Friday, November 21, 2014

Hubble Cycle-26 TAC results

Thoughts on the Hubble Space Telescope Cycle-26 results.

The results on the HST cycle-26 are out and there has been a lot of hay made of the improvement in gender balance in the results. It made me think about how the decision process in groups goes. I was reading how in times of stress (say a <3 day decision making process) people fall back on “what everyone knows” and “common knowledge”.

The argument was that people let some rote or authoritarian argument sway them if they are overwhelmed. And I think that is a decisive factor in the imbalance in previous cycles. When overwhelmed, consciously or unconsciously, go with the team you’ve heard of. Not necessarily your mates etc but people you know.

So I think it’s great that the information is now not being passed on to the TAC. Other organizations are similarly exploring double blind evaluations. ESO did an experiment with crowd sourced TAC. Interesting and much improved feedback (in my experience). Though no double blind yet.

Oh and only if funding agencies would do the same. They still ask for massive amounts of personal information. Resume, letters, publication lists etc etc. why? Why not simply focus on the science? And just that? I would be *very* interested to see if that would change the gender balance of NASA, NSF and ERC rewards.

But I also want to see what the next Hubble TAC result looks like. This cycle was...a mess. An experiment...perhaps successful...but massively oversubscribed. The experiment needs confirmation.

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