Invited talks


Changing cultures – What research stakeholders’ perspectives tell us about research assessments

Noémie Aubert Bonn - Hasselt University, Belgium and Amsterdam UMC, The Netherlands

Research assessments influence the way in which research is conducted; encouraging researchers to focus on certain aspects of their work over others. In the past few years, we conducted interviews, focus groups, and surveys with a wide array of different research stakeholders and we explored what their perspectives could tell us about research assessments. We found that there was an obvious misalignment between ‘career’ success and ‘research’ success. ‘Career’ success largely focus on quantity, outputs, individual achievements, and exceptional findings, but they disregard aspects which are essential in advancing science, such as transparency, quality, openness, and innovation. We also found that the career structures embedded in current academia add to the problem, placing early career researchers in an hypercompetitive, instable, and often unsupportive environment. Together, these issue have a profound impact on the culture of research. Addressing research assessments, therefore, requires not only a realignment of the indicators used to assess researchers, but also a change in profound structural and cultural aspects of research.


DORA and responsible research assessment - rethinking what we value in research

Stephen Curry - Imperial College London, UK

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is a campaigning initiative to improve the ways that we evaluate research and researchers. It aims particularly to help people understand the problems associated with over-reliance on aggregate metrics like the journal impact factor or H-index in assessment processes. Such metrics have enduring appeal because they appear to offer the simplicity and objectivity of numerical analyses. However, we need to be mindful of the subjective nature of decisions that lead to citation counts – the raw material of many performance metrics – and the biases that perturb them. The challenge now, if we are to move to more robust forms of evaluation, is to ensure that these are as effective and as efficient as possible. Embracing this challenge will also help to clear the way for more open and impactful science, and for a more inclusive academy.

Feeling like an impostor in academia

Sanne Feenstra - VU Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Impostor syndrome refers to the experience of being in an esteemed role or position and feeling like you do not really deserve to be there. You may feel like you ended up in that esteemed role not because of your merits or achievement but because of some oversight on the part of important gatekeepers, or due to sheer luck. This is a common experience in academia. In this workshop Professor Sanne Feenstra will discuss the latest scientific insights into this important phenomenon. Moreover, participants will reflect on their own experiences with impostor feelings. Overall, you will gain insights into the origins and solutions of the impostor phenomenon.


The role of Astronomy in education: a cosmic laboratory in the classroom

Sandra Benitez Herrera - Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Canary Islands, Spain

Several studies show a continuous lack of interest in science by young people throughout Europe. This tendency is mainly due to traditional pedagogical practices based on memorizing lists of facts and formulas, without deepening into the applications or the social utility of science.

Astronomy is a fantastic tool to engage the youth with science, due to its visual power and multidisciplinary nature. It allows teachers to discuss many topics included in the scholar curricula in a variety of disciplines like Math, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Informatics...The combination of Astronomy with approaches like “Inquiry-based learning”, contributes to the development of student’s critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. At the same time, Astronomy is strongly connected with History, Philosophy, Art…so it is an excellent resource for educators from these areas as well.

Beyond that, Astronomy is a source of inspiration and awe that allows us to understand our place in the Cosmos from a Pale Blue Dot perspective. This is an impactful message to bring to schools across the world, which helps to raise awareness about climate change and the need to take care of our planet.

In this talk, I will discuss the fundamental role of Astronomy in education and present examples of initiatives that are currently being developed.


Models, Computer Simulations, and Philosophy of Astrophysics

Melissa Jacquart -  Philosophy Department, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, USA

Astrophysics faces methodological challenges as a result of being a predominantly observation-based science without access to traditional experiments. In light of these challenges, astrophysicists frequently rely on models and computer simulations. Scientific models and computer simulations are indispensable to scientific practice. Through their use, scientists are able to learn about how the world works, and to discover new information. However, there are challenges in understanding how astrophysicists can generate reliable inferences from their use, stemming from the fact that models and simulations are necessarily incomplete representations and partial descriptions of their target systems. In order to construct a model or simulation, one must make idealizations, approximations, and abstractions. In this talk, I discuss how models and computer simulations play three important roles in reasoning in astrophysics: hypothesis testing, exploring possibility space, and amplifying observations.


