[ASA] An update from your ESO UC representative

Caroline Foster caroline.foster at sydney.edu.au
Tue Aug 24 11:23:56 AEST 2021

Dear fellow Australian astronomers,

Please share the following update with other interested parties.

This email is an update from your ESO Users Committee (UC) representative. My role is to represent Australian ESO Users and act as a capillary link between ESO and the Australian community.


The UC once again conducted its annual poll early in the year, the UC reported a slightly increasing level of satisfaction from ESO Users: https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/zAUYCWLVXkU52xGoLs69bly?domain=eso.org. The UC found that Users "expressing a strong level of dissatisfaction are a very small minority in all categories: observing experience, data products, software tools, and even proposal feedback.” We polled the community to understand their thoughts around the decision to cancel the P107 call for proposals. Feedback indicates that "88% of respondents who expressed an opinion agreed that the chosen course of action was justified and correct. The most common (negative) comment is that PhD students and young postdocs are at a disproportionate disadvantage, but it is not clear what alternative decision would have been better."

The ESO Users Committee met remotely on 27-28 April overnight (for Australia). You may find the agenda and relevant documentation here: https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/mIHBCXLW2mUX1G0rPCVhlDB?domain=eso.org (I note some files are not publicly available). The recommendations have recently been made public (they are attached to this email), so I am now free to update everyone on the proceedings of the meeting. ESO usually verbally responds to the UC recommendations by teleconference in December. The response to last year’s recommendations is not public, but ESO considered all recommendations and I am pleased to report that all are being acted upon.

The special topic this year was “VLTI". The UC heard Feedback from an Expert User (Ágnes Kóspál) and an update on the VLTI Expertise Centres Network (Paulo J. V. Garcia) on their experience. Their presentations are linked in the agenda (see link above). I note that most of Australia’s respondents to the poll indicated that VLTI was not relevant to their science. ESO is keen to see more users engaging with the VLTI and I note there are many resources available to help with the technical aspects of applying for, observing with and using VLTI data (namely the VLTI expertise centres network: https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/LEIvCYW8NocLQgOBWs9_TIn?domain=european-interferometry.eu). All (myself included) agreed that the VLTI is a fantastic cutting-edge facility where ESO continues to lead internationally.


If you experience technical issues using ESO data/facilities, the best place to get help is by emailing the ESO User Support Department<mailto:usd-help at eso.org>.

While the timeline for ESO to move to distributed peer-review for proposal assessment, it is my understanding that ESO are still taking nominations for the Observing Programme Committee (OPC) at any time. You may nominate someone (pls ask them first) or self-nominate by contacting me directly. While Australia has done very well at nominating people for the OPC (we even have a backlog), we do not have ideal diversity of nominees in all categories, so please consider tapping on the shoulder of all qualified colleagues, regardless of their demographic. ESO requests that OPC nominees be on their 2nd postdoc or beyond. The ESO OPC nomination system requires me to include the top 3 OPC subcategories<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/q_U1CZY1Nqi5Ex2Bqsy1qxL?domain=eso.org> in order in the nomination. In addition, I may also include the nominee’s experience on ESO telescopes, their ORCID and the year of their PhD. As usual, if you have been nominated in the past, but haven’t been contacted by ESO yet, your name does stay in the system.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to sign up for the ESO science newsletter<https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/pgrBC1WLPxcM1O5WAsYIrwO?domain=eso.org>.

Clear skies!

Dr Caroline Foster
ASTRO3D Fellow & ESO Users Committee Representative
Pronouns: she/her/hers
The University of Sydney
Faculty of Science, Sydney Institute for Astrophysics

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