.Astronomy 4 in Heidelberg

July 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

Sigh. The fourth .Astronomy conference has been and gone. This time last week I was in Heidelberg at the 50-person event that, I’m not afraid to say, is the best conference that I know of. This recent Heidelberg meeting, at the Haus der Astronomie on top of a mountain in beautiful Heidelberg might just have been the best one so far.

I won’t dissect or review the specific events of #dotastro 4, as many others have already done that for me. I just wanted to remark on the great people who came, and the enthusiasm they showed. When I started .Astronomy in 2008 I certainly didn’t think I’d attend a fourth – let alone be planning a fifth. It’s thanks to my organising committee, and the awesome people who show up each time that we keep having another.

.Astronomy is purposefully an unconventional meeting that I hope lowers barriers to conversation and encourages collaboration with people that you may never have met before. Everyone at the meeting is skilled at something, and represents a viewpoint worth listening to. The debates are often lively and the coding and writing sessions are intense. It is an amazing atmosphere and I’m still buzzing from it.

I’ll blog more about .Astronomy soon I’m sure. I’m currently working on creating a lasting site that can house all the slides, videos and unconference summaries, which I’ll be soliciting from previous participants of all the meetings so far. If anything came across to me personally during this year’s meeting it’s that .Astronomy is having an impact as a concept and as a culture within the astronomy community. I need to take that seriously and start making participation in the conference something people can refer to and share with others.

The hacks that were created at .Astronomy 4’s hack day were stunning and I hope that many will continue to develop in the coming days and weeks. My own efforts at attempting hypothesis generation by doing natural language processing on the NASA ADS site are ongoing and seem to be producing results. More on that another time.

Finally I need to thank, once again, the local team of Sarah Kendrew, Markus Pöessel and Tom Robitaille. They pulled off a seamless event and set the bar high for future meetings. I’d also like to thank my other co-organisers during the week: Chris Lintott, Stuart Lowe, Alasdair Allan and Carolina Ödman-Govender. A shout-out also goes to Arfon Smith, who couldn’t make it this year.

There will be another .Astronomy, but we don’t yet know where. In the meantime follow @dotastronomy on Twitter and watch dotastronomy.com for more information and updates.

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