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.

Read this paper on arXiv…

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.

Read this paper on arXiv…

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

The Astropy Problem [IMA]

The Astropy Project (this http URL) is, in its own words, “a community effort to develop a single core package for Astronomy in Python and foster interoperability between Python astronomy packages.” For five years this project has been managed, written, and operated as a grassroots, self-organized, almost entirely volunteer effort while the software is used by the majority of the astronomical community. Despite this, the project has always been and remains to this day effectively unfunded. Further, contributors receive little or no formal recognition for creating and supporting what is now critical software. This paper explores the problem in detail, outlines possible solutions to correct this, and presents a few suggestions on how to address the sustainability of general purpose astronomical software.

Read this paper on arXiv…

D. Muna, M. Alexander, A. Allen, et. al.
Wed, 12 Oct 16

Comments: N/A

Building an Inclusive AAS – The Critical Role of Diversity and Inclusion Training for AAS Council and Astronomy Leadership [IMA]

Diversity, equity and inclusion are the science leadership issues of our time. As our nation and the field of astronomy grow more diverse, we find ourselves in a position of enormous potential and opportunity: a multitude of studies show how groups of diverse individuals with differing viewpoints outperform homogenous groups to find solutions that are more innovative, creative, and responsive to complex problems, and promote higher-order thinking amongst the group. Research specifically into publications also shows that diverse author groups publish in higher quality journals and receive higher citation rates. As we welcome more diverse individuals into astronomy, we therefore find ourselves in a position of potential never before seen in the history of science, with the best minds and most diverse perspectives our field has ever seen. Despite this enormous growing potential, and the proven power of diversity, the demographics of our field are not keeping pace with the changing demographics of the nation, and astronomers of colour, women, LGBT individuals, people with disabilities, and those with more than one of these identities still face “chilly” or “hostile” work environments in the sciences. If we are to fully support all astronomers and students in reaching their full scientific potential, we must recognize that most of us tend to overestimate our ability to support our minoritized students and colleagues, that our formal education system fails to prepare us for working in a multicultural environment, and that most of us need some kind of training to help us know what we don’t know and fill those gaps in our education. To that end, diversity and inclusion training for AAS council and leadership, heads of astronomy departments, and faculty search committees should be a basic requirement throughout our field.

Read this paper on arXiv…

C. Brinkworth, A. Skaer, C. Prescod-Weinstein, et. al.
Tue, 11 Oct 16

Comments: 7 pages

Gender Systematics in Telescope Time Allocation at ESO [CL]

The results of a comprehensive statistical analysis of gender systematics in the time allocation process at European Southern Observatory (ESO) are presented. The sample on which the study is based includes more than 13000 Normal and Short proposals, submitted by about 3000 principal investigators (PI) over eight years. The genders of PIs, and of the panel members of the Observing Programmes Committee (OPC), were used, together with their career level, to analyse the grade distributions and the proposal success rates. Proposals submitted by female PIs show a significantly lower probability of being allocated time. The proposal success rates (defined as number of top ranked runs over requested runs) are 16.0$\pm$0.6% and 22.0$\pm$0.4% for females and males, respectively. To a significant extent the disparity is related to different input distributions in terms of career level. The seniority of male PIs is significantly higher than that of female PIs, with only 34% of the female PIs being professionally employed astronomers (compared to 53% for male PIs). A small, but statistically significant, gender-dependent behaviour is measured for the OPC referees: both genders show the same systematics, but they are larger for males than females. The PI female/male fraction is very close to 30/70; although far from parity, the fraction is higher than that observed, for instance, among IAU membership.

