President's Letter - Year-end 2020

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Fri, 12/11/2020 - 19:10

2020.  The year no one could have envisioned – or wanted.  My granddaughter says it will be a swear word people use in the future.

As I write this letter, the pandemic surges again. The US death total will shortly eclipse the United States’ WW II combat deaths. And yet, we are lucky. Through the “magic” of science, vaccines are on the way.  This pandemic, too, shall pass. But the lives of many of our fellow citizens have been changed forever.

So, as I write this letter, we must keep the AAVSO in perspective.  Each of us must do what we can to defeat this virus and help those severely impacted.

AAVSO’s 2020

2020 concluded AAVSO’s strategic planning work. Our focus on high member satisfaction, increased organizational impact, and developing a plan to provide long-term financial stability led to changes and new initiatives.  Stella will be sending out a year-end email in a couple of weeks, describing these changes in more detail. They include revitalizing our observing sections and improving our IT systems by enhancing our web site and software tools. We increased our training and provided a phenomenally successful summer webinar series attended by hundreds of individuals worldwide. We also increased our ties with professionals, enhancing our alerts.  We are expanding our focus on spectroscopy, exoplanets, and data mining through our CHOICE courses and workshops. Our annual meeting with the spectroscopy and TESS data mining workshops had great participation and showcased our successful migration to an all-online meeting format.

Membership has grown from 1100 in 2015 to 1400 today. Our AAVSO International Database (AID) now contains over 43 million observations! Solar observers submitted twenty thousand observations in the past year, and our new exoplanet and spectroscopy databases continue to grow. Roughly 400 research papers were published referencing our work, and our most recent JAAVSO volume had twenty-one articles, an increase from previous years.  And, Sky and Telescope magazine highlighted our contributions to science in their January 2021 edition!

Most importantly, members are commenting on the new ways we are connecting with them and supporting their work.  There is genuine enthusiasm for the organization.  People are enjoying being members of AAVSO.

More changes are coming.  We continue to focus on making AAVSO a dynamic, vibrant organization.

One brief comment for those who make year-end contributions to nonprofit organizations - please consider donations to AAVSO.  Our long-range financial stability requires that we reduce the annual withdrawals from our endowment to a sustainable level.  So far, our strategic plan fundraising campaign has raised over $104,000 towards our $200,000 goal. It’s important to reach hard for that goal! Please contribute – every dollar makes a difference! We need your contribution!

I wish everyone a great holiday season.  Celebrate the good times and the positive things in your personal lives.

Clear skies!