Asymmetries in Heliophysics

Written by Alexa Halford

CUSIA is all about studying and understanding asymmetries within heliophysics. Specifically, we hope to better understand science questions involving hemispheric asymmetries — why do the Northern and Southern Hemispheres respond differently? and dawn-dusk asymmetries — for example, what is the impact of an asymmetric ring current? 

CUSIA also is working to address other asymmetries within the heliophysics community. Currently our field, like many STEM fields, does not have a representative fraction of women and minority groups in the US. There are many reasons for this, but here at CUSIA we are working to ensure that all have access to our field and that in our field all can find a safe and inviting community. The most innovative scientific ideas and discoveries come by cultivating a welcoming, inclusive, diverse, accessible, and collaborative environment. In order to achieve the goal of reducing asymmetries in heliophysics, CUSIA is 1) making sure our resources are freely available, 2) providing an open invitation to join all CUSIA collaborations, and 3) ensuring that we are reaching out to underrepresented communities and creating a culture where all scientists can belong and thrive.  


Access to Heliophysics resources  


We are working towards ensuring CUSIA is a place where everyone can come and contribute. We have a resource web page to help get you started on your journey to understanding asymmetries within heliophysics. Here you can see how we solved problem X with solution Y. If you are new to the field and not sure where to start, try the paper resources where you can find links to foundational works and papers written by CUSIA members. You will also find links to our software repositories so that you can build off our data analysis, search through our simulation database, and explore our results. Within the CUSIA team we value all viewpoints and encourage you to join our team in exploring this exciting set of questions.  

Along with access to heliophysics resources, we have created a living document of our current understanding in heliophysics: the Capabilities Assessment Matrix, or CAM. The CAM addresses multiple roadblocks that researchers often face. The first is knowing what assumptions, limitations, and topics/regions different models cover. If you have a question about how the offset and titled intrinsic magnetic field is 1) addressed by global MHD models, 2) impacts phenomena in the magnetosphere and ionosphere, or 3) whom to ask to find out more, come look at the CAM. We have attempted to collect all this information, put it into an easy-to-find table, and continue to update this as models improve and more models are created. In line with our goal of reducing asymmetries within heliophysics, if we are missing information in the CAM, please join our community and help us to provide accurate and up-to-date information to the broader heliophysics community! 

A culture of open collaboration  


At CUSIA we recognize the value in having strong, diverse collaborations. In order to make sure we can address and make progress towards understanding asymmetries, we need all ideas and voices. That is why our workshops and teams are open to everyone. During the summer of 2020 CUSIA held its first workshop, which more than 80 researchers from 10 different countries attended. From this workshop multiple collaborations have formed and continue to produce results. In the year that has followed, CUSIA team members have presented at 5 community conferences/workshops. This is just the beginning.  

As the natural result of having a diverse group of researchers, we are already connected to many other groups throughout the community. This allows us to help amplify or be a force multiplier for those groups’ activities. Below we highlight two of our prominent force multipliers, but there are many more within our team. 

Dr. Hyomin Kim is currently leading a GEM focus group on hemispheric asymmetries which will conclude in 2023. Dr. Kim is invaluable to helping ensure that the work done within the GEM community can continue to find a home here at CUSIA, and that CUSIA can integrate with this GEM focus group. By working together, we can build new collaborations and ensure that CUSIA is providing both useful resources and state of the art research.  

Prof. Nikolai Ostgaard, leader of Birkeland Centre for Space Science, University of Bergen, Norway, has enabled CUSIA to have a global reach: space is a universal environment and the quest to understand the asymmetries in geospace necessitates collaboration from across the globe, whether that takes the form of gaining data from multiple different countries or working with world leaders within our field. By working across governmental boundaries, we can facilitate knowledge transfer throughout the world and find new solutions and ideas for understanding the environment in which we live.  

Many of our colleagues are force multipliers through their connections, whether through being part of the Space Modeling Framework team, working with satellite teams and their data, or leading other community groups. Check out the about webpage to see the core group of CUSIA members and to find out how you too can get involved and become a force multiplier!

Ensuring CUSIA and Heliophysics is a place where all can belong


As CUSIA grows, we look towards enabling new and diverse collaborations. However, to ensure these new collaborations can thrive, we need to ensure a culture where all feel safe, welcomed, and appreciated. 

Strong, innovative, and diverse collaborations are built upon a few essential ideals: a feeling of safety so that all can freely share ideas, ask questions, and speak up when there is an issue; support to be able to work effectively together; clear communication to ensure we are all pulling in the same direction; and encouragement to be creative and to think big. Many of us in positions of privilege must actively and intentionally work to look beyond our own experiences to understand what others’ experienced reality is in the field. We need to value empathy within our collaborations and our community. This includes becoming an active bystander and supporting colleagues should we see micro- or not so micro- aggressions occur. If we do not, people will continue to leave our field to find fulfilling work in other places where they are able to thrive and work in a safer environment. 

Within CUSIA we are dedicated to upholding these values, mentoring and educating a diverse workforce, creating diverse collaborative spaces, and continually reflecting on how well we achieve these large goals. We value transparency and monitor our team metrics on our website. And finally, hold us accountable. We all have more to learn and are actively working to do better.  

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