[TDA_wg] TDA email check?

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Sun Apr 26 10:40:28 EDT 2015

Hi J-P,

>   That's a good plan.  However, I am somewhat skeptical that our lofty ambitions will be well served by acting on (1).  I fear it will provide us with an administrative burden but with no teeth to bring about any real benefit to the community. 

Lofty ambitions are always tied to administrative burdens.  As you point out, the opposite need not be true.

I have a confession to make; I am a juggler.  Once in a team meeting, I severely confused the room by attempting to make a point by juggling.  Maybe it will work better as a verbal analogy.

The time domain is inevitable.  Efficient pursuit of time domain science use cases is not.  The IAU is just one part of the answer - one juggling prop flying through the air, if you will.  Others are the AAS, the SPIE, and diverse less formal entities such as the Hotwired workshops.  Each of these has a role to play, just as props come in different varieties - balls, clubs and rings.  Props go up (lofty ambitions) and props come down (admin burdens).  The weave complex patterns - see http://juggle.wikia.com/wiki/Siteswap - I can't do any of those ;-)  Different props, like different organizations, have complementary purposes, e.g., clubs add extra rotational degrees of freedom to point-source juggling balls.

Activities pursued by diverse groups within the time domain have been highly productive, e.g., Hotwired and DASCH.  (See the resource list for many more.)  But an essential part of the time domain is the community engineering needed to engage with other observatories and diverse facilities such as archives in a larger system.  Hence Elizabeth has proposed TDA sessions at the next AAS meeting, and Chris Smith and I proposed a TDA conference series at SPIE, and our efforts to engage with the IAU.

The trouble is that even those who labor on the broad vistas of astronomy are tied to innumerable pedestrian concerns on Earth.  For instance, the U.S. National Academy released another report last week on the "U.S. Ground-based Optical/IR System of Telescopes".  A long and interesting report, it doesn't even begin to engage with the complexity of the real system that rejects all of those adjectives.  We need an international entity to step up their game.

The proposal to the IAU was not for us to take advantage of some opportunity that organization offered.  It was to offer our community's unique vision as a template to improve the IAU.  We don't need any favors from them.  They need us.  I don't now seek a WG because it is a crumb they are tendering, I seek a WG as a way to get entry through the locker room door at the IAU stadium, so we can begin to weave a complex new pattern in the squash court under the bleachers, while the marching band continues to play Sousa out on the field.

Well, maybe a verbal analogy won't be any better...

...in any event the choice is to give up on the IAU (many in the U.S. don't even bother to join), or rather to seek a pragmatic way forward.  Elizabeth chairs a TG; perhaps she can comment on the size of the burden.


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