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F. Patat
Wed, 5 Oct 16

Comments: 10 pages, 7 figures. To appear in the ESO Messenger (n. 165, 2)

Space Development and Space Science Together, an Historic Opportunity [IMA]

The national space programs have an historic opportunity to help solve the global-scale economic and environmental problems of Earth while becoming more effective at science through the use of space resources. Space programs will be more cost-effective when they work to establish a supply chain in space, mining and manufacturing then replicating the assets of the supply chain itself so it grows to larger capacity. This has become achievable because of advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. It is roughly estimated that developing a lunar outpost that relies upon and also develops the supply chain will cost about 1/3 or less of the existing annual budgets of the national space programs. It will require a sustained commitment of several decades to complete, during which time science and exploration become increasingly effective. At the end, this space industry will capable of addressing global-scale challenges including limited resources, clean energy, economic development, and preservation of the environment. Other potential solutions, including nuclear fusion and terrestrial renewable energy sources, do not address the root problem of our limited globe and there are real questions that they may be inadequate or too late. While industry in space likewise cannot provide perfect assurance, it is uniquely able to solve the root problem, and it gives us an important chance that we should grasp. What makes this such an historic opportunity is that the space-based solution is obtainable for free, because it comes as a side-benefit of doing space science and exploration within their existing budgets. Thinking pragmatically, it may take some time for policymakers to agree that setting up a complete supply chain is an achievable goal, so this paper describes a strategy of incremental progress.

Read this paper on arXiv…

P. Metzger
Tue, 6 Sep 16

Comments: 38 pages. Accepted for publication in Space Policy journal

The Gender Balance of the Australian Space Research Community: A Snapshot From The 15th ASRC, 2015 [IMA]

In recent years, the striking gender imbalance in the physical sciences has been a topic for much debate. National bodies and professional societies in the astronomical and space sciences are now taking active steps to understand and address this imbalance. In order to begin this process in the Australian Space Research community, we must first understand the current state of play. In this work, we therefore present a short ‘snapshot’ of the current gender balance in our community, as observed at the 15th Australian Space Research Conference.
We find that, at this year’s conference, male attendees outnumbered female attendees by a ratio of 3:1 (24% female). This gender balance was repeated in the distribution of conference talks and plenary presentations (25 and 22% female, respectively). Of the thirteen posters presented at the conference, twelve were presented by men (92%), a pattern repeated in the awards for the best student presentations (seven male recipients vs one female). The program and organising committees for the meeting fairly represented the gender balance of the conference attendees (28% and 30% female, respectively). These figures provide a baseline for monitoring future progress in increasing the participation of women in the field. They also suggest that the real barrier is not speaking, but in enabling conference attendance and retaining female scientists through their careers – in other words, addressing and repairing the ‘leaky pipeline’.

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J. Horner, A. Gorman, A. Cairns, et. al.
Fri, 6 May 16

Comments: 9 pages, 5 figures, 1 table; accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed proceedings of the 15th Australian Space Research Conference, UNSW Australia, Canberra, 25th September – 1st October 2015

Physics GRE Scores of Prize Postdoctoral Fellows in Astronomy [CL]

The Physics GRE is currently a required element of the graduate admissions process in nearly all U.S. astronomy programs; however, its predictive power and utility as a means of selecting “successful” applicants has never been examined. We circulated a short questionnaire to 271 people who have held U.S. prize postdoctoral fellowships in astrophysics between 2010-2015, asking them to report their Physics GRE scores (this should not in any way be interpreted as a belief that a prize fellowship is the best or only metric of “success” in astronomy). The response rate was 64%, and the responding sample is unbiased with respect to the overall gender distribution of prize fellows. The responses reveal that the Physics GRE scores of prize fellows do not adhere to any minimum percentile score and show no statistically significant correlation with the number of first author papers published. As an example, a Physics GRE percentile cutoff of 60% would have eliminated 44% of 2010-2015 U.S. prize postdoctoral fellows, including 60% of the female fellows. From these data, we find no evidence that the Physics GRE can be used as an effective predictor of “success” either in or beyond graduate school.

Read this paper on arXiv…

E. Levesque, R. Bezanson and G. Tremblay
Mon, 14 Dec 15

Comments: 12 pages, 5 figures

Astronomy Job Crisis [IMA]

Astronomers in CANDELS outline changes for the academic system to promote a smooth transition for junior scientists from academia to industry.