The scientific method from a philosophical perspective

David Merritt - School of Physics and Astronomy Rochester Insitute of Technology, Rochester, USA

A methodology of science must satisfy two requirements if it is to yield the results which we know that it does yield, namely, scientific theories of great generality, accuracy and explanatory power. (i) It must be ampliative: the theories which it generates must make statements that go far beyond any data or observations that may have motivated those theories in the first place. (ii) It must be epistemically probative: it must somehow provide a warrant for believing that the theories so produced are correct, or at least partially correct, even if they can never be fully confirmed. These two requirements pull in opposite directions, and attempts to specify the “scientific method” often focus on one to the exclusion of the other. On a few points there now exists something approaching a consensus. (i) Scientific hypotheses — including, particularly, statements about unobserved or unobservable entities or mechanisms — remain conjectural, no matter how frequently predictions based on those hypotheses are found to coincide with data. (ii) A good (best?) indicator of a theory’s verisimilitude is its ability to successfully predict phenomena which it was not specifically designed to predict. I discuss these ideas with particular reference to cosmological theories.


ERC funding opportunities

Valentin Oprea - ERC Executive Agency

The European Research Council (ERC) offers funding opportunities for scientists of any nationality and in all fields of science. The ERC is funding frontier research, following a PI-centered, curiosity driven, bottom-up approach. Support is offered to high-risk/high-gain projects based on innovative ideas, with the potential of going significantly beyond the state of the art and of leading to transformational changes in their fields and beyond. The selection of proposals is performed through a peer-review evaluation, with scientific excellence being the sole evaluation criterion. The grants are significant and have attractive features such as portability, light reporting and a high degree of flexibility.  


How to become a more productive, confident, and happier researcher
in a world where the sky is not the limit?

Ewa Pluciennicka - PhD Success

Mental Health of early career researchers is alarming. Several recent studies reported that PhD candidates are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and burn-out than the general population. (Evans et al., 2018). The most common reasons for that are the excessive workload, stress, high expectations of academia, and lack of life-work balance (Levecque et al., 2017).

Despite the growing research in the field of mental health of researchers, little attention has been given to proposing practical solutions to improve the well-being of PhD researchers and prevent mental suffering in academia (Satinsky et al. 2021).

Thus, the aim of this presentation is to bring a practical approach to the mental changes faced by academics and address the existing link between productivity and confidence and their impact on self-esteem and general life satisfaction of researchers.

Understanding this link will help researchers, to be more mindful about their productivity and self-expectations, and it will result in reducing stress on a daily basis. Importantly, understanding this link will also help researchers to effectively avoid mental health challenges and will contribute to their general well-being.


Impact of astronomy on our society: examples from Africa

Mirjana Pović - Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute

Africa has amazing potential due to natural and human resources for scientific research in astronomy and space science. The status of astronomy in Africa changed significantly over the past years and it became now an emerging field across the continent. However, we are still frequently receiving questions such as: why is astronomy important for Africa?, why shall African countries invest in astronomy? or isn't astronomy too expensive for Africa? This talk will reflect on the impact of astronomy on our society, go through different examples from Africa, and highlight that investing in astronomy and science is not a question of luxury, but a fundamental need for sustainable development and for bringing more equality in the world.

Challenges and opportunities relating to the funding of astronomy*

Thomas H. Zurbuchen - NASA



*Working title


Contributed talks


Reliability, Informativeness and Sensitivity in dark matter observation

Antonis Antoniou

The systematic research of dark matter spans more than five decades, however, the exact nature of dark matter still remains elusive. In this talk, a useful framework for the epistemology of dark matter observation will be provided via a conceptual analysis of the five main methods of dark matter observation. Based on the epistemic virtues of these methods with respect to their informativeness, model sensitivity and reliability, it will be argued that a partial explanation for the lack of progress in dark matter research possibly comes from the important limitations of robustness arguments from the variability of experiments in this field. The discussion will close with `the puzzle of dark matter observation’, namely, the fact that the only possible way to collect reliable results that will narrow down the range of viable candidate dark matter models is by presupposing these models.


