Thursday, February 27, 2020

Rest in Power Katherine Johnson

Image credit NASA

It is always difficult when a hero passes on. But celebrating their accomplishments, and the path they paved for others, is a great way to empower future generations of scientists. Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician whose calculations help send astronauts into Earth orbit and eventually to the Moon, passed away earlier this week. Her legacy was brought to public attention in the book and film Hidden Figures. Her story shows us what humans could accomplish if we created environments that were inclusive and supportive. Imagine the strides we could take to discover new worlds, uncover what dark matter is, or travel the galaxy if all people had a seat at the computer and telescope. The AIP recently released the results from the National Task Force to Elevate African American representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy (TEAM-UP) which identifies five factors responsible for the success or failure of African American students in physics and astronomy. This is a starting point to understand and change the systemic barriers that people of color face in our fields. The CSWA is also compiling our Actions for a More Inclusive Astronomy which was presented as an iPoster at the 235th AAS Meeting in the hopes of creating such an environment.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

NASA Dual-Anonymous Peer Review Town Hall

Silhouette Face With Question Mark
Image from

In a dual-anonymous review process, the identity of the author(s) of a document is unknown to the reviewer(s), and the identity of the reviewer(s) is unknown to the author(s). In the 2020 Priorities Survey the CSWA conducted last spring, out of over 300 respondents, 72% rated making dual-anonymous refereeing of papers mandatory for AAS journals as a little effective, effective, or very effective as a strategy to advance professional development for women in astronomy.

Dual-anonymous peer review is the most common process in the social sciences and humanities according to Wiley. In 2018, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) implemented a dual-anonymous review process for Hubble telescope time. The results were publicized in the STScI Newsletter:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Cross-Post: It is Award Nomination Season! And it needs you to succeed

By Kelsi Singer

Hello all! I was inspired by these articles that Nicolle Zellner shared on the AASWomen newsletter, about a team of people who made it their mission to help promote equal representation in AGU award nominations.

EOS Article in which they describe their process and gives tips and best practices for success: Equal Representation in Scientific Honors Starts with Nominations
This follow up includes a nice graph of the increase of female participants in 2019

And it is time again to nominate deserving colleagues for awards. Here are some of the major professional societies and their award deadlines (scroll over the text for links):

Read more at: .

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Meet Your CSWA, JoEllen McBride

JoEllen McBride is an AAAS Mass Media Fellow and an AAS Astronomy Ambassador. She earned her PhD in Physics studying the star formation histories of galaxies in compact groups. She is currently a communications and stewardship writer for Penn Medicine's Development and Alumni Relations office at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the Advocacy Director for the 500 Women Scientists Philadelphia pod, and she creates astronomy workshops for and is on the board of the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, PA. In her free time, she writes about astronomy for outlets like Massive, edits Science for the People Magazine, and raises her daughters, Carina and Alessa, with the help of her partner, Ed. She is the lead editor of AASWomen, Blogger in Chief of the Women in Astronomy Blog, and is active in CSWA task groups.

Describe the first time you made a personal connection with the planets and stars.

I honestly can’t remember the first time I made a personal connection with space. I always felt a connection. I’m certain it all started by me asking my mother what stars were or something simple like that and that was it.

How did you end up working in the field?

I no longer work in the field of astronomy. I earned my bachelor’s in physics from Dickinson College, a master’s from San Francisco State University, and a PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill. I was an adjunct for a while but it was part-time. I got into science writing after attending ComSciCon-Triangle and winning an AAAS Mass Media Fellowship. You can learn more about my career path from my Career Profile.

That being said I do astronomy outreach all the time using my AAS Astronomy Ambassador skills. I am an Education Mentor for a STEM program at a local museum where I run the Astronomy session. I also serve on the Board of Directors for that museum and chair the education committee.

Who inspired you?

Carl Sagan was my first inspiration. I loved his COSMOS series as a kid and it was what made me want to be an astronomer.

What is a Communications and Stewardship Writer?

I write for anything related to raising money and alumni relations for Penn Medicine that involves donors and alumni. I write remarks for the Dean, CEO, and Chief Scientific Officer, proposals for donors to consider funding faculty, and reports for donors on where their money is going among other things.

