The Role of Gender in Asking Questions at Cool Stars 18 and 19 [IMA]

We examine the gender balance of the 18th and 19th meetings of the Cambridge Workshop on Cool Stellar Systems and the Sun (CS18 and CS19). The percent of female attendees at both meetings (31% at CS18 and 37% at CS19) was higher than the percent of women in the American Astronomical Society (25%) and the International Astronomical Union (18%). The representation of women in Cool Stars as SOC members, invited speakers, and contributed speakers was similar to or exceeded the percent of women attending the meetings. We requested that conference attendees assist in a project to collect data on the gender of astronomers asking questions after talks. Using this data, we found that men were over-represented (and women were under-represented) in the question sessions after each talk. Men asked 79% of the questions at CS18 and 75% of the questions at CS19, but were 69% and 63% of the attendees respectively. Contrary to findings from previous conferences, we did not find that the gender balance of questions was strongly affected by the session chair gender, the speaker gender, or the length of the question period. We also found that female and male speakers were asked a comparable number of questions after each talk. The contrast of these results from previous incarnations of the gender questions survey indicate that more data would be useful in understanding the factors that contribute to the gender balance of question askers. We include a preliminary set of recommendations based on this and other work on related topics, but also advocate for additional research on the demographics of conference participants. Additional data on the intersection of gender with race, seniority, sexual orientation, ability and other marginalized identities is necessary to fully address the role of gender in asking questions at conferences.

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S. Schmidt, S. Douglas, N. Gosnell, et. al.
Wed, 19 Apr 17

Comments: 16 pages, 8 figures, 2 tables. Submitted to Cool Stars 19 Proceedings. Related resources available at this https URL

An educational distributed Cosmic Ray detector network based on ArduSiPM [CL]

The advent of microcontrollers with enough CPU power and with analog and digital peripherals makes possible to design a complete particle detector with relative acquisition system around one microcontroller chip. The existence of a world wide data infrastructure as internet allows for devising a distributed network of cheap detectors capable to elaborate and send data or respond to settings commands. The internet infrastructure enables to distribute the absolute time (with precision of few milliseconds), to the simple devices far apart, with few milliseconds precision, from a few meters to thousands of kilometres. So it is possible to create a crowdsourcing experiment of citizen science that use small scintillation-based particle detectors to monitor the high energetic cosmic ray and the radiation environment.

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V. Bocci, G. Chiodi, P. Fresch, et. al.
Thu, 30 Mar 17

Comments: N/A

Widening Perspectives: The Intellectual and Social Benefits of Astrobiology (Regardless of Whether Extraterrestrial Life is Discovered or Not) [CL]

Astrobiology is usually defined as the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. As such it is inherently interdisciplinary and cannot help but engender a worldview infused by cosmic and evolutionary perspectives. Both these attributes of the study of astrobiology are, and will increasingly prove to be, beneficial to society regardless of whether extraterrestrial life is discovered or not.

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I. Crawford
Tue, 21 Mar 2017

Comments: Accepted for publication in the International Journal of Astrobiology

Black Holes and Vacuum Cleaners: Using Metaphor, Relevance, and Inquiry in Labels for Space Images [IMA]

This study extended research on the development of explanatory labels for astronomical images for the non-expert lay public. The research questions addressed how labels with leading questions/metaphors and relevance to everyday life affect comprehension of the intended message for deep space images, the desire to learn more, and the aesthetic appreciation of images. Participants were a convenience sample of 1,921 respondents solicited from a variety of websites and through social media who completed an online survey that used four high-resolution images as stimuli: Sagittarius A*, Solar Flare, Cassiopeia A, and the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101). Participants were randomly assigned initially to 1 of 3 label conditions: the standard label originally written for the image, a label with a leading question containing a metaphor related to the information for the image, or a label that contained a fact about the image relevant to everyday life. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 image and compared all labels for that image. Open-ended items at various points asked participants to pose questions to a hypothetical astronomer. Main findings were that the relevance condition was significantly more likely to increase wanting to learn more; the original label was most likely to increase overall appreciation; and, smart phone users were more likely to want to learn more and report increased levels of appreciation. Results are discussed in terms of the need to examine individual viewer characteristics and goals in creating different labels for different audiences.

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L. Smith, K. Arcand, B. Smith, et. al.
Thu, 9 Mar 17

Comments: 50 pages, 7 tables, 2 figures, accepted by the journal “Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts”

Reaching New Heights in Astronomy – ESO Long Term Perspectives [IMA]

A comprehensive description of ESO in the current global astronomical context, and its plans for the next decade and beyond, are presented. This survey covers all aspects of the Organisation, including the optical-infrared programme at the La Silla Paranal Observatory, the submillimetre facilities ALMA and APEX, the construction of the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope and the science operation of these facilities. An extension of the current optical/infrared/submillimetre facilities into multi-messenger astronomy has been made with the decision to host the southern Cherenkov Telescope Array at Paranal. The structure of the Organisation is presented and the further development of the staff is described within the scope of the long-range financial planning. The role of Chile is highlighted and expansion of the number of Member States beyond the current 15 is discussed. The strengths of the ESO model, together with challenges as well as possible new opportunities and initiatives, are examined and a strategy for the future of ESO is outlined.

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T. Zeeuw
Fri, 6 Jan 17

Comments: 26 pages, 17 figures. Appears in The Messenger, December 2016

Quantitative Evaluation of Gender Bias in Astronomical Publications from Citation Counts [IMA]

We analyze the role of first (leading) author gender on the number of citations that a paper receives, on the publishing frequency and on the self-citing tendency. We consider a complete sample of over 200,000 publications from 1950 to 2015 from five major astronomy journals. We determine the gender of the first author for over 70% of all publications. The fraction of papers which have a female first author has increased from less than 5% in the 1960s to about 25% today. We find that the increase of the fraction of papers authored by females is slowest in the most prestigious journals such as Science and Nature. Furthermore, female authors write 19$\pm$7% fewer papers in seven years following their first paper than their male colleagues. At all times papers with male first authors receive more citations than papers with female first authors. This difference has been decreasing with time and amounts to $\sim$6% measured over the last 30 years. To account for the fact that the properties of female and male first author papers differ intrinsically, we use a random forest algorithm to control for the non-gender specific properties of these papers which include seniority of the first author, number of references, total number of authors, year of publication, publication journal, field of study and region of the first author’s institution. We show that papers authored by females receive 10.4$\pm$0.9% fewer citations than what would be expected if the papers with the same non-gender specific properties were written by the male authors. Finally, we also find that female authors in our sample tend to self-cite more, but that this effect disappears when controlled for non-gender specific variables.

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N. Caplar, S. Tacchella and S. Birrer
Mon, 31 Oct 16

Comments: Abridged version to be submitted to Nature Astronomy. Comments welcome. For readers with very little time, the central result of the paper is covered by Figure 6 (Section 5)

The contrivance of Neptune [EPA]

Celebrating 170th anniversary of the discovery of Neptune, I review the story of the discovery that startled the world. The story is an interplay of scientific triumph and human weakness and an example of how science works in a socio-political context.

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D. Krajnovic
Fri, 21 Oct 16

Comments: A somewhat expanded version of the article published in A&G (October 2016). It differs in two additional text boxes pertaining to the Titius-Bode rule and the naming of the planet, and a correction to the table with pre-discovery sightings of Neptune. 17 pages, two figures and six explanatory boxes. Numeration of figures, tables and boxes is different from the published version