The Canadian Space Agency Has its First Science Advisor

Sarah Gallagher of Western University. Credit: CSA/STScI.

Nearly six months after putting out a call for a Science Advisor to the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the agency has selected Dr. Sarah Gallagher of Western University.

Does the CSA need a Science Advisor?

When the government announced it was looking for a Science Advisor to work with the CSA I asked at the time, is this just another layer of bureaucracy? After all, it’s not like there aren’t a lot of smart people at the CSA who could, and already do, advise the president.

Gallagher however, will work as part of a network of advisors that will provide feedback to the government’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, as she advises the government.

And the press release speaks directly of that network.

Dr. Mona Nemer said “establishing a network of departmental science advisors is an important step in strengthening science advice within government. I have strongly suggested the creation of a network of departmental advisors to share our respective scientific expertise and enhance communication and collaboration across scientific fields and sectors. I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Gallagher, a renowned physicist, as the first member of this growing network, and I very much look forward to working with her and our future advisor colleagues.”

Who is Sarah Gallagher? AKA @scgQuasar

If the Twitter handle doesn’t give it away, here’s her short biography;

Sarah Gallagher is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. Prior to that, she was an Assistant Research Astronomer at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2006, she completed a Spitzer Postdoctoral Fellowship entitled Understanding Quasar Outflows: Evolution or Orientation?

Her research focuses on investigating the nature of winds from luminous quasars (accreting supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies) using observatories covering the infrared to the X-ray, including two of NASA’s Great Observatories, Spitzer and Chandra.

Gallagher received her Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Penn State where she was also a member of the Chandra ACIS Instrument team. Her thesis, entitled The View through the Wind: X-ray Observations of Broad Absorption Line Quasars, incorporated X-ray data from three observatories: ROSAT, ASCA, and Chandra.

She has been an expert reviewer for several space observatories, and on advisory committees for the Hubble Space Telescope and two space data archives. She served as a Director on the Board of the Canadian Astronomical Society and on the Joint Committee on Space Astronomy that advises the Canadian Space Agency.

Of note, Gallagher was the co-author of a paper submitted to the Space Advisory Board titled A Vision for Canadian Space Exploration. It provides some context of what Gallagher and her co-authors thinks as important for Canada’s space program going forward. The paper’s introduction said that “during the next decade we recommend a total investment of approximately $1B, increasing to $1.3B in each decade that follows, including a regular flagship mission that Canada would lead and a constellation of smaller missions, either led by Canada or in collaboration with international partners.”

What does a CSA Science Advisor do?

Her position is part-time and will initially last 2 years which may be extended and she is not employed by the CSA. She will still be employed by Western University and the university will be reimbursed for her work and expenses while performing her duties as an advisor.

Her specific duties are;

  • Advise the President and collaborates with the members of the CSA Executive Committee to promote science priorities for the Canadian Space Program;
  • Ensures that the government scientific space activities and Open Government are fully available to the public;
  • Ensures the Canadian space science portfolio is represented and promoted with other Government Departments and internationally:
    • Fosters strong coordination and communications of space science objectives across SBDAs through interaction with the Chief Science Advisor and other Science Advisors;
    • Supports CSA activities related to the United Nation Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), the United Nation Committee On the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS) and other national and international committees and bodies involved in science;
  • Communicates the societal impact and breadth of CSA science investments, as CSA principal public facing scientific advisor;
  • Serves as a focal point for interactions on space science with universities, industry and the Canadian research community;
  • Identifies opportunities for the recruitment of young professionals in the field of Space Science and Engineering and other domains related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Gallagher said in the press release “I am excited by this new opportunity to work with the Canadian Space Agency and the Chief Science Advisor to maintain Canada’s excellence and leadership in space science. I look forward to connecting with researchers and engineers across Canada who lead Canada’s future space missions and advance understanding of our planet and the universe we inhabit.”

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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