Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You need to communicate more...

Welcome to a new experiment from the Indiana Space Grant Consortium--the Director's Blog.  The goal of this blog is to respond to a concern that we at the INSGC have heard frequently over the past few years:  the INSGC Director (that would be me) does need to communicate more frequently, openly, and transparently.  People seem to like my Director's Notes in the INSGC Observer (print) and Voyager (electronic) newsletters, but those updates only come out a few times per year.  Especially at this time of year, there's a lot more to talk about, including grants competitions, Affiliate Meetings, progress reports, plans for next week, next month, next year...

It's taken me a while to set up this blog, even after encouragement and directions from the INSGC interns, Isa and Ben.  Part of the reason is just that this is not just a busy time of year for INSGC, but for all of the other aspects of my life as a faculty member in addition to being the Space Grant Director.  Last week, for instance, I travelled to Washington, DC--twice.  (One project was with the National Science Foundation; the other was for Housing and Urban Development.)  Dr. Dawn and Angie back at the Space Grant office do a wonderful job updating me with emails and responding to my late-night budget analyses, but sometimes the questions they ask come from students or professors or museum directors at our affiliates... and it's clear that if one person has that question, the chances are good that several people do have that question.  I do also get questions from the public about things NASA, and sometimes I can respond to them as well.

However, this is likely to be a fairly geek-rich process.  I'll try to limit the references to human factors analyses of mission control team coordination, information sharing among healthcare providers, and other things I think are unassailably cool.  (Well, maybe not.  It is a blog from a guy who enjoys his work as an engineering professor and has been wanting to do spaceflight work since he was six.)  But that is another value of this communication mode: I love science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  I am a product of the US emphasis on STEM education in the 1970s and 1980s.  I am the Director of the INSGC in large part because I remember getting the chance to work on research as a college undergraduate, and realizing that those opportunities changed my life.  I now get the chance to help others have access to those opportunities, and meet and work with the sorts of people that I only dreamed about as a kid.  STEM is what I do, so don't be surprised if it just bubbles up to the surface on a regular basis.  (Hey, I was setting this blog up while watching Brad, Ken, and Watson on Jeopardy tonight.  I'm still impressed that Watson managed some of the wordplay, could answer "The Church Lady," and "take a guess" on one of the "Art of the Steal" questions... but Toronto as Watson's Final Jeopardy answer?)

As I continue to travel over the next few months, this blog may be a good way to stay connected, and continue to share updates with folks across our INSGC affiliates and partners.  I've joked that there are times where I need a tracking signal for my students and colleagues.  That signal would have four settings: one for campus movements, one for travel across Indiana, one for travels throughout the US, and one for worldwide wanderings.  (Kind of like the radio signals to follow the migrating birds or foraging bears, I suppose.)  Even if I am wandering, you should be able to find me "here".

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