Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 10:41:52 -0500 (EST)
Subject: CSWA Newsletter of 8/11/99

           AAS Committee on the Status of Women    
     weekly issues of 8/11/99, ed. by Priscilla Benson
***  send email and addresses to  ***

This week's issues:
1.  More on surveys of conference speakers
2.  A Request for Help

1.  More on surveys of conference speakers
From:   IN%""  "Sethanne Howard"

Re: the survey on gender breakouts on SOCs and invited 

About 7 years ago a similar survey was done.  The results 
were listed in the aaswomen e-mail (see 4/30/92).  It would 
be nice to see what differences there are between then and 

Sethanne Howard

From:  "Kris Sellgren"

I've been on a few scientific organizing committees.  
Sometimes the meeting chair has everything worked out 
already and just wants a rubber stamp on the program.  
Sometimes the committee actually has several e-mail rounds 
of discussion on the possible speakers.

For the last SOC I worked on (The Central Parsecs), the 
meeting chairs came up with a list of possible topics to 
cover, drawn at least in part from a survey of readers of 
the relevant e-mail newsletter (GCNews), and then polled the 
SOC for suggestions for speakers.  That made it easy to
suggest junior (student/postdoc) speakers and women speakers 
simply by pointing out that their latest published work on a 
particular topic was current and interesting.  Other members 
of the SOC suggested the usual pundits in the field, so we 
ended up with a nice mix of junior and senior speakers.

Pundits -- people who have done important early work in the 
field, especially if they continue to do interesting work in 
the field -- will always be invited speakers.  At some 
conferences, all the SOC become invited speakers; at others, 
none of the SOC do.  That's something that the meeting 
chair(s) decides on, I think.  I always suggest my students
and former students as invited speakers when I can, as part 
of being a good faculty mentor.  Sometimes this gets vetoed 
by the meeting chair(s) on the grounds that only senior 
people should give invited talks.  The final invited list, 
overall, tends to default largely to some mix of pundits, 
the SOC, and SOC students, unless there is someone on the 
SOC who is proactive in suggesting junior/female/minority 

If the meeting organizers already have a speaker schedule in 
mind, but their first choice for an invited speaker isn't 
available, then this is an opportunity for a pro-active SOC 
member to introduce some diversity.

An analogous situation to the SOC for a conference is one's 
astronomy department colloquium committee.  I find that, 
left untended, the colloquium schedule in our dept. will 
largely reflect the scientific interests of this year's 
colloquium chair.  Also, our colloquium schedule will have a 
far smaller fraction of women speakers than is represented 
in the field unless I or someone else actively intervenes.  
There tends to be a good mix of junior and senior people
quite naturally, from financial constraints: senior people 
with high travel costs and nearby junior people with low 
travel costs will both be invited.

I have found that there is little or no attention paid to 
who gives good talks, both on SOCs and on astronomy dept 
colloquium committees. Partly this is because anyone, senior 
or junior, can give a great talk at one conference and put 
everyone to sleep at the next one. Partly this is because 
pundits will be asked to speak whatever their reputation for 
interesting or incomprehensible talks.  Partly this
is because the SOC or colloquium chair only knows the 
published work of lesser-known speakers (particularly junior 
people) and takes a risk that a person who writes a great 
paper can also give a good talk.

So, even if you aren't asked to be on SOCs for conferences, 
you can still be pro-active in your department, by 
suggesting interesting women and minority speakers for your 
local colloquium series.  The APS has programs to fund 
travel costs for women and minority speakers -- invite two, 
get the second one free!  Check out

This program will fund astronomy colloquia, not just physics 

Kris Sellgren

From:   IN%""  "Elena Terlevich"

In all the meettings I served as member of the SOC, we paid 
attention to gender and country of work-place (specially for 
IAU meetings where a good balance between countries is 
required by the IAU) but that as secondary requirements. 
First ones were: good hot science and good entertaining 
speaker. In some cases, the invitations to speakers have 
been not as individuals but as a group: would you or any 
member of your team who is also a good communicator would 
like to ... 

The conferences in which I have been and I am involved, 
always had a good balance of gender among the SOC members, 
the invited speakers, and the participants as well.

Elena Terlevich

From:   IN%""

In response to the question of how speakers are chosen by 
the scientific organizing committees, I have seen these 
modes of operation:

1) the main organizer already has a list in mind, which
is proposed to the rest of the organizers. They can
veto or add speakers based on any criteria they want.

2) the main organizer asks for suggestions to be put
to the science organizers as a whole.

3) the main organizers decide the whole slate of speakers 
without consulting the "science organizers"

The usual criteria include 
* ability to give a good, understandable talk 
* timely results of importance
* standing as a pundit who can give a good overview
* institutional balance, for example, suggesting speakers 
from the host institution or not choosing more than 2 
speakers from a single institution
* recent substantive work in the field

Non-verbalized criteria are often:

* the postdocs, former postdocs, or senior grad students of 
the organizers (this is extremely common)
* astronomers whose careers are being boosted by one of the 
* male/female balance
* reciprocity for a previous invitation
* new initiatives in the field
* international balance

Often, science organizers will hear someone give an 
excellent short talk at a general meeting, and remember that 
person when the time comes to select someone for a longer, 
invited talk.

Ann Wehrle

2.  A Request for Help
From:   IN%""  "Liz Bryson"

My name is Anna Egorova and I am a member of the 
Astronomical  Assosiation - Sofia, Bulgaria. Our research 
topics are: comets,  planetology and extrasolar planetology, 
galaxy evolution,  astrophotography.

 I have one not very usual question to ask you. Some of our 
members have some interesting works, for example, in 
extrasolar planetology, and would like very much to 
participate at the meeting in Houston, USA (The Lunar and 
Planetary Scince Conference) or in Spain (Disks, 
Planetasimals and Planets). Our club is unfortunately very 
small and we don't have much sponsors. Could you please 
provide me with some information about foundations, funds or 
sponsors, who would like to help us participate at such 

 Thank you very mch in advance, Anna Egorova

tel;fax:+3592 700478
tel;work:+3592 9733545, +3592 9733555

End of CSWA Newsletter of 8/11/99