What community issues are important to you and why?

1) Retaining underserved minorities - it’s not just a problem in astronomy but I’ve noticed that too many of us get what I like to call “meh’d” out of our fields. More and more students are coming from diverse backgrounds and education so the expectations that mentors and departments have need to change. I have seen way too many advisers just give up on students instead of helping them find more appropriate mentors or working with them to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

2) Resources for parents and people with dependents - departments and institutions need to do better here. More flexible work schedules, access to childcare or eldercare, telework, parental leave, etc. would go a long way to making academia more accessible to underserved groups.

Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career.

As an astronomer, one of my favorite moments was the first night I observed at the WIYN 0.9m on Kitt Peak. I remember stopping to just gawk at the sky as I walked to the observatory. It was the first time my breath was taken away without running!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?

Everything you do—the workshops you take, the jobs you’ve done, the organizations you’ve volunteered for—is useful. You are learning things that you can take with you and apply to everything you do moving forward. So attend that workshop and join that group, even if you’re just there to listen and take it all in, you never know what you’ll learn and what you can contribute.

What do you do for fun?

Create experiences for my daughters, write about astronomy and science, organize women scientists to engage with politicians, and promote the work of those who fight for science to meet the needs of the people and not be done at their expense.

What are your goals as a part of the CSWA?

To make sure the Women in Astronomy blog is a place where people can learn something new—learn about other careers, learn from other experiences. And that our Committee can use this information to make informed recommendations that create a more inclusive environment for all astronomers.

What changes would you like to see for women in astronomy?

Everyone should be able to easily find a support network that enables them to become an astronomer if they want to be one. There shouldn’t be a correlation between your background and your outcomes. Whatever you need to be successful, should be available to you.

Friday, February 7, 2020

AASWomen Newsletter for February 07, 2020

The Golden Record cover shown with its extraterrestrial instructions. Credit: NASA/JPL
AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of February 07, 2020
eds: JoEllen McBride, Nicolle Zellner, Heather Flewelling, Maria Patterson, and Alessandra Aloisi

This week's issues:

1. Share Your Best CSWA Memories!

2. NASA Headquarters Summer Internships

3. Task force recommends US$50-million fund to bring African Americans into physics and astronomy

4. Amazon Prime's 'Troop Zero' shows inspiring effect of Voyager's 'Golden Record' on kids

5. NASA Astrophysics Virtual Town Hall: Dual-Anonymous Peer Review for Astrophysics General Observer / General Investigator Programs

6. Equal Representation in Scientific Honors Starts with Nominations

7. Cancel cuts to Graduate Research Fellowships

8. Record-breaking NASA astronaut Christina Koch is returning to Earth after nearly a year in space

9. She discovered how to measure the universe. Then the men got all the acclaim.

10. NASEM: Supporting the Black Student Experience

11. People will not trust unkind science

12. Job Opportunities

13. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

14. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

15. Access to Past Issues of the AASWomen Newsletter

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Share Your Best CSWA Memories!

2019 marked the 40th anniversary of the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. For 40 years, this Committee has been making recommendations to AAS leadership on ways to improve the astronomical community so that all women (people who identify as female, including trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people who are significantly female-identified) are welcome and encouraged to pursue astronomy. We have submitted white papers in decadal surveys, endorsed four Women in Astronomy conferences, and shared the perspectives of astronomers whose experiences in the field differ from the status quo on our Women in Astronomy blog among other things.

To celebrate, we asked attendees of our Meet and Greet at the 235th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society to briefly share their favorite CSWA memories. We now want to extend that offer to the rest of the astronomy community. Read the memories below and feel free to add your own in the comments!

Thank you all for a wonderful 40 years and here’s to 40 more!

What are your best CSWA memories?

“Women in Astronomy IV in 2017 was an excellent meeting!”
“First status of women in astronomy meeting at STScI and the CSWA receptions at AAS meetings.”
Jennifer Wiseman, Goddard Space Flight Center
“The Women in Astronomy blog has been a weekly part of my life since graduate school, consistently enriching it.”
Amanda Moffett, University of North Georgia
“The newsletter and blog are really appreciated.”
Duilia de Mello, Catholic University of America