Instructions and Suggestions for the Organising Committee for the ASA Harley Wood School

This long set of instructions is intended to give meeting organisers a starting point when planning their meeting.

Any amendments or additions are welcome.


  • Choose the organising committee. In recent years the HWS has been largely organised by students and this has been successful, although with some comments about the need for oversight of the process. A proposed model involving both an LOC and an SOC is:
    • Local Organising Committee (~3 students from host institution)
      • venue/accommodation
      • web page information
      • final list of speakers
      • tour organisation
      • allocation of travel money
      • school momento
    • Scientific Organising Committee (~6 students representing each major institution) with final responsibility for the list of speakers
      • choice of topic
      • input on and approach to speakers
      • liaise regarding institutional transport arrangements
    The ASA Council would also like some closer oversight of the process and so a Council member should also be involved.
  • Decide on date. Three day school just before the ASA AGM is probably best, typically from the Thursday night to the Sunday morning.
  • Choose a theme with a view to student interest and available speakers - both local speakers and overseas visitors who may be in Australia anyway or may be coming for the ASA should be considered. Check the themes of at least the last three HWWS to avoid repetition. Many students attend 2 or 3 consecutive Schools. Avoid a theme which is too narrow to attract a lot of students.
  • Consider the choice of venue. A university venue is cheap and easy but has severe disadvantages. Local students will have many distractions and generally will not interact as well as they might. Speakers will also be inclined to stay only for their talks so interaction with students will be limited. An external (remote?) conference/meeting centre overcomes these problems and definitely results in a more social and 'non-study' environment. It does bring its own problem of course - transport will be needed, and costs will be higher. Again consider the advantages of having a venue which is attractive enough for speakers to stay at least one or two nights and so meet the students somewhat informally (this should be encouraged or even required). Venues which provide communal meals greatly increase interactions between students and speakers who may not know each other at the start of the School. Make sure the food is reasonably good!
  • Estimate costs including accommodation, meals, morning and afternoon teas, transport. Consider the speakers costs too since they pay their own way (and they may want to bring their families). Common charge to students is ~$175 for the entire School.
    Funding is provided to the organisers through the Macquarie Foundation (~$1500) to help equalise costs to students travelling from various parts of Australia. Council will also contribute (up to perhaps $2K in the past for distant locations), effectively allocating corporate membership fees to this task. Note that claims must be accompanied by original receipts. Disbursement of these funds is managed by the organisers, but should be based on the most cost-effective means of transport and fares. Other sources of funding may need to be considered. Possibilities include the Donovan Trust, the Ian Potter Foundation and the George Alexander Foundation). Get approval from ASA council to proceed.
  • Book venue. 30 to 40 students is a sensible estimate although 1997 drew 50(!) - perhaps this should be an upper limit. Remember to allow for the speakers and possibly their families. If numbers are too high, Masters and PhD students should have clear preference over others.
  • Check public liability insurance for the venue.
  • Organise speakers and program. 10 hours of talks in 1 hour slots is probably a good minimum number for a solid program. Try for a balance of Australian and overseas researchers, male and female. Make sure they know the audience. Tell them that among the students will be some with very little astronomical background. They should assume intelligence and interest, but they will not be speaking to an expert audience. Try to coordinate the speakers by giving them outlines of the topics they should consider addressing and other speakers' topics. Try to avoid missing very important topics which students might reasonably expect to be covered, and also try to avoid all the speakers presenting variations on a theme.
    Speakers should be expected to stay for most or all of the School to maximise interaction.
    Speakers should be encouraged, right from the first approach, to prepare lecture notes (with references) for the students so that they can listen rather than write. If possible, these should be distributed to the students beforehand via the web. This should make it easier for speakers to adopt a more "interactive" style (including group discussions, problem solving sessions, ...), rather than "lecturing".
    A suggested timeframe for dealing with speakers is:
    • More than 6 months before (certainly before Christmas)
      • topic chosen and speakers shortlisted
    • 5 months before
      • Chair of SOC formally nominated and elected
      • speakers approached
    • 4 months before
      • all speakers confirmed
    • 3 months before
      • SOC chair to liaise with speakers for possible interactive approaches to talks
      • program drafted and circualted for comment by SOC and speakers
      • final program established
    • 2 months before
      • speakers to submit suggested reading, abstracts, material to go to WWW
    • 1 month before
      • all participants emailed in advance with suggestions for preparation they should do (is this reasonable to expect?)
  • If there is any trouble getting speakers, the ASA Council should be approached for advice and assistance.
  • Should the students themselves talk? It may help to know what they do, but many will probably repeat the talk for the main ASA meeting.
  • Distribute first notices detailing dates, venue, theme of School and asking for expressions of interest ("pre-registration"?). This would normally be done via email to all ASA members (catching many students and all likely supervisors) and to all likely departments also. A meeting web page linked to the ASA pages should be created. All responses are likely to be via email.
    A sample information page from the HWS2005 meeting is available.
  • Registration should probably include the cost of the dinner since it may be regarded as part of the conference program and will make it easier to justify to departmental accountants.
  • Finalise cost estimates. Liase with venue for menus, times etc. Prepare a tentative program and distribute it to all the speakers for comment BEFORE circulating it to the students. Bring ASA council up to date.
  • At least 2 months before the School email a second notice to all students who registered their interest and to all University Departments & observatories. At this point, web page information shoul dhave been updated to include More venue details; A tentative program; A registration form which must be completed by all students (attached); Details of the registration fee and a deadline for registration and payment; a form for requesting financial support from the ASA to attend the School. Two weeks after posting the notice is a sensible deadline - longer and there is a tendency to put it aside and then it gets forgotten. Registrations are most easily handled via a web page - perhaps as part of the ASM registratio page.
  • Final information to students and speakers. Include program, maps, transport arrangements etc. - probably all via the web page.
  • Finalise numbers and inform venue. Consider how you are going to pay for the venue (can be done direct by the ASA treasurer). Make up list of students. Name tags for the students are a very good idea. Make sure the print is LARGE, includes first and last names, and their institution.
  • Prepare receipts for all the students and make sure that they get them.

Have a good time!

As soon as possible after the School is over:

  • If necessary, refer any late payers to the ASA Treasurer for action.
  • Make up a financial statement for the ASA. Write a report for the ASA Council.

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