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A. Cooray, A. Abate, B. Haussler, et. al.
Wed, 9 Dec 15

Comments: Version given to Nature Careers for publication, August 2015

Examination of the scientific review process: Ten best practice suggestions for an improved process [CL]

In this article we wish to provide a common set of best practice approaches that should be considered for all effective research grant proposal reviews. The federal government performs a critical role in American competitiveness and security by supporting basic research funded with taxpayer dollars. Effectively managing their allocation to scientists and researchers is a noble and crucial mission for advancing fundamental knowledge and deserves a heightened attention. Ensuring that proposals submitted are treated fairly and transparently is essential to both the health of any research program and also a duty to the public who ultimately funds the research.
The paper describes the general requirements of a review process and at each step underlines the issues and suggests potential improvements and some fundamental requirements that should be included in any scientific review. We also included a series of tips geared to the scientific community. Our goals in this paper are 1) to demystify the process for everyone including policy makers who are sometimes flummoxed by the results of some scientific reviews, 2) to trigger some discussions about reviews and review process in the scientific community, 3) to inform scientists whose careers are directly impacted by review results about their own role in this process and 4) to suggest a road to more efficient, fairer and overall more transparent process. For experts in proposal reviews or for busy or impatient readers, the entire list of our recommendations is presented at the beginning. We describe in each section the context and rational of each recommendation.

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I. Harrus
Fri, 13 Nov 15

Comments: 24 pages

Quantifying the Cognitive Extent of Science [CL]

While the modern science is characterized by an exponential growth in scientific literature, the increase in publication volume clearly does not reflect the expansion of the cognitive boundaries of science. Nevertheless, most of the metrics for assessing the vitality of science or for making funding and policy decisions are based on productivity. Similarly, the increasing level of knowledge production by large science teams, whose results often enjoy greater visibility, does not necessarily mean that “big science” leads to cognitive expansion. Here we present a novel, big-data method to quantify the extents of cognitive domains of different bodies of scientific literature independently from publication volume, and apply it to 20 million articles published over 60-130 years in physics, astronomy, and biomedicine. The method is based on the lexical diversity of titles of fixed quotas of research articles. Owing to large size of quotas, the method overcomes the inherent stochasticity of article titles to achieve <1% precision. We show that the periods of cognitive growth do not necessarily coincide with the trends in publication volume. Furthermore, we show that the articles produced by larger teams cover significantly smaller cognitive territory than (the same quota of) articles from smaller teams. Our findings provide a new perspective on the role of small teams and individual researchers in expanding the cognitive boundaries of science. The proposed method of quantifying the extent of the cognitive territory can also be applied to study many other aspects of “science of science.”

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S. Milojevic
Tue, 3 Nov 15

Comments: Accepted for publication in Journal of Informetrics

Measuring Metrics – A forty year longitudinal cross-validation of citations, downloads, and peer review in Astrophysics [CL]

Citation measures, and newer altmetric measures such as downloads are now commonly used to inform personnel decisions. How well do or can these measures measure or predict the past, current of future scholarly performance of an individual? Using data from the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System we analyze the publication, citation, download, and distinction histories of a cohort of 922 individuals who received a U.S. PhD in astronomy in the period 1972-1976. By examining the same and different measures at the same and different times for the same individuals we are able to show the capabilities and limitations of each measure. Because the distributions are lognormal measurement uncertainties are multiplicative; we show that in order to state with 95% confidence that one person’s citations and/or downloads are significantly higher than another person’s, the log difference in the ratio of counts must be at least 0.3 dex, which corresponds to a multiplicative factor of two.

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M. Kurtz and E. Henneken
Mon, 2 Nov 15

Comments: Author’s version of manuscript accepted for publication in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST); 35 pages 16 figures

Astronomía al Aire: Media Convergence in Astronomy & Astrophysics [CL]

We describe the experience of running an Astrophysics outreach initiative involving traditional mass media like radio broadcast and new digital media like blog, microblogging and internet video channel. Some very successful preliminary results are also presented. This unique experience is helping to create new science informal education environments for Spanish speaking people in Latin America.

