Subject: [DPS Members] DPS Mailing #09-07: DPS Finances...

Issue 09-07, May 5th 2009

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1) Letter from the Chair: Financial State of the DPS
2) USGS Planetary Photogrammetry Guest Facility
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LETTER FROM THE CHAIR: FINANCIAL STATE OF THE DPS

A PDF version of this letter is posted at the DPS web site: see
http://dps.aas.org/publications/DPS_letter_May_09.pdf


Dear members of the DPS and colleagues

I am writing to summarize for you the current financial state of the
DPS. Although portions of this memo could have been written two months
ago, I elected to wait until we had more information on the upcoming
Puerto Rico meeting as well.

The DPS is facing a serious financial challenge, brought on by a
combination of factors that have come into play over the past two
years. Both DPS2007 and DPS2008 were excellent meetings with
hard-working local organizing committees (LOCs). However, the
substantially higher than anticipated meeting costs have not been
offset by our collective efforts to maintain DPS's traditionally low
registration rates. For example, while the 2008 experiment of
webcasting during the Ithaca meeting was certainly a success, it also
resulted in unexpectedly high costs. The bottom line, unfortunately,
is that recent meeting costs have come short of registration receipts
and sponsorships to a total of approximately 200K. The severe
economic downturn that began in the middle of last year has also had a
significant impact on the DPS assets available to offset meeting
losses. (DPS assets are managed in a portfolio managed by the AAS; as
a percentage lost the AAS weathered very well compared to many other
not-for-profit entities.) As a result, DPS's net assets have fallen
from 440 K to 140 K as of the end of 2008. Most of these assets are
needed to keep the prize funds healthy, which they are. The bottom
line is that in moving forward, the DPS is working with an extremely
restrictive operating budget.

What this means is that we cannot sustain losses from any DPS meeting
in the near future. The approach of allowing the LOC to have
managerial responsibility for meetings has come to an end, and the AAS
will be managing the meetings in the future, with the LOC serving as
liaison and local contact. AAS will negotiate the contracts for the
meetings, and no changes generated by the LOC that have cost or
contractual implications will be allowed without the approval of the
AAS staff working directly under the AAS Executive Director. The DPS
committee and the AAS will work together to ensure that the DPS will
remain financially viable by sharing responsibility for the financial
success of the DPS meetings.

In addition, decisions on future meeting sites will give higher
priority to the question of cost and lower priority to amenities. The
possibility that DPS would adopt a semi-permanent venue after the
current set of agreed-upon locales (through 2011) is not out of the
question.

With regard to the 2009 Fajardo meeting, the primary rationale for a
Puerto Rico location was to recognize the role of the Arecibo Radio
Telescope in planetary astronomy at the time when the telescope was
threatened with closure. Steve Ostro's passing in 2008 has added to
the appropriateness of a meeting at the premier site for planetary
radar work, and the meeting will honor his scientific
contributions. The DPS committee is grateful to the Puerto Rico LOC,
which stepped up to the plate when a previously planned venue and LOC
in another city fell through unexpectedly, and rather late in the
preliminary planning process.

Puerto Rico provides the DPS with an excellent opportunity in the
International Year of Astronomy (IYA) to showcase our science in a
part of the United States that has historically been shut out of the
American Dream. Puerto Rico may be considered a resort location, but
median household income is half that of the poorest state in the
Union; January 09 unemployment rate was 12% in Puerto Rico. So, a
bona fide planetary science conference in Puerto Rico is putting US
tax dollars into one of the nation's most depressed economies. As
part of the DPS presence in Puerto Rico in the IYA, public talks in
Spanish will be given by a number of planetary scientists and
engineers, including Orlando Figueroa from Goddard, who was born and
raised in San Juan. Finally, I must point out that Puerto Rico is not
foreign travel; NASA has determined that under federal regulations
Puerto Rico is a domestic destination.

Having said this, I am fully aware that the lodging for the venue we
have chosen is expensive, and in light of the DPS's financial
challenges, members will find the registration fee to be on the high
side as well. DPS registration fees have been held artificially low
for a number of years relative to those of the AAS and specialized
planetary conferences like ACM. Sites in Puerto Rico that could host a
meeting the size of the DPS are few; the runner up, while less
expensive, had inadequate poster space and a number of other
deficiencies that would have materially affected the quality of the
meeting. The selected hotel will accommodate all DPS members and the
meeting facilities are excellent, with plenty of space for posters and
parallel sessions.

If the membership rebels against the venue---when it is too late to
change anything--the meeting will fail, and DPS will be at risk
financially. I am committed to seeing this be a successful meeting. Be
prepared to work hard at DPS2009: the week will be full of activities
ranging from talks to posters to town halls on the Decadal Survey. We
hope to expand the range of talks to make the DPS the most
comprehensive planetary science meeting on this planet. AAS's meeting
staff, its Executive Director Kevin Marvel, and the LOC are doing an
outstanding job of organization, and in particular of holding down
costs where possible. You may have to forgo those fancy donuts and
pastries during breaks; they are bad for you anyway.

So, I am asking you - no, pleading with you - to understand our
situation and to help bring the DPS through this very difficult
period. Specifically I am asking you to do the following:

1. Attend the DPS, and do your share to encourage your colleagues to
attend.

2. Pay your AAS/DPS dues and recruit planetary scientists who are not
members to join.

3. Consider a one-time donation to the DPS of order $100. The most
straightforward way to do this is to go to
https://members.aas.org/contributions, scroll down to "Division
Contribution", and click on "DPS Division contribution". If you
wish instead to send a check, please contact Diana Blaney
(diana.l.blaney@jpl.nasa.gov) directly. If half the membership were
to so respond, much of our lost operating budget would be
restored. Your chair, the AAS Executive Director, and nearly all of
the DPS committee have made such a contribution in conjunction with
this letter.

As a grad student it was my first DPS meeting that opened my eyes to
the incredible breadth and excitement of solar system science and the
talented people doing it. Let's work together to ensure the students
of tomorrow have the same opportunity.

On behalf of the DPS Committee,

Jonathan Lunine, Chair
Division for Planetary Sciences


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USGS PLANETARY PHOTOGRAMMETRY GUEST FACILITY

NASA and the US Geological Survey announce that they have jointly
established a Planetary Photogrammetry Guest Facility at the USGS in
Flagstaff, Arizona. This is a specialized computer workstation of the
same type used by the USGS for stereo topographic mapping of the Moon
and
planets that will be available up to 50% of the time for qualified
researchers to use to make products ranging from simple spot height
measurements to fully edited digital topographic models (DTMs) from a
wide
variety of stereo images. USGS staff will provide training and
supervision, but travel expenses are the responsibility of the selected
investigator. To apply, send a short (1 page) informal application to
rkirk@usgs.gov. The two key pieces of information required are the
research goals (to allow us to evaluate whether images to achieve these
goals are available) and the researcher's schedule of availability for
group training and subsequent use of the facility. We ask that
applications for the current fiscal year be transmitted by 31 May 2009.
Applications received after that date will be considered for FY 2010.
For
more information about the capabilities of the stereo workstation and
the
application process, see the 2009 LPSC abstract
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2009/pdf/1414.pdf


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