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Caltech astrophysics and harassment: Lessons learned

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 13, 2019 by telescoper

This is a lengthy but important post about the recent episodes of harassment at Caltech centred around Christian Ott. I’ve blogged in relation to this myself a few times; see here. It’s not a comfortable read, which is precisely why you should read it.

One of the worst things about the way institutions handle investigations into harassment and related disciplinary matters is that the system does not include any provisions to bring closure to the victims. Indeed, victims are sometimes not even informed as to the outcome of the investigation.

You can make your own mind up about the behaviour of Caltech as an institution. All I’ll say is that far more people were affected than I was previously aware of.

Casey Handmer's blog

Caltech astrophysics and harassment: Lessons learned

Casey Handmer 2019

What is this?

In the wake of major catastrophes, it is common practice for organizations to publish a “Lessons Learned” report to help prevent future occurrences. The largest public catastrophe in which I’ve ever been involved occurred in the Caltech astrophysics department between 2010 and 2019. Former Caltech professor and internationally disgraced astrophysicist Christian Ott harmed, harassed, and abused numerous students, postdocs, and research fellows. Despite thousands of hours of investigation, no public “findings” or “lessons learned” report has ever been made available. This document is my attempt to fill this need.

Why?

It has been historically conventional to conceal this sort of institutional malpractice, with the effect that the hard-learned lessons are forgotten and that harassment, particularly of underrepresented minorities, is still common. The intent of this document is to undermine the traditional assumption that abused students will graduate or…

View original post 11,100 more words

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Royal Society University – Science Foundation Ireland University Research Fellowships

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2019 by telescoper

It is now time for a quick public information broadcast.

Did you know about the scheme run jointly between the  Royal Society and Science Foundation Ireland that enables early career researchers in Ireland access to University Research Fellowships?

This scheme provides five years of research funding (with the possibility of renewal) and has proved to be a stepping stone to their first permanent academic position for a great many scientists.

This scheme covers, but is not limited to, physics and astronomy. For full details of the scheme, see here.

The deadline if you want to apply to hold a URF from 2020 in Ireland is 3rd September 2019, which is less than a month away,  so please get cracking!

You could go a lot worse than applying to hold your URF in Maynooth!

Oh, and five years residency in Ireland qualifies you for citizenship. Just saying…

Interlude

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2019 by telescoper

I have only a short window of opportunity to take a bit of holiday before the  Repeat examination period begins (after which I take over as Head of Department)  so I’ve decided to take a week off starting tomorrow morning. I don’t think I’ll be blogging while I am away, so there will now follow a short intermission. Normal service will be resumed as soon as I’m back

 

News of the Views

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2019 by telescoper

Just a quick post to mention that at some point in the early hours of Saturday morning the total number of views of this blog exceeded four million.

I have no idea whether that’s a lot or not for a blog , but I am vastly tickled by the level of interest, which has been fairly steady for about a decade now.

Thanks to everyone for reading (or at least viewing) my ramblings!

P. S. Interestingly, over the last year the six countries with most views were (in decreasing order): UK, USA, Hong Kong SAR China, Germany, Ireland and Australia. I’m quite surprised to see Hong Kong so high but wish all my readers there all the best in what seem to be turbulent times!

The Last Resting Place of the Hubble Parameter?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 22, 2019 by telescoper

Last week was rather busy on the blog, with a run of posts about the Hubble constant (or, more precisely, the  present value of the Hubble parameter) attracting the most traffic. Somehow during all the excitement I allowed myself to be persuaded to write a piece for RTÉ Brainstorm about this issue. My brief is to write a detailed account of the current controversy in language accessible to a lay reader in not more than 800 words. That’s quite a challenge. Better get on with it.

Perhaps after that I’ll be able to lay the Hubble parameter to rest, at least for a while:

The original photograph (and joke) may be found here.

New Publication at the Open Journal of Astrophysics!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 19, 2019 by telescoper

I was a bit busy yesterday doing a number of things, including publishing a new paper at The Open Journal of Astrophysics, but I didn’t get time to write a post about it until now. Anyway, here is how the new paper looks on the site:

The authors are Tom Kitching, Paniez Paykari and Mark Cropper of the Mullard Space Sciences Laboratory (of University College London) and Henk Hoekstra of Leiden Observatory.

You can find the accepted version on the arXiv here. This version was accepted after modifications requested by the referee and editor. Because this is an overlay journal the authors have to submit the accepted version to the arXiv (which we then check against the copy submitted to us) before publishing. We actually have a bunch of papers that we have accepted but are awaiting the appearance of the final version on the arXiv so we can validate it.

Anyway, this is another one for the `Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics’ folder. We would be happy to get more submissions from other areas of astrophysics. Hint! Hint!

P.S. Just a reminder that we now have an Open Journal of Astrophysics Facebook page where you can follow updates from the Journal should you wish..

Bullying at ETH Zürich leads to a dismissal

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 17, 2019 by telescoper

I was wondering why this old post from 2017 (which was my busiest post of the year back then) has been experiencing a resurgence in traffic over the last few days, and I’ve only just found out the reason.

According to this article, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich has taken formal action to dismiss a professor from the former Institute for Astronomy. This follows a scandal about bullying in the Institute of Astronomy, which led to the Institute being closed down. The Professor against whom the allegations of bullying have been made is Marcella Carollo, who is not named in the article I linked to above but is named in this more complete account (in German).

This would be the first time in the history of the ETH that a Professor has actually been dismissed.

It has taken quite a while to get this far with this very sorry case – it would have been far better had the complaints about Prof. Carollo been dealt with sooner, but if there is any good to emerge it will be that ETH puts in place better processes for the supervision of early career researchers generally, and particularly for dealing with allegations of bullying.