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L. Nunez and H. Rago
Thu, 29 Oct 15

Comments: N/A

Impact of Declining Proposal Success Rates on Scientific Productivity [CL]

Over the last decade proposal success rates in the fundamental sciences have dropped significantly. Astronomy and related fields funded by NASA and NSF are no exception. Data across agencies show that this is not principally the result of a decline in proposal merit (the proportion of proposals receiving high rankings is largely unchanged), nor of a shift in proposer demographics (seniority, gender, and institutional affiliation have all remained unchanged), nor of an increase (beyond inflation) in the average requested funding per proposal, nor of an increase in the number of proposals per investigator in any one year. Rather, the statistics are consistent with a scenario in which agency budgets for competed research are flat or decreasing in inflation-adjusted dollars, the overall population of investigators has grown, and a larger proportion of these investigators are resubmitting meritorious but unfunded proposals. This White Paper presents statistics which support this conclusion, as well as recent research on the time cost of proposal writing versus that of producing publishable results. We conclude that an aspirational proposal success rate of 30-35% would still provide a healthily competitive environment for researchers, would more fully utilize the scientific capacity of the community’s facilities and missions, and provide relief to the funding agencies who face the logistics of ever-increasing volumes of proposals.

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P. Cushman, J. Hoeksema, C. Kouveliotou, et. al.
Wed, 7 Oct 15

Comments: This is a draft white paper that will be considered by the Astronomy & Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) at its upcoming meeting: this http URL&org=AST . The authors welcome and encourage comments from the community

A New Ranking Scheme for the Institutional Scientific Performance [IMA]

We propose a new performance indicator to evaluate the productivity of research institutions by their disseminated scientific papers. The new quality measure includes two principle components: the normalized impact factor of the journal in which paper was published, and the number of citations received per year since it was published. In both components, the scientific impacts are weighted by the contribution of authors from the evaluated institution. As a whole, our new metric, namely, the institutional performance score takes into account both journal based impact and articles specific impacts. We apply this new scheme to evaluate research output performance of Turkish institutions specialized in astronomy and astrophysics in the period of 1998-2012. We discuss the implications of the new metric, and emphasize the benefits of it along with comparison to other proposed institutional performance indicators.

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S. Bilir, E. Gogus, O. Tas, et. al.
Tue, 18 Aug 15

Comments: 12 pages, 3 figures and 2 tables, accepted for publication in Journal of Scientometric Research

Should we geoengineer larger ice caps? [EPA]

The climate of Earth is susceptible to catastrophes that could threaten the longevity of human civilization. Geoengineering to reduce incoming solar radiation has been suggested as a way to mediate the warming effects of contemporary climate change, but a geoengineering program for thousands of years could also be used to enlarge the size of the polar ice caps and create a permanently cooler climate. Such a large ice cap state would make Earth less susceptible to climate threats and could allow human civilization to survive further into the future than otherwise possible. Intentionally extending Earth’s glacial coverage will require uninterrupted commitment to this program for millenia but would ultimately reach a cooler equilibrium state where geoengineering is no longer needed. Whether or not this program is ever attempted, this concept illustrates the need to identify preference among potential climate states to ensure the long-term success of civilization.

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J. Haqq-Misra
Tue, 21 Jul 15

Comments: Accepted for publication in Futures

Who are we now? [IMA]

In 2014 the Royal Astronomical Society carried out a survey of its membership, finding that we are both more and less diverse than UK society as a whole. Robert Massey summarizes the findings and what they mean for the Society in future.