Astronomy and the climate crisis

Leonard Burtscher - Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands

Astronomy is a fascinating, but unfortunately carbon-intensive business. Frequent, long-distance flights, the operation of observatories at remote locations, as well as the execution of CPU-intensive simulations lead to per-capita greenhouse gas emission significantly larger than those of the general population. Fortunately, inexpensive solutions, that would significantly reduce our carbon footprint immediately, are available. In this talk, I will break down the typical emissions from astronomical research and argue that we should reduce our own emissions significantly and become role models for demanding realistic change while we continue to collaborate globally. Perhaps more importantly, astronomers can convey awe for the wonders of the universe, a sense of the uniqueness of our planet, and a feeling of global citizenship - the most important ingredients to provoke a feeling of urgency about the climate crisis, that ideally leads to climate action.


On the importance of Astronomy for society

Annalisa De Cia - University of Geneva, Switzerland

Astronomy has a key role for society and in this basic talk I will reflect on some aspects of this. Astronomy enabled a shift from a fear- and superstition-driven culture, to a society that is informed by openly available science. Astronomers have the responsibility for the protection of the immediate space environment of our planet, for example with the monitoring of solar activities and near earth objects. Astronomy transfers technical development that enables practical applications on Earth. Astronomy is also directly used as a tool for sustainable development globally. Astronomy nourishes the society's thirst for knowledge on fundamental questions about our Universe and our role in it. Science fosters logical and critical thinking that is much needed in our modern society, especially in these times of uncertainties. Science, universities and research institutes are key for a socially and environmentally sustainable society, both by producing knowledge as well as by shaping the next generation. Astronomy in particular can inspire and unite humans, all living under the same sky.


The culture of astronomy and its scientists; and what it means for solving global challenges

Hannah Dalgleish - University of Oxford, UK

Astronomy is a deeply cultural science; an evening spent under a dark, starry night sky can evoke feelings of awe, wonder, and of being a global citizen. On the other hand, the pursuit of astronomical knowledge depends on cross-border co-operation: observers need shared infrastructure and intelligence to study the Universe's greatest mysteries. Not only does this advance science, but also brings significant societal and political benefits: through international collaboration, astronomy can bring governments and nations together to foster trust, peace and prosperity, and to help bridge the North-South divide. In turn, many astronomers themselves are rooted in a culture of openness, devoted to reaching and supporting marginalised communities and narrowing societal gaps. 

Based on astronomy's natural ability to foster cultural relations, astronomers have begun to harness this power to address some of the world's greatest challenges. We cannot face the impending climate crisis, rising inequality and mistrust in science, and increasing light pollution - which severely harms ecosystems and human health - alone. Together, through embracing the mystery of the Universe, we can draw forth upon our humanity, our innate empathy and compassion. What can we learn from this inspiration, and how best can we use astronomy to unite the citizens of the world and take action?


Research Assessment: Recognising the asset of diversity for scholarship serving society

Martin Dominik - University of St Andrews, UK

Diversity is one of humanity's greatest strengths, and not a competing goal to excellence, right to the contrary. Moreover, the quality of teams hinges on the complementary skills and interaction between its members. However, metrics for assessing research that have been popular over the recent two decades critically fail on these fundamental principles for advancing science to the benefit of society. Research management has become obsessed with outputs, productivity, and citations; none of which reflect good science. University rankings must not serve as excuse for bad management, and research assessment must never become disconnected from a specific purpose. Institutions need to set their own policies that let them thrive within their niche in the global research ecosystem rather than trying to engage in meaningless overcompetition. I will suggest a simple framework for fostering an environment that supports creativity and initiative.


