Careers and perspectives in Big Data Astronomy

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The field of Astronomy has undergone extensive changes over the last few decades, not only in the way we view the Universe but also crucially in the way that research is conducted. It has moved from the classical solitary researcher to large consortia of researchers joining forces for preparing, operating and processing the data from large surveys and novel instruments.

Consequently, a new type of career in Astronomy has emerged: the technical research scientist (TRS). The day-to-day work and careers for these scientists are fundamentally different from the usual Astronomy research career path and are typically focussed on the long-term development of large projects rather than personal research. These scientists guarantee and enable the success of milestone projects like Gaia, WEAVE, Euclid and SKA but are typically excluded from the academic career options that are traditionally available to Astronomers.

This RAS specialist discussion will highlight the career paths and projects of TRSs by focussing on two aspects: 1) the status quo of careers for technical research scientists, review recent and ongoing policy changes and provide an outlook for a future roadmap; and 2) feature spotlight talks highlighting current UK projects like Gaia, SKA or WEAVE, as well as the funding structure (aka business model) for the various groups.



10.00 - 10.05:     Welcome (Clare Worley/Catrina Diener)

10.05 - 10.40:     Big data projects in UK Astronomy (Catrina Diener/Clare Worley)

Spotlight talks:

10.40 - 11.05: Gaia, Dafydd Evans, Lead CU5 Gaia, IoA Cambridge

11.05 - 11.30: SKA, Anna Bonaldi, SKAO Project Scientist, SKA Global Headquarters

11.30-11.45: Coffee Break

11.45 - 12.10: Plato, Don Pollacco, Head of the Science Management branch for Plato, Warwick University

12.10 - 12.35: UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Chris Evans, Head of Science & UK ELT Programme Lead.

12.35 - 13.35: Lunch

13.35 - 14.00: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit, Nic Walton, Director of CASU, IoA Cambridge

14.00 - 14.25: Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, James Osborn, Associate Professor and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, Durham University

Panel discussion:

14.25 - 15.20: Visions for future careers of Technical Research Scientists.

- Francesca DeAngeli (IoA Cambridge, Lead Gaia DPCI Cambridge)
- Shoko Jin (University of Oxford, and Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, Groningen, Deputy project Scientist WEAVE)
- David Murphy (IoA Cambridge, postdoctoral researcher for WEAVE and 4MOST, CASU, IoA Cambridge)                                   

- Paul Strøm (Assistant Professor, Space Mission Scientist on Plato, Warwick)

15.20 - 15.30: Concluding remarks




Dr Clare Worley,

Dr Catrina Diener

(Both from Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge)


Book a Fellows February SDM ticket

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