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The future of the Star Formation Newsletter (October 2020, SFN #334)

Do we still need a Star Formation Newsletter? 

This is a fair question. It’s 2020, and there is an abundance of services that will filter the astro-ph river into a manageable number of papers on a specific topic. Why continue with the Star Formation Newsletter (SFN)? In October 1992, Bo Reipurth introduced the SFN, the first electronic newsletter in Astronomy, to allow easy distribution of abstracts of the recent papers in the field. As he explained to me, it should be short enough to be read during an afternoon coffee break. Back then, one would need to physically go to the local library, sit down, and read about the field’s latest results. Over the following 28 years, Bo created much more than a list of monthly Abstracts; he created a community. The SFN has been connecting astronomers working on star and planet formation across the planet since 1992 and is today the authoritative reference for the latest in Star and Planet Formation research, from Abstracts and Reviews listings to Perspectives, from the latest Jobs and Meetings listings to community Announcements. The section "Interviews" is now the de facto community legacy’s repository: describing inspiring scientific life achievements and the human story behind them.

After 333 months at the helm of the successful SFN, Bo has asked me to become the editor. The thought of leading the SFN is exciting and honoring but also terrifying. How does one follow Bo and how not to drop the ball? Bo was transparent about the challenges, and I accepted, with joy and fear, the editor’s role from SFN #334. The immediate plan is to transition the SFN into a sustainable web page, where the various sections of the SFN will become readily accessible web pages. In some future, I would like to include a new section on resources for the community, like a curated list of high-quality star and planet formation illustrations and images to be used in teaching and presentations, among other ideas.

An essential goal of the SFN is to welcome young researchers into the field, help them navigate the community, and inspire them to make their mark. A paradox in today’s incredibly easy access to large amounts of information is PhD students’ hyper-specialization. In part, this is a structural problem arising from what is expected from young researchers to succeed. The SFN web will minimize this drawback and avoid dividing the SFN into sub-fields to expose the reader to a broader view, following Bo’s original design. Given the current information growth, this will be difficult to tread, but the spirit will be kept. 

Finally, the SFN is done by the community and for the community. I invite anyone to contribute to the content and the design of the SFN. All ideas are welcome. I plan to put together a group of Contributing Editors and an Editorial Advisory Board to strengthen and guide the SFN through the 2020s. This transition will take some time, so the current submission platform and the PDF file will be with us a little longer. The SFN mailing list will be hosted at the University of Vienna, under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union. You will be able to opt-in/out easily and register via a web interface of the University. 

I thank Bo for the trust and wish him a wonderful retirement from the 333 months he dedicated to the SFN. My wish for the SFN is to allow it to grow, with your help, as a useful reference for the Star and Planet Formation community, while keeping in mind that it should be readable for the duration of a coffee break. 

João Alves Vienna, October 2020