Re:JBAA papers

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Posted by Steve Holmes2 at 01:03 on 2012 Aug 23

An interesting post from Andrea, as it touches upon several of the points I have been making.I find Andrea’s description of my work, together with his subsequent use of the term "observations" rather revealing. While of course we all know that the only "real" astronomers are those brave souls who freeze to death at 2am while peering into their eyepieces, the science of astronomy is not, never has been and cannot in the future be solely about observations. As in any scientific endeavour, theory and practice must go hand-in-hand and so "computational astronomy" is just as valid as taking pictures of galaxies. Can one presume that if Messrs Copernicus and Kepler were to submit their work on planetary orbits to the JBAA their submissions would be rejected on the grounds that they were just "basically an essay in orbital mechanics"? We are, after all, the British Astronomical Association, with all that implies, not the British Astronomical Observations Society.Following this train of thought through a little, may we assume that, as Andrea appears to believe the BAA should devote itself to observations and the reporting thereof, he would agree that many of the papers (and indeed other articles) currently published in the Journal have no right to be there? One would struggle to find much observational content in what I have called Historical and Biographical submissions, for example, so presumably they should have been omittted. One can’t have it both ways. Several contributors have revelled in the range of items in the JBAA, reflecting the wide range of interests of its members (both observational and otherwise), and so do I. I simply wish to ensure that a clear and firm distinction is made between "papers" and "articles", as "paper" in the context of "Journal" has a special and widely recognised meaning which should not be distorted.I now move on to Andrea’s presumption that my paper would have little appeal to the readership of the JBAA, and certainly not to him. Three points to be made here. Firstly, I am not clear how he feels he can accurately judge whether a paper might be of interest or not: what sample of the membership is his comment based on? I have previously made the same remark concerning similar views expressed by referees. Secondly, it is of course his prerogative to be uninterested in my work. For my part, I have no interest whatsoever in the large number of papers by Boyd, Shears et al. I, like Andrea would with mine, quickly flick past them as soon as I come across them. Unlike Andrea, however, I do not consider this a valid reason not to include them in the JBAA. Indeed, they are exactly what the Journal should be publishing. Which leads me on to my third point. It is one I have already made several times but which seems not to be getting through so I fear I must repeat it again – "popularity" is absolutely not a criterion by which a scientific paper submitted to a Journal should be judged, so let’s stop the preoccupation with the interests of the readership.Lastly, the "By the way" paragraph. I feel I must point out that I did not refer to the JBAA as a science publication but rather as a "science-based" one – quite a difference. I have already remarked in another post about the word "amateur". We may be amateurs because we do not make a living from our hobby but I would fervently hope we all adopt a professional approach to it. Stressing the "amateur" aspect of the BAA is destructive in many ways, as it encourages amateur thinking (in the worst sense of the word) and gives the impression to others that this is all we are capable of. If we want to be seen as professional we must act as if we are, and that applies to JBAA papers as much as any other aspect of the Association.Steve Holmes