Recently, the graduate-student run blog Astrobites posted some great information about graduate research fellowships, authored by Avery Schiff. Although it is not currently fellowship application season, this will be an excellent resource for graduate students looking for funding in the future. The Astrobites post complements the information we have on the AstroBetter wiki graduate funding page. We have recently updated this list of fellowships to reflect current information and links. If you have any other graduate funding sources that are not listed on the wiki, please update it with new information or leave a comment below.

We have also recently added other resources to the wiki. Some students may choose to take a gap year between their undergraduate and graduate studies, and are often looking for information about how to make the most of this year. Leah Fulmer, Maria Dunn, and Alex Gagliano have compiled advice on taking a gap year, including networking tips and how to find post-baccelaureate research positions. Astrobites also has some useful advice on how to take advantage of taking an extra year before starting grad school. Additionally, we have added a new document on what questions you should consider when choosing your graduate program. This advice was contributed by Nicole Cabrera Salazar and Nadirah Farah Foley and compiled by Leah Fulmer.

We hope that those of you who are undergraduate and graduate students will find all of this information useful. As a reminder, the AstroBetter wiki is an open source resource and you are encouraged to add new information that you think would be useful for the astronomy community!

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Cédric Foellmi (@onekiloparsec) is an astrophysicist and senior software engineer. He is the maker of iObserve: a macOS and iOS app that has been previously featured on Astrobetter. He was also formerly an astronomer at ESO in Chile, where he met Éric Depagne, who was a VLT UVES instrument Fellow and is currently an astronomer at the SAAO/SALT. Éric recently began contributing to the project presented below.

Arcsecond.io is a web app that brings the observing activities of astronomers to the cloud. These activities include observation preparation, night operations, and data management. Arcsecond.io places all of these tools in one integrated place, designed by astronomers, for astronomers. Arcsecond.io is still in beta phase, and some of the features described below aren’t entirely completed. But we’d love to see our developments be driven by your suggestions and comments!

Making iObserve Available on the Web

Arcsecond.io is the home of iObserve on the web! iObserve has been actively developed since 2011 and has been highlighted on Astrobetter several times. It is a macOS app (also available on iOS/iPad) that allows you to prepare observations by making it extremely easy to get a wealth of information with only the name of an object. Given a Simbad-resolvable target name, the app instantly draws airmass curves, star tracks, sky maps, and displays a visibility table. Precise tracking allows observers to follow curves during the night. When relevant, exoplanet transits are overlaid on top of airmass curves. Moreover, magnitudes, catalogs links, publications, nearby standard stars, and finding charts (with a dedicated sky tracking and distance ladder) are one click away. It works with any kind of astronomical object, including exoplanets, asteroids, and comets. Finally, advanced unit converters are easily accessible for coordinates, fluxes, times, and distances.

Screenshot: The automatic exoplanet lookup when searching in the Universe.

The goal of arscecond.io is to make all of the features of iObserve available on the web. A core subset of iObserve is already deployed online. The rest is coming, and will be completed later with additional features not present in the desktop application. For instance, the most important Solar System objects will be available as targets. And we plan to make available a dynamic orrery view for exoplanet systems.

Screenshot: The standard “Object” page for an exoplanet. When relevant, a column labeled “Transits” is also displayed.

The obvious and immediate advantage of a web app is that it is available to everybody (not only Mac users) and everywhere (with no need to go through the AppStore validation process). A web app also removes the need to sync objects between computers. You simply log in to your personal account and all of your data is available to you.

Arcsecond.io is currently in beta, and thus you can freely try iObserve on the web right now! A paid “iObserve” plan will be made available at the end of the beta phase for those who are interested in the best and most sophisticated iObserve web-based tool.

Screenshot: iObserve on the web. Airmass curves are at the top, and star tracks below. Object information is to the right.

New Tools for Observing Runs and Data Management

The features described above for observation planning are only the beginning of the tools that arcsecond.io will be able to provide. Arcsecond.io goes beyond the app with two new major features: Night Operations and Data Management.

The “Night Operations” feature allows you to craft your observing nights and target lists by night and observing run. Detailed observation slots with exposure time (and soon with the addition of overheads), will give you a complete picture of the flow of the night, and the whole run. Moreover, we are currently preparing a tool that will automatically reconstruct the observations you have already done, providing the data are stored inside archives. It will then be easy to browse your entire observing history and look for any associated data or target. You can now try out the Observing Runs and Night Logs, despite these features still being under development. At the end of the beta phase, a separate paid plan will be available for the “Night Operations” feature.

Screenshot: A Night Log (this feature is under construction). Observations will be displayed on top of the night canvas, as well as target curves. Our goal is to make a truly useful observing dashboard here.

The second new area where arcsecond.io goes beyond the desktop app involves data management. Arcsecond.io will offer storage solutions dedicated to FITS files and other data generated in the course of astronomical research. Unlike other data management solutions, arcsecond.io data storage is designed to specifically address the needs of astronomers. First, FITS headers will be automatically indexed and datasets will be easily searchable. Second, the pricing for storage space will be linear with data size. Finally, storage will be split into three different modes to better match data usage: normal, for data which is used regularly and needs to be instantly downloadable; “glacier”, for archives and/or survey data; and “FITS leaks”, to make data freely available. In the much cheaper “glacier” mode, downloads are not instantaneous, but require some minutes of preparation before being available. In both of these two storage options, the uploader remains the owner of their data. The free “FITS leaks” mode (in preparation) will allow astronomers to dump data they no longer want to take care of anymore. Arcsecond.io will store the data, index it, and make it public. In this case, the ownership of the data will be transferred to arcsecond.io, but the uploader will be able to choose whether their name is associated with the dataset or not.

