AAS, editorial in time ownership

Yesterday I took several pages of notes on the Kepler results (Kepler 10b in particular) and once I have time to chew through those notes I’m going to put together a longer blog post. One thing that occurred to me earlier today is that I’m just not able to write at these meetings the way I used to, and I actually want to write about that. This is a Seattle meeting of the AAS. This conference rotates between four sites (Seattle, Austin, Long Beach, DC) and this is the first meeting of my third post-PhD AAS cycle. Seattle 2003 I presented my PhD work, having just defended. It was a wild meeting for me – my first as a journalist working at Astronomy magazine – and I was trying to learn my new journalism job while still being a scientist. Seattle 2007 was my first meeting as a ‘professor’ (assistant visiting prof at that stage), and I was learning how to be an academic while still being a podcaster/journalist.

I guess, in retrospect, this is a meeting where I seem to like to undergo life changes. This year it’s nothing that specific or pivotal, but I am noticing this meeting is nonetheless different. Somewhere in the past couple years I stopped being someone who could run manically and joyfully from press conference to invited talk to science talk, writing and recording as I run. It takes a certain freedom of movement to live that way. Now, my time is not entirely my own, and I find myself with responsibilities that force me away from the places – the talks – I want to see, to the places I need to be. Yesterday was a mix: I had a 2 hourish meeting with other NASA folks where we heard some new policy and had worksheets for communicating our needs from NASA. It was useful, but not really bloggable. Last night I had a policy meetings, all good ideas with great people and excellent food followed, but while I relished my sauteed mushrooms, I wasn’t consuming new discoveries I can share with you. Today it has been almost all about places I should…, thing I should…, lots of I should … And not a lot of things to write.

I think I became a responsible adult, and that means balancing time i could spend
learning about things outside of my subfields with time i should spend collaborating with people with whom I can work inside my subfield.

With age (and collaborations and grants) comes telecons (and WebEx) and meetings. This is part of effectively herding large groups of people in working in a coherent way. Good telecons and meetings are firehoses of content and data calls (based on new info, everyone tell us…) and then a listing of action items and a call for people to take responsibility for action items (this last is why the guilt of a voice on the phone is
needed over email to a certain degree). I’m realizing more and more that the time I once spent learning non-required things and writing things for the joy of it is now taken up with committee work, collaboration communications, and paperwork.

Looking around this meeting, there are lots of bloggers, tweeters, and other new media communicators. As near as I can tell, they are mostly (but not entirely) young.
While some of this is a technology bias – students are far more likely to be Facebook savvy – in part it’s a free time bias. It seems my next life stage, my next post-Seattle stage, is one of working with others (good) and knowing my choices on how to spend
my time aren’t always my own (bittersweet). I am still a scientist and a writer. But now I am a voice in an academic choir of collaboration and committee work as well.

But I still tweet while I walk. They can’t take that away from me.

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  1. Hanging on to childish things « airless saharas - January 12, 2011

    […] science communicator–extraordinaire Pamela Gay has written a melancholy and rather lovely farewell to free time from AAS’ quadrennial Seattle meeting (which is in full swing this […]

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