In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT) released the first ever picture of a black hole. This was achieved using very-long-baseline interferometry: a virtual, earth-sized telescope was created out of eight radio telescopes (as of 2017, and expanded to eleven observatories since) dispersed across six sites all over the world.
The EHT applied for time to observe with these already existing telescopes. The Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (ngEHT) aims to build additional telescopes to increase the number of sites to ∼20, in order to increase the quality of collected data, for the purpose of producing high-quality images... and videos!
The ngEHT collaboration consists of several hundreds of members, including astronomers, astrophysicists, relativists, engineers, computer scientists, historians, philosophers, sociologists, science communicators, art historians, STSers, etc., which are structured into three technical working groups and eight science working groups. The History Philosophy Culture (HPC) Working Group is one of the eight science groups.
The HPC Working Group provides humanities & social science perspectives on a variety of topics relevant to the ngEHT: responsible telescope siting, outreach, education, foundations, algorithms, inferences, visualizations, governance structures and knowledge formation in scientific collaborations. Our four focus areas are:
Collaborations: governance & knowledge formation
Focus group on governance structure & social epistemology–discussion of key questions regarding the relationship between the individual member and the collaboration as a whole, including authorship, consensus & diversity of opinion.
Responsible Telescope Siting
Focus group on general best practices and specific historical, cultural, environmental, and ethical studies in the consideration of new sites joining the ngEHT.
Algorithms, Inference & Visualization
Focus group using tools from philosophy of science and art history to better understand sources of bias and long term reliability in computer supported inferences, develop guidelines for new inferential methods, and helping with intentional image presentation.
The Foundations focus group complements the Fundamental Physics working group, providing a different, critical lens for thinking about what the ngEHT observations can tell us about fundamental physics. It bridges the gap between theory and experiment/observation.
The UPAC research group is involved primarily with the Collaborations Focus Group, including two related task forces:
Authorship Task Force
Developing a protocol for ngEHT authorship, tailored to the specific needs of the various types of members of the ngEHT.
Code of Conduct, Climate & Conflict Resolution (C3) Task Force
Developing a Code of Conduct that the whole collaboration stands behind, followed by conflict resolution procedures and regular internal climate surveys.
UPAC's contribution to the ngEHT occurs in collaboration with Harvard's Black Hole Initiative (Niels Martens, faculty affiliate 2023-26).