Astronomy 710a
"Professional Seminar"

Fridays: 3:30-5:00, J. W. Gibbs Lab 263.

Fall Sessions:

(Note that links will be added and descriptions enhanced as we go along)

September 3: Decadal Survey. The Astro2010 decadal survey for astronomy entitled "New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics" has just been released. The committee report, the presentation slides, and the individual subpanel reports are all online. Interesting commentary and comments can be found here, here, and here, among other places. There's a huge amount of material - please familiarize yourself with the basic recommendations of the survey and at least one interesting comment or detail prior to the meeting.

September 10: Undergraduate Teaching. There's much more to say on this topic than can be covered in one session. We'll go over the list of introductory courses offered by our department, and then focus on two recent studies of introductory classes. The first looks at math instruction at the Airforce Academy, concluding that popular instructors correlate with good student achievement in their own courses, but poor student achievement in subsequent follow-on courses. This has prompted some fairly intense commentary. The other is a recent study of student achievement in introductory astronomy classes, and the implications for grade inflation in various disciplines - commentary here. It's all pretty provocative stuff - take a look before the meeting.

September 17: Department Jamboree (2-4) and picnic

September 24: Ethics I: Data Rights, Authorship & Collaborations. This is the first of our sessions on ethics, as required by the NSF. General information about what Yale thinks we are supposed to be doing can be found here. Our goal is to make this interesting, and avoid the typical scientist's reaction to requirements of this kind. In our first session we will be discussing issues related to data rights. There are lots of official statements from various agencies and journals, including NOAO and HST. The situation with Kepler data has recently prompted considerable controversy. An interesting example (with some local flavor) of how things can go wrong is discussed here and here.

October 1: Astro Careers I

October 8: Astro Careers II

October 15: (skipped)

October 22: Writing Proposals

October 29: (YCAA talk)

November 5: Ethics II: Hostile and Friendly Work Places. The term "Hostile Work Environment" is a legal term. There can be serious legal consequences for hostile work environments, not just for an individual who creates such an environment, but for supervisors and institutions that allow the situation to go unchecked. Some legal scholars argue that the current scope of law in this area is so broad as to violate first amendment prohibitions on government regulation of free expression. There are situations that are clearly illegal , but the law is fairly restrictive - it is not illegal to be a jerk. That raises the question of what to do about jerks, and more generally, how to promote a friendly working environment as opposed to simply avoiding a hostile one. These are purely ethical (as opposed to legal) questions.

November 12: Ethics III: Peer Review, Conflicts of Interest, Mentoring

November 19: Writing Papers


December 3: Ethics IV: Fraud, Misrepresentation & Bias continued