sci20003 — Announcement

The JWST MasterClass workshops: Community Training During a Pandemic

22 June 2020

Torsten Boeker (ESA)

As the James Webb Space telescope (JWST) continues to make progress towards its launch next year and the Cycle 1 proposal deadline approaches, the longstanding ESA efforts to prepare European astronomers for this groundbreaking mission are coming to their preliminary conclusion. As described in a recent article, ESA has partnered with science institutions across Europe to organise a series of workshops throughout the Spring of 2020 aimed at educating potential JWST observers about the mission's progress, the capabilities of the observatory, and the practicalities of preparing JWST proposals. A total of 17 workshops were selected to build and educate a strong community of JWST users across all ESA Member States.
The kick-off event for the workshop series, the “Train the Trainers” MasterClass, took place in early February at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Villafranca, Spain. Over the course of 2.5 days, all 21 European workshop organisers were exposed to a crash course of the various JWST hardware and science modes, as well as the proposal preparation process. During the event, which was also attended by workshop organisers from Australia, Japan, and South Africa, all participants had the opportunity to prepare complete JWST science proposals through extensive hands-on exercises. The workshop presentations, as well as other materials such as online video tutorials and printed “Pocket Guides”, were made available to all participants, to facilitate the preparation of their own workshops.
Following the ESAC MasterClass, the graduates then returned to their home countries to pass the newly acquired knowledge on to their local scientific communities. This began with the Romanian workshop in mid-February, followed by a quick sequence of events in Lithuania, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic. These first six events were implemented as originally planned (i.e., as face-to-face meetings and with on-site support from ESA experts). Each workshop was attended by 20 to 45 people.
In early March, however, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to severely affect everyday life, including the remaining JWST workshops. Increasingly strict guidelines for personal interactions and various travel restrictions necessitated amendments to the organisation of the remaining workshops. Remote and online attendance at online presentations were adopted, often complemented by live demonstrations and Q&A sessions with the organisers and ESA experts.
Despite these challenges, the workshop series continued successfully and with enthusiastic participation from the community. Although there are still four JWST workshops planned for early summer, the JWST MasterClass workshops have engaged nearly 400 European astronomers to date.
Progress on the observatory test program is ongoing, and we are looking forward to a successful JWST launch in 2021. Based on the results of the JWST MasterClass workshop series, we are confident that the JWST Cycle 1 science program will contain a strong contribution from the European community.


Antonella Nota
ESA/HST & ESA/JWST Project Scientist
STScI Baltimore, USA

Pierre Ferruit
ESA/JWST Project Scientist
ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands


About the Announcement



The JWST MasterClass workshops
The JWST MasterClass workshops

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