The present and future of the state of diversity in astronomy

Abigail Frost - KU Leuven, Belgium

Astronomy is a far-reaching field, with the marvels of space inspiring people of all ages all across the world. While an interest in astronomy is present across all groups of people, this is not represented on a professional level, with representation from minority groups dwindling the further up the career path you go. Improving diversity within fields and institutions has been shown to have positive effects (Nielsen et al. 2018, Nature Hum Behav 2, 726-734) and as such when looking to the future of astronomy it is in the field's benefit to discuss what we can do. In this talk, on behalf of the organisation IDEEA (Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in European Astronomy), I will discuss the current state of diversity in our field and how changes to hiring practices and other actions can assist with improving diversity in astronomy in the future.


A critical analysis of science funding in Brazil: ways for inclusion

Thiago Goncalves - Valongo Observatory, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro 

Brazil currently has a strong output in scientific papers; nevertheless, the impact of Brazilian science is still comparatively low. As coordinator for a workgroup organized by the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science, I lead a team that has debated this issue in depth. In this talk, I will discuss how the current model used by funding agencies in the country can contribute to this discrepancy, presenting quantitative data on funding calls and graduate programs. I will also argue on the perverse outcomes of this strategy, including a disproportional lack of competitiveness and resulting insularity of Brazilian science. Finally, I will present proposed solutions to this problem, which might also affect other developing countries.


The Role of Astronomy Librarians in FAIR Bibliography Curation and Metric Analyses

Uta Grothkopf (ESO) and Jenny Novacescu (STScI)

Nearly all major astronomy observatories maintain telescope and staff bibliographies. Bibliographies are one of many tools used by observatory management to evaluate their organizations' research productivity. In most cases observatory libraries play a crucial role in the data collection and metric analyses that drive critical decisions related to benchmarking, funding, mission evaluation, hiring, talent retention, and promotion. It is incumbent on the observatory's leadership, instrument scientists, and bibliographers together to ask the right questions in order to understand what they are trying to measure, whether it is possible and fair to assess, and the association between output and impact.

Over time, astronomy librarians have not only enhanced their bibliography databases and set new parameters and guidelines to ensure equity, such as the FAIR principles and a push for open access publishing; they have also collaborated with fellow librarians, archive scientists, astronomers, and publishers around the globe to exchange best practices and to understand how astronomy as a science is changing.

In this presentation, we will provide an overview of the ESO and Hubble bibliographies. We will inspect what constitutes impact, and how institutional and individual staff metrics can be assessed to capture the full range of contributions to the advancement of science during all career stages and over the lifetime of an observatory and its data archive.


Mental health among PhDs in Germany's leading research facilities

Lea Heckmann - Max Planck Institute for Physics, Munich, Germany

There is an ongoing discussion regarding the mental well being of researchers and the question if and how the current academic system is fostering or limiting it. As N2 network we are standing up for the interests of 16,000 doctoral researchers in the Leibniz- and Helmholtz Associations, the Max Planck Society and the IPP Mainz. To evaluate their situation we are conducting harmonized surveys every two years. In the 2019 survey, roughly 5,000 doctoral researchers from these non-university research organizations participated and answered, among others, questions about their mental health.Using this data, we identified levels of depression symptoms that are almost twice as high as among the general population of the same age group in Germany. Correlated with other aspects of the PhD life, we see three main areas that are closely associated with the mental well-being of our early career researchers: workload, supervision, work environment and work atmosphere. In this contribution I would like to present our results in more detail and connect them with possible areas of improvement.


Peer Review in a global and growing scientific community

Wolfgang Kerzendorf - Michigan State University

Many aspects of modern peer review have not changed from its inception in the 18th century despite drastic changes in the scientific community. Specifically, contrary to the early days of peer review, it has become a significant challenge to monitor the ever-expanding amount of publications and proposals that require review. For example, in astronomy, almost 20 thousand papers are published yearly and this number doubles every 14 years, only exacerbating the existing problems. Peer review has not adequately innovated as technology has advanced and the dissemination of publications has surged, creating a space for stagnant and biased reviews. The review of proposals for scientific funding takes months due to the sheer number of proposals scientific organizations receive (see, e.g., Smith 2006). Another criticism of peer review is that currently, some factors of the decision as to what defines an expert reviewer are particularly at risk of bias such as a person's network, perception of self expertise, and implicit biases towards the proposing scientist. In this talk, I will review the current state of peer review in the astronomy profession. I will present potential solutions such as our work on a so-called distributed peer review process and a methodology to identify expertise outside one's own professional network. I will close with an outlook of current and future experiments in peer review.