Customization for Research Groups

Finally, we have the ambition to offer services not only to individuals, but also to science groups. For example, we are currently discussing with a French research group about developing a dedicated portal with world live-map for collaborative exoplanet transit follow-ups across the globe.

We are eager to know what you think about every aspect of arcsecond.io. And there will be generous price reductions for active bug reporters and beta testers!

Links:

Follow us on Twitter at @arcsecond_io
https://www.arcsecond.io – The main website, where you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter
https://api.arcsecond.io – Data sources for the REST/API-savvy astronomers
https://github.com/onekiloparsec/arcsecond-public – The GitHub repository for issues, bug reports, and suggestions.

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently developed a new policy on reporting harassment. These rules are meant to address the ongoing problem of sexual harassment in academia. For example, one study found that 30% of postdocs have reported being sexually harassed in the workplace. Another crowdsourced spreadsheet has garnered almost 2500 responses since December 2017 with reports of sexual harassment or assault across many fields of academia.

With these new reporting rules, the NSF hopes to provide clearer conditions for reporting sexual harassment and to better track its grantees. From the NSF notice published on March 5, 2018:

We consider the Principal investigator (PI) and any co-PI(s) identified on an NSF award to be in positions of trust… This term and condition will make it clear that NSF may take unilateral action as necessary to protect the safety of all grant personnel, to include suspending or terminating an award or requiring the grantee to replace or remove personnel.

One outworking of this policy is that it requires institutions to have good reporting policies in place, something that is currently lacking at many places. The NSF’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion states explicitly on their website:

NSF expects all awardee organizations to establish and maintain clear and unambiguous standards of behavior to ensure harassment-free workplaces wherever science is conducted, including notification pathways for all personnel, including students, on the primary and supplemental awards. This expectation includes activities at all research facilities and field sites and during conferences and workshops.

This will hopefully result in institutions having a better sense of the conditions of its research groups. Increased reporting could also enable the institution to take proactive actions to take care of problematic situations before they reach the level of a formal human resources investigation, the outcomes of which may jeopardize funding.

Another thing that is not explicitly mentioned in the policy, but which seems like a clear consequence, is that the NSF will have a record of people who have been found in violation of harassment policies even if they change institutions. This seems like an extremely powerful first step in combating the problem of serial harassers going from one institution to another. Due to privacy and legal issues, institutions cannot share details of any investigations or violations with prospective new institutions.

The NSF is requesting comments on these new reporting requirements. These comments should be addressed to Suzanne H. Plimpton, Reports Clearance Officer, Office of the General Counsel at splimpto@nsf.gov. The deadline for comments is May 4, 2018. They will no doubt receive comments from institutions worried about how this will work in practice, but if you think this is a worthwhile step in the right direction, send in a short note of support! Let’s be sure the NSF knows that we appreciate their efforts to combat this pervasive problem in our field.

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I’d like to give everyone a status update on me and the blog. As some of you have noticed, new content has been few and far between the past couple years. That should be changing, starting now!

First of all, I’m pleased to announce that Joanna Bridge (University of Louisville) has joined the AstroBetter team as our new content manager. She’s a postdoc in Louisville, KY studying high-redshift galaxies at the end of the epoch of reionization. Danny Barringer has been rocking this job for several years but the time has come for him to move on. Thanks, Danny, for all of your contributions and a big welcome to Joanna! She’s got some great posts planned for the next couple months, so stay tuned.

One of big reasons for the drop-off in activity was because my path to tenure was a little rocky and I needed to focus on other things in order to ensure my long term stability in the field. (If you’re curious about everything I do, take a look at my tenure dossier.) Good news: I am now a tenured Associate Professor at Hunter College! Of course, I’ll still be busy with all of the responsibilities of being a professor, but hopefully it won’t be quite so emotionally draining and time consuming as it was these past few years.

Another reason for the lack of blog content was that the time that I did have for this project went into developing the business model to keep it sustained. Thanks to a grant and a very supportive program officer from the Sloan Foundation, I thought deeply about how to generate the needed revenue stream to keep the blog and wiki active while being a full time professor. As a result, I started a consulting firm called ScienceBetter Consulting. It’s a single-owner LLC incorporated in New York state and a certified woman-owned business. While the business is technically a for-profit LLC, the business model is all about using revenue to support community resources. The revenue from the contracts we’ve gotten so far is enough to cover the costs of hiring folks to both generate content and maintain the site’s backend.

Finally, I’d like to remind everyone about the email subscription option for getting AstroBetter blog posts. Of course, new posts will be announced on Twitter and Facebook but if you’re not keen on those platforms, please subscribe via email. Full texts of new posts will be delivered straight to your inbox.

That’s it — I missed y’all and am glad to be back!

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Anonymizing the Hubble Space Telescope Proposal Process

by Joanna Bridge February 23, 2018

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 […]

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STARtorialist BOOTH-tique at AAS 231

by Guest December 12, 2017

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 […]

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Rumor Mill is now ready for 2017–2018

by Kelle September 25, 2017

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 […]

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Is an R1 for you?

by Guest 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 […]

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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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