Saturday, June 22, 2013

galaxy fireworks: conference organizing

this week i'm on hamilton island, one of the whitsunday islands amid the great barrier reef off the northeast coast of queensland, australia.

this is the view from my room.

the near-supermoon rising as the sun set on the opposite horizon.

oh right, but i'm actually here for a big international astronomy conference.  that i organised.  i almost forgot....

the conference is called "Feeding, Feedback and Fireworks: Celebrating our Cosmic Landscape" and takes place this monday through friday.   nearly 100 astronomers from around the world are arriving to discuss "galaxy evolution and how various feedback and feeding processes transfer energy into and out of galaxies. We intend to bring together observations, from radio to X-rays, and the best available theoretical models, to create a more complete picture of our cosmic landscape."  (and to enjoy the island, i suspect!).  

i'm incredibly pleased with the diverse array of speakers that will share their research and ideas this week.   we brought forward the topics of gender and geographic diversity when the scientific organizing committee discussed candidates for invited speakers, and i'm pleased to report that of our 18 invited speakers, exactly half are women!   this is incredibly rare among professional astronomy conferences.   as you can see in this plot i swiped from the american astronomical society, the typical percentages of total female speakers is less than 30%.  i marked the overall percentage of female speakers (37%) at this conference with an orange line.

with regards to the recent issue about the fifth dotastronomy conference, where a shocking 7% of the women who registered for the conference actually submitted abstracts to give talks, for the galaxy fireworks conference, nearly everyone who registered to attend, male and female, asked to give a talk (97%).  i think many people justifying an investment in a trip this far want to give a talk in order to get financial support, in addition to contributing to the productivity of the meeting, of course.   also, our registration website probably made it seem that abstract submission was non-negotiable.

organizing a major conference is no small feat and i couldnt have done it without a capable and reliable committee helping out.  i've tried to choose an alluring location to get people interested, and nearly 50% of the attendees are flying in from overseas!   i can give more details on suggestions for those of you organinzing big conferences in the future, but i want to wait until the event actually happens so i know which ideas were a success and which turn out to be failures.

so far, i'm pretty happy on this tropical island :)

not sure how much i'll be able to post this week as i'll be fairly distracted, but you can follow me (@astropixie) or the conference hashtag on twitter: #GalaxyFireworks.

UPDATE: report from halfway through the conference.
UPDATE: a trip to the great barrier reef after the conference.
UPDATE: the perseus cluster of galaxies.
UPDATE: conference photos


Steve Hall said...

Yeah, I'd be pretty distracted by that view, too!

Oh . . . wait; you meant distracted by conference activities, didn't you? *blush*

heroineworshipper said...

That takes a lot of work & black magic. There's no wiki on how to organize a conference.