AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of May 18, 2012
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery
[This week's guest editor is Daryl Haggard. Daryl is a postdoctoral fellow in
the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics
(CIERA) at Northwestern University. She studies AGN and their host galaxies,
accreting compact binaries, and accretion-driven outflows using multi-wavelength
and time domain surveys.]
This week's issues:
1. New CSWA Survey: Parental Leave and Childcare
2. Serving on a Scientific Organizing Committee
3. Remaining competitive and sane: The 40 hour work week in science?
4. Preparing grad students to teach and communicate may save astronomy departments
5. On-Ramps into Academia
6. The New Scholars Program from The Elsevier Foundation
7. Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring
8. Job Opportunities
9. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter
10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter
11. Access to Past Issues
1. New CSWA Survey: Parental Leave and Childcare
From: David Charbonneau [dcharbon_at_cfa.harvard.edu]
The CSWA initiated a national survey to determine current policies regarding
parental leave and childcare for graduate student parents. We sent a letter to
the Chair of every department of astronomy and/or astrophysics that offers the
PhD degree; there are 28 such departments.

In order to keep the survey manageable, we did not extend it to include
departments of physics (or joint departments of physics and astronomy). The
letter inquired both about leave following the birth or adoption of a child
(including questions about eligibility, whether the leave was paid or unpaid,
and whether benefits including health care and housing were retained during
leave), as well as childcare (including questions about eligibility, access, and
financial assistance). The letter sought to determine the official departmental
policies, but also inquired about any unofficial policies. The letter also
inquired as to mechanisms to cover costs associated with both parental leave and
childcare, and the means by which graduate students were informed about the
policies. The response rate was 100%, and we thank our colleagues for their time
in composing their replies.
We are currently compiling the data and will produce a written report, which we
will distribute to the departments and circulate via the CSWA website. We will
present the findings at the January 2013 meeting of the AAS.
2. Serving on a Scientific Organizing Committee
From: Nancy Brickhouse [nbrickhouse_at_cfa.harvard.edu]
Recently the SOC for a scientific conference circulated its first announcement
with a dearth of women speakers, in a field with a relative abundance of women.
When this was pointed out to members of the SOC, including several women,
adjustments were quickly made to the program.
It seems that the oversight was mostly a question of haste. The SOC was late
getting started. The full SOC was asked for inputs but did not review the final
program. The meeting was highly international, and not all cultural expectations
were the same.
The good news is that the oversight was not intentional. The bad news is that we
can't let our guard down yet.
Joan Schmelz has generously agreed to add "Suggestions for Serving on a
Scientific Organizing Committee" to the CSWA advice page. 

Here are some ideas to get started:
-- When asked to serve on a SOC, make sure you understand the ground rules at
the beginning;
-- Ask what the schedule for decision-making is, and make sure there is enough
time to think through issues of balance;
-- Make sure that you have time to participate fully; and
-- Ask the chair if the full SOC will be allowed to review the program before a
final decision is made.
Please send more advice. Any advice for Chairs?
3. Remaining competitive and sane: The 40 hour work week in science?
From: Catherine Neish via womeninastronomy.blogspot.com
[This week's guest blogger is Catherine Neish. Catherine Neish is a postdoctoral
fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and will be
starting a NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship at Goddard Space Flight Center later
this summer. Her research focuses on radar remote sensing of planetary bodies,
such as Titan and the Moon.]
The forty hour work week. It's a standard length for many American workers, but
it seems to represent more of a lower limit for many scientists. Discussing your
plans for evening or weekend work is not unusual in our field; indeed, in this
competitive, type A environment some may argue it's necessary for success.
To read more:
4. Preparing grad students to teach and communicate may save astronomy departments
From: Douglas K Duncan [dduncan_at_colorado.edu]
[This is a response to guest blogger Kate Follette's post on May 10, 2012; you
can find Kate's original contribution to the AAS Women in Astronomy blog –Eds.]
The post by Kate Follette is important, but way too polite!
The attitude of senior faculty such as the one she quotes borders on
malpractice. Graduate students spend approximately 104 hours earning a Ph.D. To
say that they should not spend 20-30 hours learning how to teach and communicate
shows an extremely low regard for the part of our profession that involves
teaching students. There is very strong evidence that if students study
mathematical methods most of them become better at using the methods taught in
the class. Precisely the same is true of classes in how to teach effectively. In
fact, excellent ones are taught by University of Arizona people such as Ed
Prather and Gina Brissenden, making it ironic the comment comes from Arizona.
We live in a country where over 1/3 of citizens don't know that evolution
happened and see little reason to support science in general and astronomy in
particular. Many of those citizens have taken an astronomy course, one of the
most popular courses for non-science majors. The attitude of the senior faculty
member quoted is dangerous and harmful to our profession and our society. If
classes are not taught well they will be replaced by one excellent, on-line
professor, recorded for playback, and a bunch of inexpensively hired TAs.
Faculty will be eliminated, and non-essential departments will close.
There are complex reasons why senior faculty are afraid to support the idea of
better teaching. When I was at the University of Chicago some faculty - not all
- knew that they were the top in research and were afraid that they were not
equally outstanding in teaching, and their high personal standards kept them
from wanting a real assessment of their teaching. I've also seen faculty at
various universities competing on how "macho" they are in their careers, and
since teaching is considered by them not to be as macho as research they
denigrate devotion to teaching.
Probably the simplest reason many faculty don't support preparation for teaching
is that 50% of them never received any themselves (according to a survey the AAS
conducted some years ago), and they know little about the research literature
concerning the results from such preparation.

