President’s Message

par Chris Wilson (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – printemps 2023)

First, some good news: the Federal government has announced its intent to seek full membership for Canada in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory! Congratulations to everyone who has worked to make this a reality. More details can be found in the SKA update in this newsletter.

The CASCA Board has held two regular monthly meetings since my last report. In this report I will focus on 2 major initiatives that are in progress: a review of our ground-based optical/infrared facilities (10m-class and smaller), and a plan for a part-time Westar Lectureship co-ordinator.

In their December 2022 report to the CASCA Board, the Ground-based Astronomy Committee (GAC) recommended that we undertake a thorough review of existing and potential optical/infrared (O/IR) facilities that are or could be accessible to Canadian astronomers. The CASCA Board agreed that the need for this review is sufficiently urgent to scheduling it ahead of the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the 2020 Long Range Plan that would be carried out in 2025. The O/IR review committee will be tasked with assessing science, technical readiness, schedule, and balance between community desires. I’m very pleased to announce that Doug Welch from McMaster University has agreed to chair this review committee.

In my December 2022 article, I mentioned that the Board had met with several members of the Westar subcommittee. At that meeting, we had discussed the possibility of hiring a co-ordinator to support the revision and expansion of the Westar Lectureship program, and possibly other Education and Public Outreach initiatives as well. Both an expansion of the Westar Lectureship program and an EPO coordinator paid by CASCA were recommendations of the 2020 Long Range Plan. The Westar subcommittee submitted a concrete proposal that the Board considered at our March meeting. This proposal included two options: a part-time Westar-only coordinator position, or a full-time National Outreach Coordinator, with Westar coordination being part of that role. The Board found that a full-time position is not within the scope of CASCA’s current budget without a large increase in dues or via a cost-sharing program with one or more individual universities. Therefore, the Board approved a motion to support a Westar co-ordinator at a part time level for up to 3 years. Final details of the funding available for this position will be reviewed and approved at the next Board meeting.

In other news, all current Board members have now taken some initial Indigenous awareness training by completing the course “4 Seasons of Reconciliation” offered by Reconciliation Education. We submitted our annual performance questionnaire related to IAU activities of the community to NRC in February; thanks to Rob Thacker who took this task off my hands. The CASCA Board also reviewed all applications for new IAU membership and these applications have now been passed on to the relevant IAU review committee. The Board approved an increase in the hourly rate of pay for the CASCA webmaster, who has not had a pay increase in several years. We have also been following up with CASCA members who were in arrears on their dues; thank you to everyone who has renewed recently.

The next CASCA AGM will be held June 13-15, 2023, in Penticton, B.C. This will be our first in-person meeting in 4 years, so I encourage you to attend and bring your students! The CASCA Board is looking for an institution to host the 2024 AGM; if your department is interested in volunteering, please contact CASCA Vice-President Adam Muzzin.

As a reminder, there will be 3 open positions on the CASCA Board for election at the 2023 June AGM: 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.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge that progress continues to be slow on various aspects of Board business. A lot of the CASCA day-to-day work and planning falls on the President, who not only chairs the Board but is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation. Unfortunately, I have not been able to devote as much time to CASCA work as I had planned: I caught COVID in early November and have been suffering from first COVID and now long COVID symptoms for the past 4 months. I appreciate your patience if responses to emails are slow or if some aspects of CASCA business take longer to make progress. Special thanks to other members of the Board who are taking on tasks that I would normally be doing, especially Julie Hlavaceck-Larrondo who has been chairing the Board meetings and leading the organization of the optical/infrared review committee.

Wishing you all a good end of semester and looking forward to seeing many of you in Penticton in June,