So, a whole day sitting in a very cold room at the University of Toronto for a town hall meeting on the CASCA Long-Range Plan Mid-Term Review. My impressions:
For the most part I didn’t learn a huge amount from the various talks, but if I had it would probably have been a sign that I was not keeping up in my roles as CASCA Ground-Based Astronomy Committee chair and CASCA director. Whew. Most of what was illuminating about the day was the discussion. The MTR panel reported some of what had gone on at the previous day’s meeting in Montreal, which included representation from the Canadian Space Agency. Today’s meeting had a rep from NSERC.
Attendance was not terribly high, fewer than 30 people. Most of the non-UofT Ontario universities only had one or two attendees each. Granted, it’s a busy time of year and the TA strike at UofT is likely complicating things. But it certainly would have been nice to see a few more people, particularly the students and postdocs who will use the facilities that get discussed in long-range plans.
Women in the room were greatly outnumbered by men (3 or 4 to 1?) and tended to talk less. Small-number statistics and individual personalities were at work here, to be sure, but the difference was noticeable to me. I just realized: I think it may have been the case that the NSERC rep and I were the only female attendees who were not members of the MTR panel. The panel itself has decent gender balance, and most of the panel members were listening more than talking, which is entirely reasonable. So maybe I should have been knitting less and talking more. Hmm.
Everyone was very aware of the need to carefully justify new facilities/capabilities/etc, and I think we were reminded that it’s good to think hard about some of the assumptions and structures under which Canadian astronomy is run. There were good discussions about the roles of various agencies, how best to distribute funding (e.g. one big project versus a number of small ones), and what facilities to give up if we want new ones. Hopefully the panel came away from their day with more ideas for today’s discussion in Victoria.