Saturday, August 25, 2007

Astronomy Discussion Meetings: Proposal to the Astronomical Society of India

Over the past few years astronomy meetings have not been held regularly in India. Astronomical Society of India (ASI) only organizes bi-annual meetings, which are woefully short on discussions. To increase their frequency, topical discussion meetings involving a small number of active participants were proposed. Such meetings will allow a close interactions between astronomers, mainly from India. They will have an added benefit of smaller number of participants and of being focussed on topics of LOC's interests. The costs and local organization efforts will also be reduced significantly.

The ASI has accepted the proposal in principle. Here are the basic tentacles of such meetings. The ASI has granted a sum of 1 Lakh towards expenses of the meeting. One could further approach DST/ISRO/UGC for more funding. Given Ranjan being in DST committee, it would be easier from them.

There will typically be sessions over 2 and half days, with about 15 presentations. The emphasis is on discussions. Hence, followed by one 45 minute talk, there is 15 minute's break for Q/A session. At the end of each session, there will be an hour of open debate on possible new work, or comments on on-going work. This is place for on-board calculations, and some laptop demos, etc.

The meeting crucially depends on 4/5 resource persons. These will chair sessions, seed discussions and direct the course of the meeting. Their participation is vital, as is the willingness of the public to discuss issues and settle them on the spot, rather than defering to person-to-person discussion.

There will be about 10-15 faculty and 10-15 PhD scholars. Most members will stay during the entire two and half days of the meeting. There are no frills, except perhaps one institute buffet and some drinks from the LOC. The number is restricted to a number of 25, and is by invitation only. Most participants will not be provided travel support, and the local travel support will be provided on pay-per-use basis.

All these are thought to make the arrangement work of the LOC minimal, allowing for more groups from India to host meetings. This will allow a larger number of meetings, wider set of meetings, and dispersing meeting venues.

Amen to that!