By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2019)
Dear CASCA Members,
Summer is upon us and by the time you read this the Annual General Meeting in Montreal will be over. So I think it fitting to begin this President’s Message with a huge thank you to the McGill organizers, beginning with the Co-Chairs Nicolas Cowan and Daryl Haggard, as well as the local organizing committee members, Carolina Cruz-Vinaccia, Emmanuel Fonseca, Louise Decelles, Émilie Parent, Taylor Bell, and the scientific organizing committee members, Vicky Kaspi, Andrew Cumming, Tracy Webb, Jonathan Sievers and Kelly Lepo. And I have to put in a thanks to CASCA Vice-President Sara Ellison for acting as the Board contact. The conference program is chock full of some great science and the theme of “Emerging fields in Astrophysics” is particularly apropos as LRP2020 moves ahead.
The LRP process is in full swing, and I will pass on thanks to the Co-Chairs Pauline Barmby and Bryan Gaensler, as well as the panelists Matt Dobbs, Jeremy Heyl, Natasha Ivanova, David Lafrenière, Brenda Matthews, and Alice Shapley, for taking on this immense effort. By the time you read this we will have had the initial discussion sessions at CASCA, and I can’t wait to see what kind of input we’ll get. While I can’t say there is ever a good time to write a Long Range Plan, as research is always in flux, it feels like there are an enormous number of projects looking to get started at the moment. As part of LRP2010 we reviewed over 50 different possible experiments/facilities/projects but it is clear that LRP2020 is going to eclipse that!
The response to the expression of interest for white papers was truly exceptional. With over 80 titles, and growing by the minute, the Panel is going to have its work cut out reviewing everything. I’d also like to encourage the whole community to work together as much as possible. We’re not particularly large and there is much to gain by working together on things as opposed to replicating effort.
Some of you may recall that following the Coalition visit in February we were approached by MP Hélène Laverdière about holding a reception for Canadian astronomy on ‘the Hill.’ Big thanks go to Nathalie Ouellette and René Doyon for stepping-up to interface with Madame Laverdière’s office, as well as Kristina Proulx and Duncan Rayner at Temple Scott and Associates who also helped arrange the reception. Events like this are primarily about awareness, it’s important to remember that there are many different interest groups lobbying the government, so we need to get out there and make some noise!
The reception was held on May 27th and we had representation of several LRP projects at the event, including some virtual reality demos which were a big hit! Big thanks go out to Stéphane Courteau, Matt Dobbs, Maria Drout, Kristine Spekkens and Maclean Rouble for contributing their time and talents! I had some time to give a short speech emphasizing how many world firsts Canadian astronomy has achieved, and importantly for government, the deep innovation that we contribute through our collaborations with industry. At one point we had over 40 people in the reception, and as a measure of its effectiveness we got to talk with more MPs at the event that we normally do in a couple of days of meetings.
In addition to the reception, Nathalie, Rene and I also made some of the more regular visits to MPs offices. We are continuing in the vein of ensuring our message is heard in as many different places and in as many different contexts as possible. We made a special effort to be clear on the fact that while recent investments in the CSA were most welcome, we still need a space strategy that provides clear funding avenues and opportunities for Canadian space astronomy.
With the federal election looming on October 21 we have an interesting time for lobbying ahead. In some ways it is good, those looking to get elected have reasons to listen, but in other ways bad as the focus is on electoral votes and not strategies. However, the Coalition is toying with a couple of potential awareness campaigns that might use this to our advantage. Stay tuned!
Society and Board
The Board is just about to undergo a significant change in its composition. Firstly, I have to pass on huge and heartfelt thanks, I’m sure on behalf of everyone in the society, to James Di Francesco (Secretary), Nicole St-Louis (Treasurer) for their work in these positions over six years! CASCA continues to grow as an organization and both James and Nicole have undertaken exceptionally important roles in that change. The more committees we create and the more awards we have, the more challenging these two roles have become.
In addition to James and Nicole departing, so will Erik Rosolowsky, Samar Safi-Harb and Kristine Spekkens. Great thanks to each of you for all your efforts on behalf of the society and moving forward a number of key portfolios.
At the same time, I have to acknowledge all the tremendous work being done by the various CASCA committees. Your reports and advice are central to our moving our society’s mandate forward, and I know you’re all working harder than ever as the number of pages in committee reports has risen from 34 in 2015 to 92 for the ones submitted this year! The Board has a lot of material to review in our next meeting.
I’ll end with a final thank you to all of the other members who volunteer their time to the operation of CASCA and the success of Canadian astronomy, plus our society Administrator Susan Di Francesco, our IT consultant Jennifer West. We simply can’t function without you.
Happy Summer Solstice!