Welcome to the first issue of Astronomy Education Review, a journal/website for everyone working in the field of astronomy and space science education. Our field has been the only major science without such a publication, and we need to join our sister sciences in having a vehicle by which those working in education can communicate.
In recent years, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and many scientific groups have emphasized the need for greater involvement by scientists in education. As a consequence there has been a strong growth of interest and professionalism in the field of astronomy education. But the thousands of people working in this field—from fifth grade classrooms to research laboratories—have mostly been laboring in splendid isolation. As a result, groups and individuals have been “re-inventing the wheel”—coming up with (and sometimes publishing) very similar materials and approaches without being aware of the fact that they were duplicating earlier work. And new people coming into the field have faced formidable obstacles getting up to speed on what work was going on and where. Clearly something has to be done to encourage and facilitate communication and contact among astronomy educators.
Existing journals do not meet the needs of this growing community. The research journals in astronomy do not accept papers in education research (and do not feature news and announcements of interest to educators.) Serious papers featuring research on astronomy education are scattered among publications rarely read by those who actually do astronomy teaching and outreach. Magazines like Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, and Mercury feature occasional articles on educational developments, but their primary concerns lie elsewhere. Many web sites have sprung up featuring educational material, but they lack the refereeing, authority, and currency of a journal, and often suffer by featuring only the work of the group that created them.
Astronomy Education Review will be a web-based journal, and will (we hope) combine the best features of a publication and of a web site. All articles, news notes, and opinion pieces will be published in a particular issue of the journal and can be recorded in an author's Curriculum Vitae with volume number, page, and date, just as is true of any other publication. Research articles will be refereed, and all the material in each issue will be vetted by our distinguished Board of Editors. Issues and individual articles can be read on the screen or printed out in an easy-to-read format for later perusal.
At the same time, all materials will also be available in an archive that can be searched in many useful ways. For example, you will be able to search for all web-based introductory-college-level materials about teaching the solar system, or all papers on how students in grades K-12 learn (or don't learn) astronomy by a specific author. (See the Search page for more information.)
When a small, informal group of experienced educators first met to consider establishing such a journal (under the aegis of the AAS and ASP), the discussion was mostly about papers on astronomy education research. But we quickly realized that there are only a few such papers each year, and the needs of our community are much broader. Accordingly, we have expanded the coverage to include:
• research articles and applications of that research to the real world of teaching;
• short reports on innovations in all areas of astronomy education;
• annotated resource guides in all branches of education and outreach;
• brief announcements of opportunities (whether they are meetings, funding sources, employment, or cooperative projects);
• opinion pieces, news, and discussion.
Each section will have its own editorial standards, and its own reviewers, to make sure that the material published in it will be of the highest quality and greatest relevance. We will also be seeking a diversity of views and approaches for each section and will be asking senior people in the field of education to help us move toward such diversity.
Our intent is to bring together, in one convenient place, a wide range of information about astronomy and space science education—both for the veteran educator and for readers who are just starting out in education or outreach. We are especially eager, as our archives grow, to be a repository of guidance and ideas for all who are “on the front lines” of education—whether they are teaching an astronomy elective in a high school, facing 300 non-science students with baseball caps turned backwards in an Astronomy 101 lecture hall, developing a graduate course on instrumentation, designing an educational web site, or charged with doing outreach on the fly for a NASA high-energy mission.
The success of our journal will ultimately be judged by the quality of the papers, articles, and other material that fill its pages. If you support the idea of such a journal, the best thing you can do is to submit a contribution. We encourage you to look at the descriptions of the sections of the journal/newsletter and submit to the department or departments of your choice. If you are not sure where your contribution might best fit, or whether it is appropriate for ÆR, contact us with an outline at firstname.lastname@example.org
All articles (except announcements that become irrelevant with time) will be maintained in our archive, and will be available to our readers on an ongoing basis. As our subscriber base grows, back issues will be as easy to read as the current ones. Thus there is no reason to wait to write something for us.
We also promise timely review and publication. Each submission will be made available on the web as soon as it is accepted. An issue will be declared completed 2-4 times per year depending on the volume of material published.
As the journal content grows, the editorial board will undertake a publicity campaign among all the different constituencies that make up the astronomy education community. Such a campaign will bring many new browsers and subscribers to our pages. Shouldn't they be encountering your contributions when they arrive?
Many astronomers and educators (especially those still seeking tenure or advancement) will be asking why they should take the risk of publishing in a new journal. We would answer them in three different ways.
First, although the journal is new, it appears under the aegis of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and we expect to receive the endorsement of the American Astronomical Society; these are the two professional societies in our field in the U.S. Our Board of Editors consists of respected leaders in the field, and the commitment of NOAO ensures that support will be sustained during the start up phase.
Second, for many of us working in astronomy education, there are few viable alternatives for publishing. If you are working on a NASA project or mission, for example, and have found an innovative technique for education or outreach, where else can you communicate this to your peers? If you are teaching Astronomy 101 and have a new approach to the course or its accompanying lab, where else can you share this with the over 2000 instructors who teach a similar course in the U.S.? If you are sponsoring a workshop or symposium on space science education, how else can you get information to the right people without trying to find and type in hundreds of e-mail addresses?
Third, those of us who have labored (often without a great deal of support or publicity) in the field of education have long complained about our isolation. While complaining can be good for the soul, it doesn't solve the problem. However, if all of us who have muttered about the lack of communication in our field actually turn our energies to writing for ÆR, we may well find that there are enough of us out there not only to start but to sustain such a journal for a long time to come.
The new Decadal Survey in our field (Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium. 2001, National Academy Press; http://www.nap.edu) has strongly recommended greater emphasis on education and greater communication among those who are engaged in education. Our hope is that this journal will be a major step toward meeting that recommendation and toward fostering an educational community in astronomy and space science that will be every bit as active and effective as those enjoyed by our colleagues in physics and chemistry. The ultimate beneficiaries of our efforts will surely be the many, many thousands of students (and members of the public) who each year find astronomy their gateway to the excitement of modern science.
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