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R. Massey
Mon, 1 Jun 15

Comments: This article has been published in Astronomy and Geophysics. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved

To Apply or Not to Apply: A Survey Analysis of Grant Writing Costs and Benefits [CL]

We surveyed 113 astronomers and 82 psychologists active in applying for federally funded research on their grant-writing history between January, 2009 and November, 2012. We collected demographic data, effort levels, success rates, and perceived non-financial benefits from writing grant proposals. We find that the average proposal takes 116 PI hours and 55 CI hours to write; although time spent writing was not related to whether the grant was funded. Effort did translate into success, however, as academics who wrote more grants received more funding. Participants indicated modest non-monetary benefits from grant writing, with psychologists reporting a somewhat greater benefit overall than astronomers. These perceptions of non-financial benefits were unrelated to how many grants investigators applied for, the number of grants they received, or the amount of time they devoted to writing their proposals. We also explored the number of years an investigator can afford to apply unsuccessfully for research grants and our analyses suggest that funding rates below approximately 20%, commensurate with current NIH and NSF funding, are likely to drive at least half of the active researchers away from federally funded research. We conclude with recommendations and suggestions for individual investigators and for department heads.

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T. Hippel and C. Hippel
Tue, 17 Mar 15

Comments: Full paper plus three tables not included here and supplemental material available at, PLOS ONE, March 4, 2015

Crowdfunding Astronomy with Google Sky [CL]

For nearly four years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope searched for planets like the Earth around more than 150,000 stars similar to the Sun. In 2008 with in-kind support from several technology companies, our non-profit organization established the Pale Blue Dot Project, an adopt-a-star program that supports scientific research on the stars observed by the Kepler mission. I describe how this innovative crowdfunding program has engaged the public over the past seven years to help support an international team in an era of economic austerity.

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T. Metcalfe
Fri, 27 Feb 15

Comments: 8 pages, 3 figures, submitted to Communicating Astronomy with the Public. Project website is at this http URL

Avoiding Intellectual Stagnation: The Starship as an Expander of Minds [CL]

Interstellar exploration will advance human knowledge and culture in multiple ways. Scientifically, it will advance our understanding of the interstellar medium, stellar astrophysics, planetary science and astrobiology. In addition, significant societal and cultural benefits will result from a programme of interstellar exploration and colonisation. Most important will be the cultural stimuli resulting from expanding the horizons of human experience, and increased opportunities for the spread and diversification of life and culture through the Galaxy. Ultimately, a programme of interstellar exploration may be the only way for human (and post-human) societies to avoid the intellectual stagnation predicted for the “end of history”.

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I. Crawford
Tue, 20 Jan 15

Comments: Published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society

A Unifying Theory for Scaling Laws of Human Populations [CL]

The spatial distribution of people exhibits clustering across a wide range of scales, from household (~$10^{-2}$ km) to continental (~$10^4$ km) scales. Empirical data indicates simple power-law scalings for the size distribution of cities (known as Zipf’s law), the geographic distribution of friends, and the population density fluctuations as a function of scale. We derive a simple statistical model that explains all of these scaling laws based on a single unifying principle involving the random spatial growth of clusters of people on all scales. The model makes important new predictions for the spread of diseases and other social phenomena.

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H. Lin and A. Loeb
Wed, 7 Jan 15

Comments: 13 pages, 2 figures, press embargo until published

Improving a pavement-watering method on the basis of pavement surface temperature measurements [CL]

Pavement-watering has been studied since the 1990’s and is currently considered a promising tool for urban heat island reduction and climate change adaptation. However, possible future water resource availability problems require that water consumption be optimized. Although pavement heat flux can be studied to improve pavement-watering methods (frequency and water consumption), these measurements are costly and require invasive construction work to install appropriate sensors in a dense urban environment. Therefore, we analyzed measurements of pavement surface temperatures in search of alternative information relevant to this goal. It was found that high frequency surface temperature measurements (more than every 5 minutes) made by an infrared camera can provide enough information to optimize the watering frequency. Furthermore, if the water retaining capacity of the studied pavement is known, optimization of total water consumption is possible on the sole basis of surface temperature measurements.

Read this paper on arXiv…

M. Hendel, M. Colombert, Y. Diab, et. al.
Tue, 9 Dec 14

Comments: Accepted by Urban Climate

Crowdfunding Astronomy Outreach Projects: Lessons Learned from the UNAWE Crowdfunding Campaign [CL]

In recent years, crowdfunding has become a popular method of funding new technology or entertainment products, or artistic projects. The idea is that people or projects ask for many small donations from individuals who support the proposed work, rather than a large amount from a single source. Crowdfunding is usually done via an online portal or platform which handles the financial transactions involved. The Universe Awareness (UNAWE) programme decided to undertake a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign centring on the resource Universe in a Box2. In this article we present the lessons learned and best practices from that campaign.

