Hi, I am sure this idea will be immediately shot down, so I am not sure why I am posting it. But I will always believe that this is the right move, so I will keep banging my head into this stone wall until I can't do it anymore.
The contributions that citizen astronomers can provide to the science today has expanded exponentially since AAVSO began. It appears that the AAVSO has responded to this to an extent by adding sections for spectroscopy and exoplanets, which is great. But why stop there? We have so much talent and ability in this organization that it would be a tremendous advancement to astronomy if we expanded the AAVSO into other areas of astronomy that citizen astronomers could participate in. The exact boundaries of those limits can be TBD (determined by consensus of the leadership), but the first step shoud be to adopt a name for the organization that acknowledges the fact that the AAVSO is now open to expanding to areas beyond variable stars. For example a name like "American Association of Citizen Astronomers" (AACA) would communicate the message that the AAVSO has chosen to free itself from its prior limitations and is now free to expand to other areas of astronomy. From there, the organization could begin to establish sections for astronomical research that move beyond those tied specifically to variable stars. It would be an evolution; not an overnight change. But the importance would be the difference in outlook and vision for the future.
I am suggesting that we make the goal of our organization to unlock the potential of Citizen Astronomers and Professional/Citizen cooperation in all areas of astronomical research around the world. The old AAVSO built the infrastructure to do this, but it is now time to expand upon what we have built and grow our organization into much more influential institution that will have a far greater impact on the future of astrophysical research.
Ok, now I am ready to hear all the reasons why this is a horrible idea and one that should never be done. Don' be shy. Speak up. If you have an opinion, state it. Who is first up?
You bring up an…
You bring up an interesting topic that has often been discussed. Back during Citizen Sky I recall chatting with Arne about how many other things the AAVSO could be doing. At the time the exoplanet scene was just emerging and several of my friends were out tracking asteroids to do light curve inversion. I thought, and still maintain, that our community could contribute greatly to those areas. During my interview and subsequent onboarding process, several of the Board members indicated they were willing to entertaining growing AAVSO's scope. So it is certainly something that could be done.
With that said, there are already a substantial number of competitors in adjacent market spaces. Because of this, we would need to approach such lateral expansion very cautiously. Much like any business, we would need to understand the market and evaluate our ability to compete in those fields. For example, one of our sister organizations, the Society for Astronomical Sciences (non-profit), is already quite good at doing cutting edge "anything you can do with a telescope" activities. On the commercial front, Unistellar already has an established market and has put considerable effort into developing their products (if you haven't seen what they do, check it out, its quite cool). Thinking more broadly, the Planetary Society (lead by Bill Nye) also occupies a similar space. So if we were to move outward and incorporate more subject areas, we would need to do so very strategically.
Thank youf for…
Thank youf for your reply and your thoughtful response. You mentioned some other organizations out there that are engaged in activities that the AAVSO could incorporate into its scope, however I would respond that the AAVSO is in a good position to dominate all of those fields. I base this on the talent, education, expertise, experience, history, and size of the AAVSO. Based on these attributes, the AAVSO is in a good position to become the focus of all advanced pro/citizen astronomy in the world. I am a member of some of the organizations you mentioned, and (without naming names) my strong impression of these groups is that they are rather childish, low tech, low education groups focused (with a few exceptions) on beginning / high school level amateurs. They are a good place to start for some, but once a member with half a brain cell gains even a little experience with their projects they would want to move far beyond those limitations and advance to the level that the AAVSO has traditionally been known for. It would be great if the AAVSO was there to accept these people once they reach that level.