When speaking with such faculty members I simplify things. I say preparation for
teaching has been found to work like any other preparation, from math methods to
music lessons: most people get better; a few don't. It is worth offering the
class and telling students to take it seriously. Since most research schools
don't do this, even while tuition prices skyrocket to potentially unsustainable
levels, I really expect a "tipping point" in less than 10 years, where many
courses will be put on line and faculty hiring cut. I hope that doesn't happen.
Well trained faculty, who use class techniques such as peer instruction that
can't be replaced by a good professor recorded on a DVD or by Khan Academy or
MIT, are one of our best hopes that this will not happen in your department and
5. On-Ramps into Academia
From: John Leibacher [leib_at_email.noao.edu]
[The following is an email from Eve Riskin, Professor of Electrical Engineering
and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, College of Engineering, University of
Washington. It was originally sent to the Women in Science & Engineering
Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.]
I am PI of a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant to hold professional
development workshops for Ph.D.-level women in industry, research labs,
consulting, or national labs who are interested in transitioning to academic
careers in STEM. The workshop is called "On-Ramps into Academia."
Our first workshops in 2009 and 2011 were a great success and already a number
of our participants have accepted tenure-track or tenured jobs in academia and
acknowledge the impact On-Ramps has had on their career. A press release about
the program is at:
Our third "On-Ramps into Academia" workshop will held October 14-16, 2012. The
workshop speakers will primarily be successful women faculty members who began
their post-Ph.D. careers in industry, research labs, consulting, or national
labs. Our lead speaker will be President Maria Klawe of Harvey Mudd College.
Before entering academia, she was at IBM. She was recently profiled in the New
York Times and is a wonderful advocate for women in STEM:
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until August 31, 2012 (or until
we reach 30 participants). Registration is free and travel funding for airfare
and hotel is available. General information about the workshop can be found
Applications can be submitted at:
6. The New Scholars Program from The Elsevier Foundation
From: Daryl Haggard [dhaggard_at_northwestern.edu]
The New Scholars Program supports projects to help early- to mid-career women
scientists balance family responsibilities with demanding academic careers. New
Scholars seeks to actively address the attrition rate of talented women
scientists caused by work-life balance issues. The Foundation provides one, two
and three year grants to STEM institutions and organizations actively working
towards a more equitable academia. Recent grants have promoted institutional
research, advocacy, and policy development to retain, recruit and develop women
in science and have enabled researchers to attend conferences critical to their
careers by assisting with childcare, mentorship, and networking.
Proposals are welcome for single-year grants in amounts between US$5,000 to
US$50,000. Proposals will be accepted for multi-year programs (up to three
years) for grant amounts of US$5,000 to $50,000 per year for a project total of
To read more:
Deadline for "round 1" applications is June 24, 2012. Please see:
7. Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring
From: Daryl Haggard [dhaggard_at_northwestern.edu]
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering
Mentoring (PAESMEM) Program seeks to identify outstanding mentoring efforts that
enhance the participation and retention of individuals (including persons with
disabilities, women and minorities) who might not otherwise have considered or
had access to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
(STEM). The awardees serve as leaders in the national effort to develop fully
the nation's human resources in STEM.
The number of awards is subject to the availability of funds; however, up to 16
new awards in each fiscal year are expected. Each award is in the amount of
$10,000 and will be accompanied by a commemorative Presidential certificate.
Deadline for applications is June 6, 2012. Please see:
8. Job Opportunities
  * One-Year Full-Time Faculty Position in Physics and Astronomy at
   the State University of New York at Geneseo
  * Web Developer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory
9. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter
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11. Access to Past Issues
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.