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A. Ashton, P. Russo and T. Heenatigala
Mon, 8 Dec 14

Comments: Published – Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal #16 (4 pages) (2014)

Automatic fault detection on BIPV systems without solar irradiation data [CL]

BIPV systems are small PV generation units spread out over the territory, and whose characteristics are very diverse. This makes difficult a cost-effective procedure for monitoring, fault detection, performance analyses, operation and maintenance. As a result, many problems affecting BIPV systems go undetected. In order to carry out effective automatic fault detection procedures, we need a performance indicator that is reliable and that can be applied on many PV systems at a very low cost. The existing approaches for analyzing the performance of PV systems are often based on the Performance Ratio (PR), whose accuracy depends on good solar irradiation data, which in turn can be very difficult to obtain or cost-prohibitive for the BIPV owner. We present an alternative fault detection procedure based on a performance indicator that can be constructed on the sole basis of the energy production data measured at the BIPV systems. This procedure does not require the input of operating conditions data, such as solar irradiation, air temperature, or wind speed. The performance indicator, called Performance to Peers (P2P), is constructed from spatial and temporal correlations between the energy output of neighboring and similar PV systems. This method was developed from the analysis of the energy production data of approximately 10,000 BIPV systems located in Europe. The results of our procedure are illustrated on the hourly, daily and monthly data monitored during one year at one BIPV system located in the South of Belgium. Our results confirm that it is possible to carry out automatic fault detection procedures without solar irradiation data. P2P proves to be more stable than PR most of the time, and thus constitutes a more reliable performance indicator for fault detection procedures.

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J. Leloux, L. Narvarte, A. Luna, et. al.
Tue, 28 Oct 14

Comments: 7 pages, 8 figures, conference proceedings, 29th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition, Amsterdam, 2014

The recent Italian regulations about the open-access availability of publicly-funded research publications, and the documentation landscape in astrophysics [CL]

In October 2013 Italy enacted a law containing the first national regulations about the open-access availability of publicly-funded research results (publications).This contribution examines how these new regulations match with the specific situation of that open-access pioneering discipline which is astrophysics.

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M. Marra
Thu, 24 Jul 14

Comments: To be published in the proceedings of LISA VII Conference, Naples, Italy, 18-20.6.2014

Bibliometric Indicators of Young Authors in Astrophysics: Can Later Stars be Predicted? [CL]

We test 16 bibliometric indicators with respect to their validity at the level of the individual researcher by estimating their power to predict later successful researchers. We compare the indicators of a sample of astrophysics researchers who later co-authored highly cited papers before their first landmark paper with the distributions of these indicators over a random control group of young authors in astronomy and astrophysics. We find that field and citation-window normalisation substantially improves the predicting power of citation indicators. The two indicators of total influence based on citation numbers normalised with expected citation numbers are the only indicators which show differences between later stars and random authors significant on a 1% level. Indicators of paper output are not very useful to predict later stars. The famous $h$-index makes no difference at all between later stars and the random control group.

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F. Havemann and B. Larsen
Mon, 14 Apr 14

Careers in astronomy in Germany and the UK [CL]

We discuss the outcomes of surveys addressing the career situation of astronomers in Germany and the UK, finding social and cultural differences between communities as well as gender bias in both.

