The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) “Anonymizing Proposal Reviews” Working Group (APRWG) has been formed to tackle the ongoing problem of implicit biases affecting the outcomes of Hubble Space Telescope (HST) proposal reviews. For the last two HST cycles, the list of investigators on each proposal has been given to reviewers alphabetized and with no indication of the principal investigator in order to avoid these biases in the review process.  However, the working group notes in their charge, “The final results from HST proposal reviews continue to show that proposals led by female PIs have a lower success rate that those led by male PIs. This may indicate the continued presence of unconscious bias.”

An email from STScI recently sent to the community states:

NASA’s Great Observatories are open to science proposals from anyone in the worldwide astronomical community. Maintaining equity and a level playing field for access is a high priority for the Director and staff at STScI. In support of that goal, a number of changes have been made to the format of HST proposals. Following discussion with the Space Telescope Users Committee, the Director has established a Working Group to explore options for further anonymizing the proposal format and developing appropriate guidelines for proposers and reviewers.

The APRWG is now soliciting feedback from the astronomical community on this topic. More information on the APRWG mission can be found on the group’s website, including proposing guides and an FAQ.

Send any comments or input you have to by March 7, 2018. The APRWG will deliver a report to the Director and the Space Telescope Users Committee by April 1, 2018.


STARtorialist is an astronomy fashion blog (also on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook), run by by Emily Rice and Summer Ash, that curates and shares astronomy and science-themed clothing, accessories, decor, and more. This is one of the projects supported by ScienceBetter Consulting, the business venture inspired by the success of AstroBetter. The plan is for the business activities to cover the costs of maintaining the blog and support the generation of new content.

We’re pleased to announce that for the first time ever, astronomers are going to be able to buy items directly from STARtorialist via our BOOTH-tique at AAS 231 in National Harbor, MD, featuring hundreds of items from our favorite designers. Conference attendees will be able to see items in person before purchasing them and avoid shipping fees and delivery wait times, and possibly even meet the designers in person!

We have made eGift Cards available for purchase before the conference which will be redeemable at the BOOTH-tique There are six eGift Card designs to choose from, and you can load the eGift with any amount from $5–$500. These would make fabulous gifts for anyone attending AAS 231, so astronomers, it’s time to update your wish lists! This would be an excellent way to show support and appreciation for your friends and colleagues attending the meeting.

We’ve placed orders with about 20 of our favorite designers for t-shirts, ties, scarves, tote bags, jewelry, stickers, pins, and more! We are still finalizing our wares, but so far we are anticipating items from Slow Factory, Eclectic Eccentricity, Yugen Tribe, SciChic, Shadowplay NYC, Becky Queen of Frocks, Surlyramics, Pretty Little Earth, Pacalin, Astronobeads, Cyber Optix, Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild, just to name a few! If there’s anything in particular that you want to see at the booth, let us know ASAP and we’ll do our best to have it in stock.

If this goes well, we’ll be able to spend more time (and money!) on the STARtorialist blog itself, including compensating new contributors. Who knows, maybe we’ll even venture into other sales realms… In the meantime, we will continue to explore, share, and support the talented, dedicated creators of the startorial Universe!


We’ve finally got the Rumor Mill turned over for the new season: Postdoc and Term and Faculty and Staff. The archives from previous years remain available.

Thanks to the couple of folks who nudged me about this and a huge thanks to Anže Slosar (Brookhaven National Laboratory) for stepping up, getting this done, and helping maintain this community resource.

I’d like to take this opportunity to promote the new Position Status feature of the recently revamped AAS Job Register 3.0. The value of this field (e.g., Accepting Applications, Shortlist Notified, Position Filled)  is visible in the last column of the job listing and under the deadlines in the individual job posts. Recruiters and Search Committees: as you proceed through the selection process, please take a moment to update the status of any open position so that applicants can know which jobs they are still being considered for. One of the most common complaints I hear from job applicants is the lack of communication about the status of positions for which they have applied. Want to put the Rumor Mill out of business? Encourage everyone to update the Position Status on the Job Register!

