A Word form the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI!

Dear visitors of our website!

It almost feels like a relaunch! Since the beginning of this month of September, we have visitors again at ISSI. We started off with an International Team in the first week of the month (Sept 6–10) working on plasmas in the vicinity of comets and of Mars and this week (Sept 13–17) we host a team working on Pulsars. These are the first in person team meetings at ISSI in 1.5 years, since March 2020! There will be more International Teams coming to ISSI in September and the following months as you can see in our calendar which is quite full. Moreover, this second week of September (13–17) we are hosting the first ISSI Workshop since the Deep Earth Interior Workshop a year ago! The subject of the present workshop is the Evolution of the Interior of Venus. The subject is particularly timely since earlier this year NASA and ESA chose THREE missions to Venus for the coming years. Many of the workshop conveners and participants are involved in these missions, in particular in the ESa EnVision mission and the NASA Veritas mission but the NASA DaVinci mission is also represented.

Impression of the ongoing Workshop on Venus including remote participation

The Venus workshop had been postponed two times and the workshop and book project was finally launched adopting the new alternative scheme that ISSI had designed to better cope with COVID-19 Implications. The scheme starts the project off with an online meeting and has the in person meeting in the flow of the project when book chapters have been devised and/or (partly) written. The workshop is then used to discuss the chapters and their science content and the relations between chapters. We find this week that this works very well and motivates lively discussions. Because of COVID still being around the workshop is hybrid with about half of the participants joining remotely. We find that the investment in our state-of-the-art audio and video system pays off and eliminates some of the major disadvantages of hybrid meetings, such as discussion in the room cannot easily be followed from remote. If those speculating that the hybrid format will continue to be with us for some time are right then ISSI can say that it is well equipped for the task.

Also, in this month of September we will resume the Game Changers Online Seminar series with a talk on Venus Exploration by Richard Ghail from the University of London, one of the masterminds of the ESA EnVision mission. The program until the end of the year is still under development – we admit that we are a bit late – but should be in its final form by the end of this week. Stay tuned! We will cover a wide range of subjects from astrophysics and planetary science to climate change and astrobiology.

Of course, nobody can say with great confidence how the situation with COVID will evolve, in particular in Switzerland. But we hope that we can continue with our program even through coming the fall and winter. We have a set of rules at the institute and require visitors to be either vaccinated, recovered from the disease or negatively tested.

With my best regards

 

Tilman Spohn

 

A Word form the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI,

Dear visitors of our web site,

As we proceed into the summer infection rates are pleasingly low although the Delta variant of the virus is causing concern. Activities at ISSI are picking up for September onwards with team meetings and the planned workshop on “Venus: Evolution Through Time”. We at ISSI certainly hope that the increasing number of vaccinations will keep Delta at bay and allow activities to continue in the fall and winter. 

Here at the institute things are evolving with significant changes in the staff and the directorate now and ahead of us! Look for spotlights in due time as we say farewell and welcome our new members or old friends in new responsibilities:

First of all, let me report that at its last meeting the ISSI Board of Trustees has awarded Prof. Roger-Maurice Bonnet with the ISSI honorary directorship for life. Prof Bonnet thus follows in the footsteps of ISSI’s founding father Prof. Johannes Geiss. The board thus acknowledges the “pivotal role and expressing deep gratitude for his steady and effective support and leadership that has made ISSI a beacon in space science.” The ISSI staff and directors congratulate Prof. Bonnet on this highly-deserved honor. Prof. Bonnet is in our Spotlight this week!

By the end of the month, Prof. Ruedi von Steiger will retire from his positions at the University of Bern and at ISSI and will be followed by Prof. Maurizio Falanga. Maurizio, known to many of you as our Science Program Manager will be followed as of September 15th by Dr. Mark Sargent. He is a lecturer in Astronomy at the University of Sussex board and presently on sabbatical leave visiting with the University of Geneve

ISSI is deeply thankful to Ruedi von Steiger who has served the institute right from the beginning. His continued service has fundamentally helped to make ISSI what it is today. We will honor Ruedi on July 29th at 17:00 CDT with a special issue of the weekly Game Changers Seminar.

