ADASS thoughts

Eric Mandel (
Mon, 09 Sep 1996 20:58:18 -0400

Hi Everyone,

Instead of talking about The Future, I wanted to offer a brief word
about the more immediate present.

In my recent work with elementary teachers, I have been struggling
with how we need to communicate significance to one another. In that
project, teacher and researchers struggle to communicate expertise,
needs, constraints, successes and such, in order to come to common
understanding. What has been true for elementary education probably
is true for our astronomical community as well: we have to work very
hard to express to one another the *significance* of what we are saying,
and not just the factual content -- especially in areas where we are
experts talking to others who are interested but not so deeply
involved. If we really could communicate significance, we might make
a contact of understanding and stop talking past one another --
regardless of whether we agree or disagree.

So this year, I am going to try to make my talk at ADASS very simple
in scope but make it concentrate on concrete examples that highlight
directly the significance that my software (SAOtng, in this case)
might have for others. It has been a hard discipline to concentrate a
talk in this direction -- staying away from broad, contextual
overviews and deep technical discussion -- and I can't say how it will
come out. But I know that after past talks I have felt that I did not
communicate significance well and I do wish for a different outcome
this time.

I would urge you all to consider the question of communicating
significance. Might we practice this (e.g., in our talks and posters,
or in this mail list) as a preparation for future discussions?