Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Decadal Report

As virtually every US astronomer knows, the 2010 Decadal Report was released on Friday the 13th, August 2010. Personally, I was on vacation at the time and missed the live webcast. What I have gathered is that if you work in a field that was prioritized by the report and would benefit by WFIRST, then you think the report is great. Otherwise, you think the report sucks.

Kidding aside, I'm not here to discuss the science prioritization. I'm here to discuss the small part of the report relevant to the Women in Astronomy blog, the chapter entitled "Astronomy in Society."

After downloading all 81 MB of the report and giving it a cursory read, I note that they say all the right things about bringing in more minorities and women into astronomy. I'm glad that they also note that retention of women in particular is tied into the narrow career trajectory that astronomers are expected to follow. However, the thing that I think is missing from the report is integrating these issues of diversity in with the science priorities.

There are definitely some subfields of astronomy that have fewer women than others. Offhand, I would list cosmology, theory, and instrumentation as those that have fewer women, and exoplanets and extragalactic observation as those that are more enriched with women. So if the top science priorities are high redshift astronomy, exoplanets, and fundamental physics, I'd guess that exoplanets are enriched in women and the other two depleted.

What I would like to understand is how program prioritization based on the Decadal Report's recommendations is going to affect the demographics of the astronomy community. But given the way the panels were subdivided into science topics separate from demographics, perhaps it was inevitable that an integrated perspective would be lacking. What we can do with this report now that the science priorities for the next decade have been announced is to encourage young women to pursue growth fields and hope that they succeed.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Better Living Through Show Tunes

It's come to my attention that my post on how hard it is to balance work and family may have unduly alarmed and depressed some of my readers. The things is, I don't believe in maintaining the illusion that I can get everything done with effortless ease. What's the point in blogging about any of it if I'm not going to be perfectly honest about my experiences? On the other hand, who's going to keep reading if I'm negative all the time? Besides, it's summertime!

Summertime, from Porgy and Bess

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite feel-good show tunes, perfect for buoying your hopes that everything will turn out just fine. Share yours in the comments!

I Have Confidence, from the Sound of Music

(Not Julie Andrews, but a great rendition nonetheless)

I Believe In You from How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Do You Hear the People Sing from Les Miserables

because there's nothing quite like a good martial anthem to get the blood going

Anything Can Happen from Mary Poppins