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LSC Statement on Appropriate Content for Scientific Presentations

16 May 2016 -- Recently a senior member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration included a highly inappropriate image as the introductory slide for a talk at an international conference. The occasion was an after-dinner speech and and the speaker’s intent was to be humorous, but he chose an image that was inherently very offensive. The speaker deeply regrets the error in judgment.  We in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) diversity committee look to this case to find lessons learned to prevent such occurrences in the future.

For the LSC, there are policies in place to prevent harassment and or inappropriate behavior.  There is a requirement for a slide review to be performed before a talk, which would have caught the bad slide.  The offensive slide contained a LIGO document number and a LIGO Laboratory affiliation implying that the LIGO Lab and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration had endorsed its use.  However, this talk was not submitted for the review, which would have caught the bad slide.

The case offers an important lesson for scientists to take personal responsibility for appropriate content.  Slides should always be reviewed by the speaker for inappropriate content.  Any questionable slide should be discussed with colleagues to see if it is offensive.  Even better, a preview with colleagues can be done of the full talk.  Reviews and practice talks greatly improve talk quality, in addition to screening inappropriate content.

We will work vigorously to maintain an inclusive environment in the LSC that is free of harassment or offensive actions. Quoting from the LSC Diversity Statement:  "As a collaboration, we will strive to create a professional climate that encourages inclusion and that respects and values diversity."

LIGO Members Awarded The 2016 Gruber Prize in Cosmology

4 May 2016 -- The three principal founders of LIGO, along with the entire LIGO discovery team, have been awarded The 2016 Gruber Prize in Cosmolgy, the Gruber Foundation announced.

Ronald W.P. Drever (Caltech), Kip S. Thorne (Caltech), and Rainer Weiss (MIT) will each receive a gold medal and will share a $500,000 award. The Prize citation reads: "The Gruber Foundation proudly presents the 2016 Cosmology Prize to Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, Ronald Drever, and the entire LIGO team for pursuing a vision to observe the universe in gravitational waves, leading to a first detection that emanated from the collision of two black holes. This remarkable event provided the first glimpse into the strong‐gravity regime of Einstein's theory of general relativity that governs the dynamics of black holes, giving direct evidence for their existence, and demonstrating that their nature is consistent with the predictions of general relativity."

LIGO Awarded Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

2 May 2016 -- Members of the LIGO and Virgo collaborations have been awarded a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Prize Selection Committee announced.

The award recognizes "the scientists and engineers contributing to the momentuous detection of gravitational waves", which was announced by LIGO on Feb 11, 2016, stated the announcement by the Selection Committee.

The Special Breakthrough Prize can be awarded at any time in recognition of an exceptional scientific achievement. The $3 million prize will be shared as follows: the three LIGO founders -- Ronald W.P. Drever (Caltech); Kip S. Thorne (Caltech); and Rainer Weiss (MIT) -- will share $1 million; and the 1012 contributing scientists, engineers, and staff will share $2 million.

NSF Signs a LIGO-India MOU

31 March 2016 -- The US and India have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for establishing an advanced gravitational-wave detector in India. France A. Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation, and representatives of India's Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology, signed the MoU in the presence of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: NSF/Fleming Crim.)

From the NSF website: "Today, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France A. Córdova signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to lead the way for establishing an advanced gravitational-wave detector in India. The MOU was also signed by representatives from India's Department of Atomic Energy and India's Department of Science and Technology."

Read the NSF Press Release.

LIGO Team Testifies Before US Congress on the Discovery

24 February 2016 -- As a follow-up to the announcement of LIGO's first observation of gravitational waves, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has asked LIGO Scientific Collaboration members to testify on the discovery, its meaning for science and society, and what the future may hold. LSC members to testify at the Full House Committee Hearing were the LIGO Lab Executive Director David Reitze, the LSC Spokesperson Gabriela Gonzalez, and the LIGO MIT Director David Shoemaker. Details at house.gov.

Watch the hearing below:

Opening Statement by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
Testimony of Dr. Fleming Crim
Testimony of Dr. David Reitze
Testimony of Dr. Gabriela Gonzalez
Testimony of Dr. David Shoemaker

LIGO-India Approved

17 February 2016 -- The LIGO-India project has been formally approved by the Union Cabinet. The formal approval will clear the path for funding of the LIGO-India project, as well as for other activities that are critical for the start of building a gravitational-wave detector in India.

Read an article in The Hindu.

White House Congratulates the LIGO Team

12 February 2016 -- On February 11, President Obama tweeted his congratulations to the LIGO team:

On Feb 12, 2016, John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, posted a statement on the White House blog with congratulations to the LIGO team.

Read the full statement on https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog.

Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years after Einstein's General Relativity

11 February 2016 -- For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (9:51 a.m. UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO600 Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

LSC Statement on Harassment

16 January 2016 -- There have been recent reports of harassment involving LIGO Scientific Collaboration members, specifically involving a Caltech faculty member and a student. That faculty member is no longer a member of the LSC. As a collaboration, we will not tolerate harassment and strive to provide a supportive environment for all members of our collaboration. We practice the principles enshrined in the LSC Diversity Statement, with guidelines in https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-M1400285/public:

"As members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, we recognize the importance of diversity to enrich our research and scholarship. We pledge to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment to talented individuals regardless of characteristics such as, but not limited to, physical ability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or personal religious practices, and to support the professional growth of all collaboration members.

We also pledge to work to increase the numbers of women and under-represented minorities that actively participate in the LSC, to pursue recruitment, mentoring, retention and promotion of women and under-represented minority scientists and engineers and to maximize their contribution to excellence in our research. As a collaboration, we will strive to create a professional climate that encourages inclusion and that respects and values diversity."

Older news

NSF signs LIGO-India MOU

On Mar 31, 2016, the NSF Director France A. Córdova and the Secretary of India Department of Atomic Energy Sekhar Basu signed an MoU leading the way to LIGO-India. Image credit: NSF/Fleming Crim.

LIGO members testify at Congress on the discovery

On Feb 24, 2016, LIGO members testified at US Congress on the discovery of gravitational waves. Left to right: Assistant Director of the NSF's Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences Dr. Fleming Crim, LIGO Lab Director Dr. David Reitze, LSC Spokesperson Dr. Gabriela Gonzalez, LIGO MIT Director Dr. David Shoemaker. Image credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab.

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