Also, I’d like to remind everyone about the AAS Policy on Postdoc positions:

The AAS Council has passed (1988) and reaffirmed (2003) a resolution stating that no postdoctoral position should require a candidate response prior to February 15 of each year. This policy applies to postdoctoral positions whose recruitment cycles follow the normal academic search timeline (offers in early spring to begin summer or fall of the same year). The text of this resolution is available on the Council Resolution webpage. Employers should take this policy into account in their recruitment process.

These innovations were brought to you by the AAS Staff and the volunteers on the AAS Committee on Employment. Want to help get even more improvements implemented to make the job market less stressful? Get in touch with the current chair and volunteer! Or at least become a AAS Member—I think a strong professional society is an important key to ensuring our community is always getting better.


Is an R1 for you?

by Guest on February 13, 2017

This post is from an anonymous professor who has served as the chair of a faculty hiring committee.

I recently completed the experience of serving as a hiring committee chair for a research university. I hope you’ll consider advice from this hiring committee chair (to be considered in complement with many other similar pieces of advice). My main piece of advice is to seriously consider great jobs at places like my university, even though it is not one of the top ten schools in our field. There are many research-active institutions with great positions that would make you happy, even though they are schools you have never heard of.

Part of the problem is that we need to eliminate any classification in our own minds that certain careers in our fields are intrinsically better than others and are therefore much more desirable. It is not practical to ignore the broad continuum in research/teaching/service balance expected of faculty at a wide variety of institutions. Thus “R1” or “first-tier” become convenient shorthand for “at the research-heavy end of the academic spectrum.” Since astronomers love doing research, very naturally you might have a goal to work there, which is perfectly fine. The real issue is that R1 positions are perceived as being somehow “better” than positions at universities with slightly smaller research expectations and slightly larger teaching loads. Landing a faculty position at the research-heavy extreme of the spectrum is NOT necessarily better. We should replace this ranking mentality with how well certain careers match our needs and wants and provide us and our (current or future) families with overall happiness. (More on that below.) We can and should still rank job prospects and maybe R1s still pop up at the top of your list, but at least the list is now truly tailored to you. [Read more…]


Advice from a Faculty Hiring Committee Chair

by Guest January 19, 2017

This post is from an anonymous professor who has served as the chair of a faculty hiring committee. I was recently the chair of the hiring committee for a new faculty position. I am a junior faculty member and, based on my experience on both sides of the table, I wanted to pass along some […]

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AAS Winter Meeting Cheat Sheet #AAS229

by Danny Barringer December 16, 2016

It’s that time of year again. The 229th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society is nearly upon us. To make the most of your time at the meeting, we at AstroBetter would like to remind you of some resources available on the Wiki. First, the post that everyone attending a winter AAS meeting should read […]


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Register for Hack Together Day at AAS 229

by Guest December 9, 2016

Abigail Stevens is an astronomy PhD candidate at the Anton Pannekoek Institute, University of Amsterdam. Her research is on spectral-timing analysis of X-ray binaries. Meg Schwamb is an assistant scientist at Gemini Observatory, Northern Operations Center. Register now for Hack Together Day at AAS 229 on January 7th! Hack Together Day is a day to […]


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Learn Software Carpentry at #AAS229

by Guest September 27, 2016

Azalee Bostroem (@astro_az) is a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Davis. Do you find yourself reading code in Python, sometimes attempting to update it, and all the time wishing you had been taught some Python in undergrad or graduate school? As astronomers we find ourselves frequently […]


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Using Python for Astronomical Data Analysis in the Era of JWST

by Guest September 26, 2016

The Space Telescope Science Institute and core developers from the Astropy community are sponsoring a workshop at the January 2017 meeting of the American Astronomical Society #AAS229. This workshop will cover the use of Python tools for astronomical data analysis and visualization in the era of JWST, with the focus primarily on UV, Optical and […]


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The Performing Art of Science Presentation at AAS 229

by Guest September 14, 2016

This guest post is by Emily Rice and Chris Crockett on behalf of the AAS Employment Committee and is one of a series of posts advertising the activities at the upcoming #AAS229 Meeting in Grapevine, TX We’d like to encourage you to consider attending The Performing Art of Science Presentation Workshop on Tuesday, January 3, […]


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