Mothers in Astronomy

Paola Pinilla - MPIA, Heidelberg, Germany

There are well-documented studies that demonstrate that mothers in STEM face different challenges throughout their careers, including: discrimination, drops in productivity, and inequities in wages and promotion. As a consequence, scientist-mothers are under-represented at the top most levels of academia. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated several of these issues in the last two years. In this talk, I will present different surveys and studies showing different barriers faced by scientist-mothers in academia. Moreover, I will present how various support policies and practices for working mothers have succeeded at retaining more mothers in different fields, and I will share my personal perspective in the field of Astronomy.


Equitable hiring at ESO

Francesca Primas - ESO

A diverse workforce is key to ensure balanced views and inclusive approaches and to boost creativity. Among the different aspects that make up diversity, the gender dimension remains one of the most debated issues worldwide, especially in the science and technology fields. Despite the many recent efforts and improvements achieved on the status of female students and researchers in science, most studies continue to show the same patterns of gender disadvantages, both horizontally (per discipline) and vertically (per seniority level). Astronomy is no different. At the European Southern Observatory, we strive to achieve a diverse workforce that values equity and inclusion. ESO Diversity and Inclusion Committee has worked closely with management and Human Resources to implement new recruitment guidelines that carry the promise to increase diversity in many different respects.


Nested modalities in astrophysical modeling: comparing weak and strong gravity cases

Giulia Schettino (speaker) - Institute of Applied Physics “Nello Carrara” (IFAC) – CNR and Department of Mathematics, University of Pisa

Elena Castellani - Department of Humanities and Philosophy (DILEF) – University of Florence

Astrophysics, intended in a broad sense as including both the physics of the solar system and the physics at large and very large scales (i.e., cosmology), notoriously deals with phenomena and processes taking place in extreme conditions, hardly reproducible in a laboratory. Hence, the adoption of models and computer simulations becomes essential in this field, offering a wide range of exemplary case studies for analyzing the role of models in scientific practices.

Here, within the framework of the debate on modal modeling in science, we investigate the modalities implied in astrophysical modeling practices by taking into account different levels of abstraction or generality at which phenomena can be framed. To this aim, we analyze two case studies involving modeling gravity at very different regimes: namely, weak gravity at the solar system level and strong gravity at cosmological scales. In particular, on the background of the how- possibly/how-actually ditinction, we investigate how the degree of possibility is related to the level of generality at wich a phenomenon can be framed.

At first glance, modeling practices and the corresponding implied modalities could appear significantly different when considering weak or strong gravity. On the contrary, by framing the analysis in terms of the how-possibly/how-actually distinction we show that, in both cases, we can identify a web of nested modalities arranged across different levels, and we argue that, independently from the regime, there is no direct link between the degree of possibility and the level of detail at which the phenomena are considered.


How to support early career astronomers (ECA): a ECA perspective

Jakob van den Eijnden (speaker) - Oxford, UK

Floor Broekgaarden - Cambridge, USA 

Diversity, inclusion, equity and a supportive environment are particularly important for Early Career Astronomers (ECAs) to connect and learn navigating the academic system in permanent evolution (e.g., responding to pandemic, climate change and diversity crises). Securing the next job, building a mentoring network, finding support at work while ultimately developing a sustainable behavior is important, yet challenging, and such issues must be addressed simultaneously internationally and at the level of individual institutions.

Over the past years I've been actively involved in several (international) initiatives for early-career astronomers, including creating an informal "early career astronomers" facebook discussion group, the "early career astronomers & their supporters" session at EAS 2021 (and 2022), and several resource documents on applying to PhDs. In this talk I will draw on my experiences from these initiatives and share 10 take away points for "how to support early career astronomers", for both early career astronomers and their supporters.