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Amateurs Matter: Womens Pathways to Professional Astronomy (and a few words about everyone else) Stephanie Slater Center for Astronomy & Physics Education.

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Presentation on theme: "Amateurs Matter: Womens Pathways to Professional Astronomy (and a few words about everyone else) Stephanie Slater Center for Astronomy & Physics Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Amateurs Matter: Womens Pathways to Professional Astronomy (and a few words about everyone else) Stephanie Slater Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research Timothy Slater University of Wyoming

2 CAPER Team Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research Empirical studies – Spatial Reasoning – Conceptions in Science – Becoming a Scientist Research-based products Workshops and Training Programs

3 How do we go about luring women into astronomy? National Science Foundation (NSF) Supports all fields of science and engineering Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) 8 week Summer program at a university or research facility $1 Billion

4 What Do You Get for $1Billion? Do programs like this recruit/retain or educate women very well? Is this the pathway? How would we know? Likert-survey? Acquiecence bias, ordinal data and The Female Factor I am certain that I want to go into astronomy. Strongly agree Strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5

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6 Interpretive Research Methods Ask young female astronomers to make meaning of it all. Situate those meanings within the continuum of their lives. – 61 Female astronomers – Participant Interviews, n = 159 – Mentor Faculty Interviews, n = 75 – Participant Surveys, n = 231 – Participant Time Logs, n = 18 – Home Institute Faculty Semi-structured Interviews, n = 21 – Alumni Follow-up, Open-ended Surveys, n = 248 – 778 data points collected over 9 years. REU Programs? Not so much.

7 What Does Really Matter? He taught me the kinds of skills that I needed in order to be able to [do the research]. And he taught me how to really craft questions, how to work out the methodologies. Wed talk about… interpreting the plots… how to look for biases in the data…. It was amazing because I could talk to her about the data, and hear what it sounds like when a more experienced person thinks about these things.

8 What Does Really Matter? My work with [her] changed how I think about science. How I look at a research question is critical, and it took a huge leap working with [her]. He really helped me to work out how to do astronomy as a science fair project, which isnt easy. And I had a group, finally! I enjoyed these people, and I enjoyed doing [astronomy] and its not crazy.

9 What Made the Difference? Pre-college experiences Long term mentoring Authentic research problems A community Who Made the Difference? Technicians at small observatories Instructors at high school summer programs Amateur astronomers Citizen scientists in astronomy

10 Putting Things in Perspective 2500 Female astronomers on the planet 6,878,170,256 people on the planet (15:57 UTC Oct. 30, 2010) 0.000036% 1/2800000 But What About Me? The Rest of Us Female Astronomers

11 What Does Citizen Science Offer to the other 99.999964% of us? Process skills, science literacy, content knowledge, etc. Galaxy Zoo 200,000+ participants 11,000+ forum bloggers

12 Our friends have asked the same questions... They asked: Why are you here? – 1400+ responses Coded, categoried Follow up interviews Frequency counts Motivations Astronomy Community Contribute Discovery Fun Help Learning Science Teaching Vastness Zoo

13 We Wanted More What meaning are these participants making of their experience? Leximancer analysis Data, not evidence

14 Lets take another look: Metaphors, meaning making, cultural references….. To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour. -posted on forum by Joe FogeyJoe Fogey Back to Grounded Theory

15 Authentic Participation Real science. Respected by real scientists. It makes me swell with pride, to get to work alongside some of the smartest people in the world, and not a single one of you, have come across as, hey I'm smarter than you, shine my shoes, …or something like that, you welcome each newbie with open arms. If there had been the sense of "I'm cleverer than you" I would have run a mile! This for me is the true meaning of scientific endeavor, to spread knowledge as far as possible and to discover together whatever there is to discover!

16 A little bit of Transcendence Awe. Discovery. Faith. One sentence that would sum it up is, The wonder of the Universe! I am in awe of it's vastness, beauty, strength…. I'm also joining in with a religious interest. Me: Christian, Protestant, Non-conformist. I'm keen to look at God's universe of Galaxies, and wonder at it and praise him for it…

17 A Second Chance Waylaid by life, astronomy enthusiasts return home. I … might have gone on into Astronomy except I was weak in Math. Back in the 70's, girls weren't encouraged to go into the sciences much. Had I been stronger in Math, I think I might have pursued a career as an Astronomer or Meterologist. But now, thanks to Galaxy Zoo, I can look at stars and galaxies to my heart's content!

18 A Community Friendship. Acceptance. Encouragement. The most wonderful thing about the ZOO community as I see it is that it naturally exudes a sense of belonging. You feel right at home starting with your first post with all the sincere and spontaneous welcomes from the FORUM. Ultimately it is the Zoo spirit of friendship, equality, mutual respect for one another, generosity in sharing their knowledge & experience, that has won over the day and has made this utopia on the NET a reality.

19 The End of the Story? You dont always know when and where your efforts are going to pay off. Amateur and citizen science groups appear to improve the quality of life for individuals. What next?

20 Thanks to Trent Mankowski for many hours of coding and analysis! Stephanie Slater Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research Timothy Slater University of Wyoming


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