well ... get the wrong answer by treating the situation in that manner. Dual-career issues are pervasive and pernicious in a niche career such as astronomy. To improve matters, I propose that AAS meetings provide an opportunity for interested persons to gather over dinner to discuss the topic. 

Are you a member of a dual-career couple? Do you want to share experiences or advice with others? Anyone should feel welcome too - for example, deans or managers of dual career couples. In addition to the individual benefits of shared experiences, and of networking, and good food and drink, couples may benefit and so may the AAS and all its members and institutions.

If you'd like to join in, let's do it! We can begin at the June AAS meeting in Boston and continue the tradition on a regular basis if desired. Details to be worked out - suggestions and participants welcome.  Kelle Cruz (AAS Committee on Employment) is willing to advise us, and both David Helfand and Meg Urry support the idea. Email me and/or post comments below.

P. R. McCullough
My email is pmcc: 

More Information:
Thronson (1991) and Metcalfe (2008) model the production of astronomers. (ADS lists fewer than 5 citations to each.) I think any such model should try to include dual careers. 

The Stanford/Clayman 2008 study, is a good resource, although as its subtitle suggests, it's aimed at informing "What Universities Need to Know" whereas I am more interested in us learning from each other.

The AAS Two-Body survey is closed now; I'm not sure if results are available yet. 
A Scientific American poll runs through Friday Feb 28, 2014.