Finally, the ISSI board of Trustees at its last meeting decided to offer the position of ISSI Earth Science director to Prof. Michael Rast. Prof.  Rast will join the ISSI directorate as of Jan 1st, 2022 and will follow in the footsteps of Prof. Anny Cazenave. Prof. Rast is known to ISSI since the beginning of the Earth Science program at the institute having served as ex-officio member of the ISSI Science Committee.

Stay safe and I hope to see you all back in person at ISSI sometime soon!

Tilman Spohn

ISSI executive Director

A Word form the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI,

Dear visitors of our web site,

As you all know, we have entered into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The institute continues to be a quiet place with staff working mostly from home as is required by Swiss law. Visits to ISSI require testing on the way to Switzerland and back and I – for one – have gotten quite used to having regular PCR tests. To date, none of the staff has been infected, fortunately, and some of us have received their (first) vaccination shots. We – like everybody else – hope that the vaccination campaign speeds up and that indeed people can be vaccinated by the summer or by the end of the season.

While the institute remains a quiet place ISSI activities are continuing (compare our Annual Report just published). International Teams and Working Groups continue to be meeting online. The “Global Change in Africa” workshop was held in January with most participating remotely as was the “Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate”- Forum the same months. The “Venus: Evolution through Time” as well as the “The Heliosphere in the Local Interstellar Medium” and the “Strong Gravitational Lensing” workshop teams are proceeding following the new alternative scheme for the workshop-to-book process in which the chapter writing starts after an online kick-off and with regular online tag-ups. The in-person workshop will be organized as the pandemic allows in the flow of the project and will be largely devoted to discussions of the then matured subject. Other workshops and forums are still postponed, however, waiting for the end of the crisis.

Our online seminar series about missions that changed the game in the space sciences has ended with the month of March, after 28 lectures had been given. Recordings of these are available here on our website and continue to be downloaded often. The ISSI directorate decided to continue the series albeit changing gears to some degree. Rather than presenting missions, we will during the months of May to July look at “Ideas and Findings about the Solar System, the Universe and our Terrestrial Environment”. The first talk will be on tipping points in the Earth’s climate on May 6thand we will then proceed to present a wide variety of subjects in Earth, Solar and Planetary sciences and Astrophysics (see the schedule here). We are extremely proud to have been able to recruit leaders of their fields as speakers, including physics Nobel laureates Adam Riess and Reinhard Genzel. Come and join us for these extraordinary events!

Stay safe and I hope to meet you all in person at ISSI sometime soon!

Tilman Spohn

 

ISSI executive Director

A Word from the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI!

Dear visitors of our website!

As this unusual year is coming to an end, things are still progressing at ISSI despite the hindrances related to the pandemic! International teams keep working albeit mostly remotely and we have been reported to date more then 200 publications resulting from their work! We are working here at ISSI on setting up an online tool box to support team work and hope to have the first version ready for testing early in the new year. For the workshops we are trying an alternative procedure for the process of getting from the workshop to the corresponding ISSI Space Science Series book. In this new alternative scenario, we will kick-off the process of chapter writing via an online meeting and have the face-to-face workshop later in the process. That way we will avoid letting the pandemic delay us by too long.  Conveners for three of our workshops planned for next year have agreed to give the new procedure a try. The conveners of the “Global Change in Africa” workshop, instead, have decided to hold their workshop in a mostly online to hybrid format (as travel restrictions will allow) in January. That also applies to the related Forum on “Tipping Points in the Earth Climate” organized together with ESA. The “Global Change in Africa” workshop will the first in our new workshop line entitled “Global Change and its Societal Impact”. ISSI is extremely proud to start this new workshop series early next year. We hope for valuable contributions to the scientific debate on the anthropogenic changes to our planet.

