Some months, the life of the astronomer is more glamorous than others. Gone are the days of the astronomer looking through the eyepiece night after night at a lonely mountaintop observatory. We don't even get to spend all day, every day working on pretty pictures on a computer.
This week, I am starting the new year by filling out reports for last year. I have expense reports from last week's American Astronomical Society meeting, progress reports on Hubble Telescope research, final reports on National Science Foundation-funded research, and even reports on research I may want to do ten years from now.
It's all incredibly boring and mind-numbing, but this paperwork is all quite essential. Expense reports and final reports help to ensure that I've spent research money wisely, and since most of that money comes from you, the taxpayers, we're simply being accountable. So, while I find the reports excruciating to write, I understand their importance.
Likewise, the report on future research is part of a once-every-10-years planning cycle in astronomy, where a select panel of astronomers solicits works within the astronomical community to develop a report on where we see the science headed, and what large missions and projects we would like to prioritize in terms of funding. That process is also an arduous and gargantuan task, but the report from this panel is used by Congress and funding agencies to help guide decisions over the next 10 years. Given the importance placed on this "decadal survey," I figure that it's my responsibility to help out.
At any rate, all of these reports are sucking the creative juices out of me, so I've precious little that's interesting to say today!