JBAA Letters section (2)

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    Steve Holmes

    Having recently returned from a break where I was determined to cut myself off from the distractions of the Internet, I was rather disappointed (though, admittedly. not entirely surprised) to find that the original version of this thread was exactly as I had left it – no further posts for 3 weeks. Is the general membership so entirely apathetic and disconnected from its Journal that it really doesn’t care what is done or published in the foremost means of communicating the activities of the Association to the wider world? Is no-one concerned that the Editorial team seem to be a law unto themselves? Has no-one ever questioned why comments on JBAA papers never appear in the Journal? Is no-one puzzled that there were no Forum postings from the JBAA team or from members of Council on this topic? (and here I acknowledge the post from Jeremy Shears but feel he rather missed the point I was making). If the intention was to silence comment by simply ignoring it, then a great success seems to have been achieved.

    Not that there are no concerns “out there”, of course – I received very welcome support for all the points I made from a senior Section Director but this was by ‘phone as he was only too aware of the entrenched situation I was attempting to address, having suffered the same treatment himself on more than one occasion. And here lies the basic difficulty – identifying a problem is one thing but getting anything done about it is quite another! Until the general membership takes an interest in anything other than “looking to the skies”, the status quo will continue unchanged. Please remember – this is YOUR Association and YOUR Journal (or should be) but if no-one is willing to engage with the more contentious issues then both will continue to be the province of the few rather than the many.

    So – stop sitting on your hands and get those fingers tapping away at your keyboard. The world wants to hear your views!

    Grant Privett

    It is usually the case that the best way to change an organisation, is from within. Why not stand for Council?

    Alternatively, write a paper correcting the perceived error or start a thread here.

    Its worth remembering that your suggestion opens the way to the vindictive pedant whose only pleasure is criticism – and astronomy has some of those. We’ve seen it in the past. Its not fun to watch.

    Tony Angel

    I do agree with you that the Journal should include constructive Letters on Papers. Perhaps until that comes about, an interim solution would be to have a JBAA Letters section in this Forum. I would find it difficult to believe that there could be any opposition to this idea.

    Steve Holmes

    In reply to Grant, this is not the first time I have been advised to stand for Council! While superficially a good idea, the suggestion does have a host of practical problems standing in the way of actually getting anything done:-

    1) While I may be able to get nominated, getting elected would be quite another matter. That small percentage of the Association who actually vote would no doubt tend to prefer a “famous name” who they know has done good work in the past rather than an unknown who is essentially standing on a single issue.

    2) Even if by some miracle I were to get elected, I would then have to get the issues of interest on the Agenda, have them debated, and win any subsequent vote. At the last count, there were 36 members of Council so I would need to persuade another 18 of them to agree with me – a difficult task, I fear!

    3) The next Council elections are not until October 2017, so the earliest that this matter could be debated would be at least a year away – not really what I was looking for.

    Writing a paper is also problematic. The most obvious objection is the one I have already made in the original version of this thread – the time delay. And of course the acceptance of a paper is subject to the same sort of editorial whim that I am commenting on! (as I became very aware of when I submitted a paper of my own some years ago). Also, before one can “correct the error” one has to know that an error has been committed. A simple factual error may be obvious (but is a paper the best way to correct it?) but if there is a possible error of analysis (as I suggested in the case of the eclipse-contact paper) then one would have to have access to the original data to determine this if one is not allowed to submit a comment like the one I had rejected. Starting a thread has (as previously mentioned by me) the objection that only BAA members are likely to see it, and – most importantly – any conclusions reached. The whole point of peer review is that corrections to papers are published in the same Journal as the original paper – would the Editorial team agree to this, one wonders?

    Finally, I am not suggesting that anything and everything is published. There must clearly still be a degree of control to avoid the mis-use alluded to by Grant, but this must be strictly editorial: concepts such as “of interest to the Editor” have no place in a learned journal.

    Steve Holmes

    I am delighted to hear that Tony agrees with me that the Journal should include “constructive Letters on Papers”! Good to know that I have some support at least. Question is, how do we go about making this happen? As mentioned in my reply to Grant, the interim solution of a section in the Forum is problematic but would at least keep the topic alive, and if there was agreement that any final conclusions (or perhaps unresolved issues) would then be published in the Journal we might have an acceptable compromise.

    Further comments, anyone?

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