The Game Changer Missions Seminar Series continues to go strong with 150-250 visitors per event and will be finishing the astronomy mission seminar talks by Christmas. In the new year, we will be starting a series of seminar talks on Earth Observation missions that will take us into March. The talks to date have all been recorded and are available for view on our website.  

Unfortunately, two of our staff Alexandra Lehmann and Saliba F. Saliba will leave ISSI by the end of the year, moving on to new challenges in their lives. But we have already found wonderful new colleagues to replace them, Yemisi Momoh as secretary and Willi Wäfler as IT manager and engineer. While we are sad to see Alexandra and Saliba leave after all those years – a big Thank You to both of them for their great service – we are looking forward to working with Yemisi and Willi. Please find short portraits of them on the web site.

We at ISSI wish all of you a peaceful and healthy Christmas time! Our thoughts continue to be with those severely hit by the pandemic!

All the best

Tilman Spohn

ISSI executive director

 

A Word from the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI!

Dear visitors of our website!

Scientists can easily understand the instability of the situation when the coronavirus reproduction factor is about one as it has been in many countries in Europe throughout the summer. It simply says that the virus will be kept alive in the population. A slight change in the environmental parameters, e.g., a lowering of the temperature as we are entering into fall causing people to stay more inside, can cause the factor to rise and trigger exponential growth of the number of infections. Which is what we are seeing these days. Certainly, many of us had hoped that the factor would have been forced significantly below one, in which case there would have been a chance of eliminating the virus. But a society is a complicated system with many more factors – economic, political, psychological – entering into the equation and we may have found empirically that the reproduction-factor-of-one-solution at acceptably small absolute numbers was the best to be expected this summer.

In any case, ISSI has to face the fact that the COVID-19 crisis is likely going to continue for much longer than we – may be naively – had hoped and that it will impact our program even more than we had feared! We did have a successful hybrid workshop in September on the Deep Earth Interior but it appears that attendance in presence from other parts of Europe is becoming increasingly impractical and has become impractical for many. Visitors to ISSI from a growing number of countries will have to go into quarantine for 10 days should they come to Bern and it is not unlikely that they may have to go in quarantine in their own country when they come home after the event. The borders in Europe are open, but it is not very reasonable and practical to travel! This observation is the reason why teams and workshop conveners are continuing to shift their meetings to later.   

 At ISSI, we are exploring even more what the world wide web has to offer to help us through the crisis. Since August, we are having a weekly online seminar series on missions that have changed the game in the space sciences. This “Game Changers” seminar series (Thursdays at 5pm CEST) has started with seven talks on planetary exploration missions and has now turned to heliosphere and plasma missions and will turn to astronomy and astrophysics missions in November and December. The talks have all been recorded and are available for view on our website. Attendance to the seminars varied between 150 and 265 and download figures peeked at more than 1600. We have planned the seminar until the end of the year for now, but we will see what we will have to follow-on next year. In addition, we are brainstorming with the community on how we can improve the working situation for the active International Teams and the planned Workshops, Working Groups and Forums. Some of the ideas and online solutions will be tried in the coming months and hopefully, some will even have the potential to be useful when the crisis will finally be over.

Finally, let me turn to our 25th anniversary that has received not as much attention as it would have in more normal times: ISSI turned 25, already in January! Unfortunately, we mourned the passing of Johannes Geiss, the institute’s founding father, that month. We had made plans in late 2019 how to celebrate but these needed first to be postponed and have now become largely unfeasible. But, we have a little birthday present upcoming for the community!

Stay tuned and stay healthy and our thoughts continue to be with those severely hit by the pandemic

All the best

Tilman Spohn

ISSI executive director

A Word from the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI,
Dear visitors of our web page,

in the continuing COVID-19 crisis, ISSI is proud to announce its first online tools!

