The International Cosmic Day – An Outreach Event for Astroparticle Physics [IMA]

The International Cosmic Day (ICD) is an astroparticle physics outreach event for high-school students and brings together students and different physics outreach projects from all over the world. Groups of scientists, teachers, and students meet for one day to learn about cosmic rays and perform an experiment with atmospheric muons. All participating groups investigate an identical question. The students are enabled to work together like in an international collaboration, discussing their results in joint video conferences. Analyzing data, comparing and discussing with other “young scientists” gives the students a glimpse of how professional scientific research works. Scientists join the video conferences and give lectures to provide an insight in current astroparticle physics research. Several participating research experiments analyze big science data tailored to the questions addressed by the students and present their results on equal terms with the students. To create a lasting event, proceedings with measurement results of all participating groups are published. Every participant receives a personal e-mail with his certificate and the proceedings booklet. Organized by DESY in cooperation with Netzwerk Teilchenwelt, IPPOG, QuarkNet, Fermilab, and national partners like INFN, the ICD is a growing event with more and more popularity. We present the organization of the event and the experience from five years of ICD.

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M. Hutten, T. Karg, C. Schwerdt, et. al.
Tue, 7 Nov 17

Comments: presented at the 35th International Cosmic Ray Conference, Busan, July 2017

Hack Weeks as a model for Data Science Education and Collaboration [CL]

Across almost all scientific disciplines, the instruments that record our experimental data and the methods required for storage and data analysis are rapidly increasing in complexity. This gives rise to the need for scientific communities to adapt on shorter time scales than traditional university curricula allow for, and therefore requires new modes of knowledge transfer. The universal applicability of data science tools to a broad range of problems has generated new opportunities to foster exchange of ideas and computational workflows across disciplines. In recent years, hack weeks have emerged as an effective tool for fostering these exchanges by providing training in modern data analysis workflows. While there are variations in hack week implementation, all events consist of a common core of three components: tutorials in state-of-the-art methodology, peer-learning and project work in a collaborative environment. In this paper, we present the concept of a hack week in the larger context of scientific meetings and point out similarities and differences to traditional conferences. We motivate the need for such an event and present in detail its strengths and challenges. We find that hack weeks are successful at cultivating collaboration and the exchange of knowledge. Participants self-report that these events help them both in their day-to-day research as well as their careers. Based on our results, we conclude that hack weeks present an effective, easy-to-implement, fairly low-cost tool to positively impact data analysis literacy in academic disciplines, foster collaboration and cultivate best practices.

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D. Huppenkothen, A. Arendt, D. Hogg, et. al.
Thu, 2 Nov 17

Comments: 15 pages, 2 figures, submitted to PNAS, all relevant code available at this https URL

Forty Years of Linking Variable Star Research with Education [CL]

In this review, I reflect on four decades of my experience in linking astronomy research and education by supervising variable-star research projects by undergraduates, and by outstanding senior high school students. I describe the evolution of my experience, the students I have supervised, the nature of their projects, the educational contexts of the projects, the need for “best practices”, the journals in which we publish, and the special role of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). I then describe our recent research on pulsating red giants and related objects, including three astrophysical mysteries that we have uncovered. Finally, I suggest how my projects might be scaled up or extended by others who supervise student research.

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J. Percy
Fri, 13 Oct 17

Comments: Submitted to the proceedings of the conference “Remote Telescopes, Student Research, and Education”

An item response theory evaluation of the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory national data set [CL]

This paper presents the first item response theory (IRT) analysis of the national data set on introductory, general education, college-level astronomy teaching using the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory (LSCI). We used the difference between students’ pre- and post-instruction IRT-estimated abilities as a measure of learning gain. This analysis provides deeper insights than prior publications into both the LSCI as an instrument and into the effectiveness of teaching and learning in introductory astronomy courses. Our IRT analysis supports the classical test theory findings of prior studies using the LSCI with this population. In particular, we found that students in classes that used active learning strategies at least 25% of the time had average IRT-estimated learning gains that were approximately 1 logit larger than students in classes that spent less time on active learning strategies. We also found that instructors who want their classes to achieve an improvement in abilities of average $\Delta \theta = 1$ logit must spend at least 25% of class time on active learning strategies. However, our analysis also powerfully illustrates the lack of insight into student learning that is revealed by looking at a single measure of learning gain, such as average $\Delta \theta$. Educators and researchers should also examine the distributions of students’ abilities pre- and post-instruction in order to understand how many students actually achieved an improvement in their abilities and whether or not a majority of students have moved to post-abilities significantly greater than the national average.

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C. Wallace, T. Chambers and E. Prather
Mon, 18 Sep 17

Comments: 14 pages, 60 figures, submitted to Physical Review: Physics Education Research

Discovering New Variable Stars at Key Stage 3 [CL]

Details of the London pilot of the `Discovery Project’ are presented, where university-based astronomers were given the chance to pass on some real and applied knowledge of astronomy to a group of selected secondary school pupils. It was aimed at students in Key Stage 3 of their education, allowing them to be involved in real astronomical research at an early stage of their education, the chance to become the official discoverer of a new variable star, and to be listed in the International Variable Star Index database, all while learning and practising research-level skills. Future plans are discussed.

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K. Chubb, R. Hood, T. Wilson, et. al.
Tue, 25 Jul 17

Comments: 10 pages, 1 figure

Statistical methods in astronomy [CL]

We present a review of data types and statistical methods often encountered in astronomy. The aim is to provide an introduction to statistical applications in astronomy for statisticians and computer scientists. We highlight the complex, often hierarchical, nature of many astronomy inference problems and advocate for cross-disciplinary collaborations to address these challenges.

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J. Long and R. Souza
Thu, 20 Jul 17

Comments: 9 pages, 5 figures

Incorporating Current Research into Formal Higher Education Settings using Astrobites [CL]

A primary goal of many undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in the physical sciences is to prepare students to engage in scientific research, or to prepare students for careers that leverage skillsets similar to those used by research scientists. Even for students who may not intend to pursue a career with these characteristics, exposure to the context of applications in modern research can be a valuable tool for teaching and learning. However, a persistent barrier to student participation in research is familiarity with the technical language, format, and context that academic researchers use to communicate research methods and findings with each other: the literature of the field. Astrobites, an online web resource authored by graduate students, has published brief and accessible summaries of more than 1,300 articles from the astrophysical literature since its founding in 2010. This article presents three methods for introducing students at all levels within the formal higher education setting to approaches and results from modern research. For each method, we provide a sample lesson plan that integrates content and principles from Astrobites, including step-by-step instructions for instructors, suggestions for adapting the lesson to different class levels across the undergraduate and graduate spectrum, sample student handouts, and a grading rubric.

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N. Sanders, S. Kohler, C. Faesi, et. al.
Tue, 6 Jun 17

Comments: Accepted by AJP. 15 pages, 4 figures