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J. Fohlmeister and C. Helling
Fri, 11 Apr 14

Studying Gender in Conference Talks — data from the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society [CL]

We present a study on the gender balance, in speakers and attendees, at the recent major astronomical conference, the American Astronomical Society meeting 223, in Washington, DC. We conducted an informal survey, yielding over 300 responses by volunteers at the meeting. Each response included gender data about a single talk given at the meeting, recording the gender of the speaker and all question-askers. In total, 225 individual AAS talks were sampled. We analyze basic statistical properties of this sample. We find that the gender ratio of the speakers closely matched the gender ratio of the conference attendees. The audience asked an average of 2.8 questions per talk. Talks given by women had a slightly higher number of questions asked (3.2$\pm$0.2) than talks given by men (2.6$\pm$0.1). The most significant result from this study is that while the gender ratio of speakers very closely mirrors that of conference attendees, women are under-represented in the question-asker category. We interpret this to be an age-effect, as senior scientists may be more likely to ask questions, and are more commonly men. A strong dependence on the gender of session chairs is found, whereby women ask disproportionately fewer questions in sessions chaired by men. While our results point to laudable progress in gender-balanced speaker selection, we believe future surveys of this kind would help ensure that collaboration at such meetings is as inclusive as possible.

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J. Davenport, M. Fouesneau, E. Grand, et. al.
Fri, 14 Mar 14

Principles of scientific research team formation and evolution [CL]

Research teams are the fundamental social unit of science, and yet there is currently no model that describes their basic property: size. In most fields teams have grown significantly in recent decades. We show that this is partly due to the change in the character of team-size distribution. We explain these changes with a comprehensive yet straightforward model of how teams of different sizes emerge and grow. This model accurately reproduces the evolution of empirical team-size distribution over the period of 50 years. The modeling reveals that there are two modes of knowledge production. The first and more fundamental mode employs relatively small, core teams. Core teams form by a Poisson process and produce a Poisson distribution of team sizes in which larger teams are exceedingly rare. The second mode employs extended teams, which started as core teams, but subsequently accumulated new members proportional to the past productivity of their members. Given time, this mode gives rise to a power-law tail of large teams (10-1000 members), which features in many fields today. Based on this model we construct an analytical functional form that allows the contribution of different modes of authorship to be determined directly from the data and is applicable to any field. The model also offers a solid foundation for studying other social aspects of science, such as productivity and collaboration.

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S. Milojevic
Thu, 13 Mar 14

Historical building stability monitoring by means of a cosmic ray tracking system [CL]

Cosmic ray radiation is mostly composed, at sea level, by high energy muons, which are highly penetrating particles capable of crossing kilometers of rock. Cosmic ray radiation constituted the first source of projectiles used to investigate the intimate structure of matter and is currently and largely used for particle detector test and calibration. The ubiquitous and steady presence at the Earth’s surface and the high penetration capability has motivated the use of cosmic ray radiation also in fields beyond particle physics, from geological and archaeological studies to industrial applications and civil security. In the present paper, cosmic ray muon detection techniques are assessed for stability monitoring applications in the field of civil engineering, in particular for static monitoring of historical buildings, where conservation constraints are more severe and the time evolution of the deformation phenomena under study may be of the order of months or years. As a significant case study, the monitoring of the wooden vaulted roof of the “Palazzo della Loggia” in the town of Brescia, in Italy, has been considered. The feasibility as well as the performances and limitations of a monitoring system based on cosmic ray tracking, in the considered case, have been studied by Monte Carlo simulation and discussed in comparison with more traditional monitoring systems. Requirements for muon detectors suitable for this particular application, as well as the results of some preliminary tests on a muon detector prototype based on scintillating fibers and silicon photomultipliers SiPM are presented.

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A. Zenoni, G. Bonomi, A. Donzella, et. al.
Mon, 10 Mar 14

A Sustainable approach to large ICT Science based infrastructures; the case for Radio Astronomy [IMA]

Large sensor-based infrastructures for radio astronomy will be among the most intensive data-driven projects in the world, facing very high power demands. The geographically wide distribution of these infrastructures and their associated processing High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities require Green Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). A combination is needed of low power computing, efficient data storage, local data services, Smart Grid power management, and inclusion of Renewable Energies. Here we outline the major characteristics and innovation approaches to address power efficiency and long-term power sustainability for radio astronomy projects, focusing on Green ICT for science.

