The Royal Astronomical Society's central goals include the encouragement and promotion of astronomy and geophysics. One important way in which the Society addresses this objective is by organising a series of meetings each year. The regular meetings are categorised as either 'Specialist Discussion Meetings' or more general 'Ordinary (A&G) Meetings'. Each month, from October to the following May, normally has two Specialist Discussion Meetings held in parallel, followed by an Ordinary (A&G) Meeting. The Society aims to achieve a broad balance between topics in 'astronomical' and 'geophysical' research areas (the latter including solar and solar–terrestrial physics and planetary sciences), usually consisting of one meeting in each area each month.
The Society is therefore always seeking topical ideas for, in particular, its Specialist Discussion Meetings. These notes are intended to help potential organisers by explaining the possible meeting formats and giving information on how to propose a meeting to the Society.
RAS discussion meetings are held on the second Friday of every month from October to May. The usual format is to hold two parallel Specialist Discussion Meetings from around 10:30 to 15:30, followed by a joint Ordinary (A&G) Meeting at 16:00. In years when the National Astronomy Meeting takes place in April there will be no Specialist Discussion Meetings or A&G Meeting. In May, a single shorter joint Ordinary (A&G) Meeting, on a topic of interest to both astronomers and geophysicists, is usually held in conjunction with the RAS AGM. Meetings are normally held in Burlington House, in the lecture theatres of the RAS and the neighbouring Geological Society.
Submitting meeting ideas
If you would like to propose a topic for a Specialist Discussion Meeting, please contact the relevant Secretary: the Astronomy or Geophysics Secretaries for Specialist Discussion Meetings in those areas, or the Senior Secretary for Ordinary (A&G) Meetings. To help with assessment, proposals should include the following information:
- title of meeting and two (or more) organisers, at least one of whom should be an RAS Fellow
- the topics to be covered in the meeting
- rationale for the meeting, including timeliness
- suggestions for invited speakers
- preferred date for meeting, if any.
Proposals should not exceed one A4 page in length.
It is not unusual for Specialist Discussion Meetings to be held jointly with other interested bodies e.g. other societies. Admission to Specialist Discussion Meetings is free to RAS Fellows (except for the BGA February meeting), with a fee of £15 to non-members (£5 to students). This charge may be waived for members of organisations co-sponsoring meetings, normally provided that the co-sponsorship brings tangible financial savings or equivalent benefits to the RAS or its Fellows.
The programme of meetings is finalised in May–July each year, and is published shortly thereafter. Proposals for topics are accepted at any time, but each year a deadline is set (usually on 1st March) for inclusion in the next programme. The available meeting slots are typically oversubscribed by a factor of between three and four; the final selection of topics is governed primarily by the aim of producing a varied and timely programme.
It is customary (but not mandatory) for one of the January meetings to be held on a solar-physics topic (in liaison with the UK Solar Physics Group), and for one of the February meetings to be the main annual meeting of the British Geophysical Association, held over two days (for which there is an admission charge).
Finance and role of the organiser
For Specialist Discussion Meetings, the RAS will normally pay expenses for one or two speakers from outside the UK (based on travel by most economic means). The RAS also provides the meeting venues and advertising free of charge. A set of detailed notes for organisers of Specialist Discussion Meetings is available for further reference, but the organisers' main job is simply to recruit a set of good speakers in the field, and to chair the meeting.
The Specialist Discussion Meetings are always followed by a more general joint meeting, from 16:00 to 18:00. These Ordinary or ‘Astronomy and Geophysics’ Meetings typically comprise a small number of topical talks pitched at a level appropriate to a broader audience of Fellows. These meetings are open to the public, with no entry fee. The programme of talks is finalised only a few weeks in advance.
If you would like to give a talk at an Ordinary (A&G) Meeting, please contact the Senior Secretary with your proposal including a rationale for giving the talk as well as the title and abstract of the talk Discussion-meeting organisers are encouraged to suggest a speaker from their meeting who can give an interesting general talk at the subsequent A&G Meeting.