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January 5, 2009

Conference Announcement: The Women in Astronomy and Space Science will be held October 21-23 in College Park, MD. Mark your calendars and spread the word!

Women in Astronomy and Space Science:
Challenges of gender, generation, and minority status in an increasingly diverse scientific work place

Oct 21-23, 2009, College Park, MD

Goddard Space Flight Center, along with co-hosts National Science Foundation, University of Maryland, AAS, STScI, NGST, and others, will be hosting a meeting October 21 – 23, 2009 at the University of Maryland Conference Center on the topic of women in astronomy and space science with a focus on not only gender, but also on generation and minorities. This meeting follows up on the “Women in Astronomy” meeting hosted by Space Telescope Science Institute in 1992 and the Pasadena meeting hosted by CalTech in 2003. The topics include: 1) statistics on the state of the field, establishing trends over the last 15 years including the “longitudinal studies” of age vs. makeup of the field and identifying areas for celebration or for concern; 2) research on the impact of gender/ generational/ cultural differences in the science workforce with a focus on practical solutions, 3) issues concerning the work environment and best practices for success of scientists in a diverse work force, and 4) special sessions on the issues of minorities in science, and women in Earth Science.

There is evidence for considerable success in increasing the percentage of women in the field of science and so we aim here to focus more on issues concerning the success of those in the field and solutions for managing a diverse workforce. This meeting will highlight best practices to help the diverse scientific work force to succeed, and will address both the junior members of the field, as well as those who mentor and manage today’s diverse scientific workforce. We hope you will join us. More information will be posted on our website as it becomes available.

One of Susan K’s comments has stuck with me, by the way, and I wonder how many times we just don’t see women at conferences, updates, and meetings because of travel constraints. I don’t believe there are plans to WebEx this meeting, but maybe there should be … or we could set it up on another virtual platform … anyone interested in doing a parallel meeting in second life, for instance (this would also require someone to volunteer to host it, set it up, sponsor — it’s a lot of work, but maybe worth it)? Or setting up a twitter tag so that even those who can’t travel can get the gist of what’s going on? Joining in by teleconference? Hmmmm. What would make this meeting more accessible to those of you who can’t travel? And do you know how to make that happen?

Let’s brainstorm together….

10 Comments leave one →
  1. mummycha permalink
    January 13, 2009 2:07 am


    You may be interested in the following event as well


  2. January 9, 2009 5:22 pm

    These are all great comments. I’m actually on the organizing committee and would be happy to push for remote participation at our big meeting this week. Tell me … what else would be useful? Specific suggestions would be great.

    I totally agree that more specifics need to go on the conference web site, and I hope that the committee will be able to do that soon.

  3. January 7, 2009 1:43 pm

    This conference sounds interesting, but I’m wondering if it will be worth perhaps bumping another conference out of the picture in order to go. I’m a PhD student, and I only have the opportunity/funds to go to 1-2 conferences per year.

    Also, does anyone know what the format of the conference will be? Will there be talks/posters, or will it be more informal and focus on discussion/brainstorming sessions? Is it meant more for people that study education in the sciences, or are astronomers/scientists able to join as well?

    Like geochem-mom said, I think this would be a great conference to participate in remotely. So, I hope they are able to add that sort of aspect to it.

  4. January 7, 2009 11:32 am

    As working moms (and just scientists in general!), many of us have to really be careful with our time management. We don’t want to spend time on something that’s not going to end up being useful to us or our community. That being said, I wish the website were more clear on what the goals of the meeting are, so I could better gauge whether or not it is an appropriate use of my time.

    They mention best practices in the field and addressing the needs of women and minorities already in the employment stream, but not HOW they are going to address them. Is this a participatory workshop or a “preaching to the choir” exercise? What is the intended participant pool- people doing active research addressing gender/culture/generation differences in science, those of us experiencing those differences, or department heads and group leaders who want to change their institutions for the better?

    What is the end goal? Dissemination of information? Discussion and development of recommendations to the community? A special publication?

    I have never participated in a conference remotely, but this looks like a prime example of where it might be useful. I’m interested to see what develops.

  5. MummyCha permalink
    January 7, 2009 1:31 am

    Conferences in general are getting more and more expensive. Some of them take place in touristic areas, which is not always justified. If at least the WiA OC can negotiate an affordable registration fee, this will already be nice. I was interested in attending a Gordon Conference this year: $850 of registration is definitely a repellent.

    Outside the logistics issues, I appreciate that the organizers are addressing key issues: not just the gender difference aspect, but also issues related to the generational and cultural differences in the workplace. In my opinion, these aspects are as much a matter of concern as gender differences.

    I am very curious to see how these matters are going to be handled and whether or not this workshop has the potential to make a difference for the future.

  6. Susan K permalink
    January 6, 2009 6:08 pm

    Thanks for the counters squawky. Good points all. So maybe it is a hard-to-win situation.

    (though I’d point out that calling this venue accessible without a rental car is a stretch – it IS, but it is a pain, the only hotel is expensive, food options nearby are limited (or you are in competition for cheap eats with UMD students)), not really as great as it is made out to be. We’re having a meeting there soon and were lucky to get government rate sleeping rooms – at more than $200/night!

  7. squawky permalink
    January 6, 2009 5:57 pm

    It’s true that this is a tough meeting to get to, but I have to counter with a few observations….

    — It’s sponsored partly by GSFC, so the Maryland location may make it cheaper to organize (and thus cheaper to attend, fee-wise). While definitely closer for East Coast folks, there are three major airports nearby (two reachable by train, no need for a rental car), making travel arrangements easier. (Southwest flies into BWI, if that’s a cheaper option for people.)

    — I can’t complain about middle of the semester (I’d hate to have all my conferences over winter break, say), as I need my summer to do research and field work. [Six of one, half dozen of the other, I think].

    — We can make it clear that web streaming would be useful (as was done for the Great Planet Debate conference, which may have been organized by a similar group). Possible that the plans are just not firm yet, so not on the website.

    — I can’t imagine tacking on a 2-3 day meeting to a week long meeting without some kind of conference fatigue. There’s too much going on at LPSC and DPS as it is…. but I definitely understand the difficulties of getting to yet another conference. Another no-win situation, perhaps?

    (Sorry – just a few comments – would love to attend this meeting, but will have to see if the cards fall the right way… travel funds and time off from classes, etc.)

  8. Susan K permalink
    January 6, 2009 3:53 pm

    Well, yes, kudos to the organizers, but let’s look at this.

    It is in the middle of the semester.

    It is on one “coast”, at a place expensive to get to and expensive to stay (Minneapolis anyone?).

    There are no plans to WebEx it.

    It is a ‘stand alone’ meeting – not tied to another big meeting (AAS?) that people might already be coming to.

    Seems like they’ve done a good job of eliminating from participation the very people they claim to target.

    Or am I missing something…??

  9. MummyCha permalink
    January 5, 2009 6:41 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I am not planning to participate in that meeting because it falls between two other conferences I have committed to attend (and where I can bring my son, yeah!).
    But I would be happy to help with setting up a virtual platform.

    Kudos to the organizers of the meeting for that great initiative.


  1. When travel is limited « Women in Planetary Science

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