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Early Career Astronomer and Astrophysicist Focus Session: The Decadal Survey

8th October 2018   -   8th October 2018
Washington D.C., United States


On October 8th and 9th, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will host a focus session for early career astronomers and astrophysicists under the auspices of the Committee of Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA). The principle goal of this focus session is to engage early career astronomers and astrophysicists in the decadal survey planning and input process by assembling early career scientists, National Academy of Sciences members, and the National Academies staff to exchange perspectives on past and future decadal surveys. This focus session presents an excellent opportunity for astronomers and astrophysicists to contribute to a decadal survey early in their career in a direct and guided way. Our goal is for the participants to come away from the event with a deeper understanding of the decadal survey and process, knowing that they have contributed to the current survey, and be equipped to contribute to future decadal surveys. This focus session will be conducted through a two-fold approach - information and discussion sessions. First, the participants will acquire a thorough understanding of past and present astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey processes and its context through presentations given by experts. The informational topics will provide an overview of science policy, the National Academies, and the decadal survey process and will set the stage for participants to have informed discussions. Second, through group discussion sections, participants will provide their perspectives and suggestions concerning the structure and process of a decadal survey. The participants will divide into smaller groups for discussion, which will be guided by questions provided to them. These subgroups will then reconvene as one group to go over common themes that arose during group discussions. There will also be a session that is a hybrid of both the information and discussion sessions. This will focus on educating participants on how to write compelling white papers and the process. First, a senior astronomer will discuss the purpose and format of a white paper with the participants. Then participants will investigate and discuss the techniques of the white papers they read in advance and exchange ideas on what makes an effective and influential white paper. In addition, a senior astronomer will provide insight from their experience with writing and reading white papers. After the focus session in October, a team of three participants will travel to give a summary presentation to the decadal survey committee. The team will be composed of the event organizer, one postdoc, and one early tenure track professional. These three scientists will each be responsible for taking notes of different themes that come up during the group discussions, coagulating and distilling the groups’ notes, and submitting the final document as input into the survey. Their travel to give the presentation are covered by the National Academies. The exact date of this presentation is yet to be determined as the decadal survey is still in the planning stage. If an applicant is interested in becoming a part of this team, please indicate this in the appropriate section of the application.

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