No worries, ISSI will remain committed to its mission of providing the international Space Science Community with a forum for meeting and discussion in an informal and productive atmosphere here in Bern and document the result in the literature! As we value face-to-face analog meetings (as some call them) we are now following up on earlier ideas to increase our usage of digital media. As announced on our web site we will start at the end of the month an online seminar series on missions as “Game Changers”. How often have scientists been sure to more or less know what was in front of them when they saw their mission launched? After all, it has to be that way to some extent, as engineers need an understanding of the environment they design the spacecraft and instruments for. And how often have we been completely surprised by what we found? Internationally renowned experts and leaders in missions will let us know what they think their mission changed. We will start the series end of July with a block of four missions, covering the fantastic Japanese sample return missions Hayabusa 1 and 2, the New Horizons Mission to the exotic world of Pluto and the deep outer Solar System and surprises from our neighboring planets Mars and Venus revealed by Mars and Venus Express. We are planning some more seminar talks on Solar System missions before we will consider extending the series to ISSI’s other fields of space science.

A second tool that we will be experimenting with is called the Tea(m) Time Tuesday. We will give ISSI teams the opportunity to meet amongst themselves and with ISSI scientists around tea time on Tuesdays to discuss their project. And, as a third experiment, we will be giving International Teams 25 seconds (in commemoration of the 25 years of ISSI) to present their science on ISSI’s website. So, stay tuned and watch our website for upcoming news and events!

In other developments at ISSI, we had what we now call a hybrid-meeting (partly in person, partly from remote) of the Board of Trustees in June. Among the important decisions taken was an extension of the present 25thbusiness year to get the ISSI business year in synch with the calendar year. Up to this year, ISSI business years were running from July to June, they will now run from January to December. Moreover, the Board, observing that open access was increasingly called for by scientists and funding agencies, gave the ISSI directorate a mandate to negotiate open access for ISSI’s publications.   

Let me close by reemphasizing my hope that you and your loved ones stay safe. Our thoughts and sympathies continue to be with those all over the world hit by COVID 19!

Stay safe and hope to meet you all in person at ISSI sometime soon!

Tilman Spohn

ISSI executive Director

A Word from the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI,
Dear visitors of our web page,

As you are certainly aware, the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing and although some of the lockdown measures are being lifted or at least alleviated, life is far from having returned to normal. This applies to ISSI as well. Even more, as an international Institute of Advanced Studies, ISSI depends on borders being open and scientists being able to travel!

Of course, we have been considering how we could take better advantage of the chances that working from remote and telecommunication are offering. ISSI committee meetings have been web meetings for two months and will continue for the coming weeks. The Johannes Geiss Fellowship selection has been done remotely, keeping the schedule. As you may have already seen on our web page we have able to select two outstanding scientists, an astronomer and an oceanographer working on Global Change. You are invited to read interviews with the two fellows that will be published on the web in the next few days. ISSI’s science committee is presently evaluating the proposals for International Teams using remote services and the directorate will announce the successful projects in time. ISSI will further improve its technological readiness for tele-meetings by installing hardware that will allow scientists from remote to better follow the discussion in the meeting room.

Conveners of workshops and forums that were originally scheduled to occur in May to August have been offered the opportunity to use telepresence rather than postpone their events. To date, all meeting conveners have emphasized the importance of face-to-face discussion and have decided that they would rather postpone to the fall or next spring. This includes the Venus workshop, the workshop on Strong Gravitational Lensing and that on Magnetic Reconnection as well as the Forum on Ground and Space Astronomy. However, we are committed to have the workshop on the Geophysics of the Deep Earth occurring as the first Workshop after the lockdown. Of, course, it is entirely possible that we will see the first team meeting before that and possibly the first team meeting that will be using remote services. ISSI is committed to provide its service as well as it possibly can and will open as soon as the Swiss authorities allow and as soon as is considered reasonable and safe. Given what is known today, it is likely that certain measures of precaution will be necessary but we are ready to implement what is needed to continue. We are committed to keeping the damage to the program at the lowest possible level!

In the meantime, I hope that you and your loved ones stay safe. You can reach us per email or over the phone at the institute.

Our thoughts and sympathies continue to be with those all over the world hit by COVID 19!

Stay safe and hope to meet you all in person at ISSI sometime soon!

Tilman Spohn

ISSI executive Director