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D. Barbosa, J. Barraca, A. Boonstra, et. al.
Thu, 13 Feb 14

Women in Italian astronomy [IMA]

This document gives some quantitative facts about the role of women in Italian astronomy. More than 26% of Italian IAU members are women: this is the largest fraction among the world leading countries in astronomy. Most of this high fraction is due to their presence in INAF, where women make up 32% of the research staff (289 out of 908) and 40% of the technical/administrative staff (173 out of 433); the percentage is slightly lower among permanent research staff (180 out of 599, about 30%). The presence of women is lower in the Universities (27 out of 161, about 17%, among staff). In spite of these (mildly) positive facts, we notice that similarly to other countries (e.g. USA and Germany) career prospects for Italian astronomers are clearly worse for women than for men. Within INAF, the fraction of women is about 35-40% among non-permanent position, 36% for Investigators, 17% for Associato/Primo Ricercatore, and only 13% among Ordinario/Dirigente di Ricerca. The situation is even worse at University (only 6% of Professore Ordinario are women). We found that similar trends are also present if researchers are ordered according to citation rather than position: for instance, women make up only 15% among the 100 most cited astronomers working in Italy, a percentage which is however twice that over all Europe. A similar fraction is found among first authors of most influential papers, which cannot be explained as a residual of a lower female presence in the past. We conclude that implicit sex discrimination factors probably dominate over explicit ones and are still strongly at work. Finally, we discuss the possible connection between the typical career pattern and these factors.

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F. Matteucci and R. Gratton
Tue, 11 Feb 14

Funding the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence with a Lottery Bond [CL]

I propose the establishment of a SETI Lottery Bond to provide a continued source of funding for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The SETI Lottery Bond is a fixed rate perpetual bond with a lottery at maturity, where maturity occurs only upon discovery and confirmation of extraterrestrial intelligent life. Investors in the SETI Lottery Bond purchase shares that yield a fixed rate of interest that continues indefinitely until SETI succeeds—at which point a random subset of shares will be awarded a prize from a lottery pool. SETI Lottery Bond shares also are transferable, so that investors can benefact their shares to kin or trade them in secondary markets. The total capital raised this way will provide a fund to be managed by a financial institution, with annual payments from this fund to support SETI research, pay investor interest, and contribute to the lottery fund. Such a plan could generate several to tens of millions of dollars for SETI research each year, which would help to revitalize and expand facilities such as the Allen Telescope Array. The SETI Lottery Bond is a savings product that only can be offered by a financial institution with authorization to engage in banking and gaming activities. I therefore suggest that one or more banks offer a lottery-linked savings product in support of SETI research, with the added benefit of promoting personal savings and intergenerational wealth building among individuals.

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Fri, 15 Nov 13

Observing Dark Worlds: A crowdsourcing experiment for dark matter mapping [IMA]

We present the results and conclusions from the citizen science competition `Observing Dark Worlds’, where we asked participants to calculate the positions of dark matter halos from 120 catalogues of simulated weak lensing galaxy data, using computational methods. In partnership with Kaggle (this http URL), 357 users participated in the competition which saw 2278 downloads of the data and 3358 submissions. We found that the best algorithms improved on the benchmark code, LENSTOOL by > 30% and could measure the positions of > 3×10^14MSun halos to less than 5” and < 10^14MSun to within 1′. In this paper, we present a brief overview of the winning algorithms with links to available code. We also discuss the implications of the experiment for future citizen science competitions.

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Tue, 5 Nov 13

Cosmological networks [CL]

Networks often represent systems that do not have a long history of studies in traditional fields of physics, albeit there are some notable exceptions such as energy landscapes and quantum gravity. Here we consider networks that naturally arise in cosmology. Nodes in these networks are stationary observers uniformly distributed in an expanding open FLRW universe with any scale factor, and two observers are connected if one can causally influence the other. We show that these networks are growing Lorentz-invariant graphs with power-law distributions of node degrees. New links in these networks not only connect new nodes to existing ones, but also appear at a certain rate between existing nodes, as they do in many complex networks.

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Date added: Thu, 24 Oct 13