By Chris Wilson (acting CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Winter 2022)
The CASCA Board held two regular monthly meetings since my last report, as well as our semi-annual meeting in early December, which this year was two sessions of 4 hours each. Progress has been somewhat slower on some aspects of the Board’s Action Items list due to extended absences of both the President and the Secretary in November, which also resulted in the need to cancel our regularly scheduled November Board meeting.
On the committee and administration side, over the past 3 month, the Board has approved new Board representatives to the Ground-based Astronomy Committee (GAC), Long Range Plan Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC), and Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC). We also approved new members for LCRIC and the CASCA-ACURA TMT Advisory Committee (CATAC). We also approved a request from the Awards Committee to move the deadline for nominations for 2023 awards to January 15, 2023. Individual Board members are also taking some Indigenous Awareness Training by working to complete the course “4 Seasons of Reconciliation” offered by Reconciliation Education.
The Board met with several members of the Westar Subcommittee of the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Committee at our regular meeting in September. Our discussions focussed on the recommendations in their report, particularly around the potential to hire an EPO coordinator and what funding could be available to support such a hire. We identified the need to determine how much annual funding is expected to be available for Westar programs, a discussion that is complicated somewhat by the recent economic turmoil affecting investments in general. The Board expects to conclude its review of the Westar finances and to be in a position to pass some more concrete information along to the Westar subcommittee early in the new year.
The Board dealt with a number of requests from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and IAU members related to membership transfer, inactive members, deceased members, and new applications for IAU membership. Unfortunately, a couple of requests to apply for IAU membership came in too close to the December 15 deadline to be dealt with before the IAU’s application portal closed. If you missed applying for IAU membership this year (which is free to individuals), please watch for an announcement in fall 2023. For the Digital Research Alliance of Canada (formerly Compute Canada), we have identified Catherine Lovekin (chair of CASCA’s Computation and Data committee) as the second CASCA contact for DRAC. This helps ensure that emails from DRAC are not missed, and that a person with more expertise in this area than your current President is available to attend DRAC meetings.
On the financial side, the Board approved an extra increase for the CASCA administrator’s salary for 2023. This supplemental increase of 2.5% is in recognition of the fact that inflation in Canada is running much higher than in past years. The Board also approved financial support for the annual Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CCUWiP), which is being held in person for the first time in 3 years at the University of Regina. Finally, starting in January, the Board will be actively contacting CASCA members who are 1 year in arrears with their dues.
Regarding the CASCA website, we had a glitch in mid-November that was linked to our website being moved to a new IP address. Apologies to anyone who was impacted by this problem (which of course happened over a weekend!), and thanks to our webmaster, Don Hutton, for fixing it promptly once it was identified. Vice-President Adam Muzzin has been taking the lead on updating parts of the website that had gotten out of date. The 2022 award winners should now all be up to date on both the French and English sides, as should the committee members. If you spot any further missing information, please let Adam or me know.
As required by our By-Laws, a list of the Board positions that will be open for election at the 2023 June Annual General Meeeting (AGM) was sent by the Board to both the Nominating Committee and to the general CASCA membership. There will be 3 open positions: 2 for Director and 1 for President. Please consider standing for election yourself or encouraging other good candidates to stand. Suggestions can be sent to Rob Thacker, who chairs the Nominating Committee, or via the nomination form to the CASCA secretary, Rob Cockcroft.
Just as a reminder, the next CASCA AGM will be held June 12-15, 2023, in Penticton, B.C. Over the next 6 months, the Board will be looking for an institution to host the subsequent AGM in spring of 2024.
There has been big news for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) over the last two months. SKA1-Low will be located on the traditional lands of the Wajarri Yamaji, who have lived there for tens of thousands of years. On November 5, 2022, the Wajarri celebrated the registration of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the SKA-Low site. Construction commencement ceremonies were held in both South Africa and Australia on December 5, 2022 to mark the official start of construction. In Canada, the absence of any news about the SKA in the government’s Fall Economic Statement was not unexpected. For more information, please see Kristine Spekken’s article in this issue.
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has now been accepted into NSF’s queue for Large Facilities (known as MREFC), and so NSF’s Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the TMT has begun. The PDR is an important gateway that must be passed in order for the project to proceed to the final design phase, which includes a full cost review, firm governance model, and site selection. A final design review is expected to take place roughly 18 months after the PDR. In additional news, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that it will require formal consultation with the Native Hawaiian Community. Within Canada, CATAC has advised that Canada not host the Science Forum proposed for 2023, that had been delayed for a couple of years due to the pandemic, but recommends Canada host it in the near future, pending a return to more normal travel conditions and a successful NSF review. For more information on these and other issues, please see Michael Balogh’s article in this issue.
Finally, the Canadian Coalition for Astronomy has had a quiet few months, aside from filing a pre-budget submission for the October 8 deadline, which included recommendations for both SKA and the proposed CASTOR space telescope. For more information CASTOR, please see the article by Pat Côté in this issue.
I want to close by noting members of our community who have been honoured elsewhere. Congratulations to: Daryl Haggard (McGill), who has been awarded the 2022 Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics from Royal Society of Canada (RSC); Ue-Li Pen (CITA and University of Toronto), who has been elected a Fellow of the RSC; Nick Cowan (McGill) and Renée Hložek (University of Toronto), who has been elected to the College of New Scholars of the RSC; and the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) team, who have been awarded the Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
Wishing you all a good break over the holidays and a smooth start to the next semester,