DASCH and the Glass Cliff

DASCH is a Glass Cliff

a glass cliff sets women up to fail

DASCH and the Plate Stacks are in crisis.


Accepting responsibility for fixing both makes it

impossible for me to meet my pre-existing responsibilities.


Despite the opportunities, this is also a professional burden.


Library projects are being put on hold,

meetings are being cancelled, and externally-funded work

is falling behind.


 DASCH is now monopolizing my grant-writing, which is jeopardizing my ability to fund existing library staff.

Due to the problematic and embarrassing nature of the crisis I cannot be completely open as I seek perspective and guidance from people outside of, and even within, Harvard.


The mismanagement of DASCH and the Plates presents a significant reputational risk to Harvard and to me.


My role with DASCH has not been publicly acknowledged,

nor have the problems, which further limits my resources.

So far, library priorities have been

sidelined and I still have:


No authority over the project.


No explanations for collaborators on other projects.


No professional advancement despite taking on a
petabyte-scale astrophysics research project that has been mismanaged for 20 years, along with the largest collection of glass plate photography on the planet, and all of the staffing problems associated with both.


The Smithsonian also hasn't been made aware of any of this despite my SAO-HCO appointment.

The Library is for the astronomy community at large,

not just Josh Grindlay.


DASCH is foundationally important, but we cannot drop our other responsibilities or reduce library services because he did not listen to us.

With appropriate resources, DASCH data and

the Plate Stacks will inspire and enable new

ground-breaking research.


The Plates present significant

opportunities for fundraising if they are

responsibly maintained.


Stewarding the Plates and amplifying the legacy of the Harvard Computers is also incredibly meaningful and necessary work.

DASCH doesn't need to be a Glass Cliff

So the question now is not "what does DASCH need?"  


Instead it's "what does the Library need to fix DASCH?"

DASCH needs a lot of time.

Fixing DASCH is a full time job–

the problems are absurd and appalling.


Katie and I have been spending over 50% of our time, (sometimes entire days) for the last two months on

DASCH to the detriment of our other responsibilities.


We have been working late and over weekends in an attempt to keep up.


The work we are doing cannot be delegated elsewhere.

The Plates Stacks need a lot of time.

The Plate Stacks are much more than DASCH.


The Plate Stacks are currently isolated from all forms of collection care and support from the rest of Harvard.


The Curator has quit and funding for other staff is unstable– they are also underpaid and ready to leave.


These positions need to be re-graded, and if I am put in charge I may need to develop a new team from scratch.

We need more time.

(we need more people)

Necessary Resources

  • Digital Preservationist (1 FTE)
    • 1 FTE for DASCH
      • Develop long-term development and maintenance strategy
      • Develop archival plan for digital assets
    • This person can also support the work Katie and I cannot do if we're working on DASCH/incorporate what we learn from DASCH into practices that avoid situations like this.

Necessary Resources

I can't keep hunting for grants to fund core services and programs if I need to focus on DASCH.


  • Open Science Librarian - 1 FTE
    • This work is currently done by a combination of LHTs and Daniel Chivvis, who I have funded with grants for four years
  • Archivist and Resident Historian - 1 FTE
    • This should be two people, but knowing that's an impractical ask I think we can combine these roles
    • Right now I fund this work with grants and fill in gaps with LHTs

Necessary Resources

  • Research Software Engineering Support for DASCH
    • ​​Needed for working with the existing photometry pipeline (this is Josh's only priority) and other legacy software
      • We may be able to work with Peter Williams but it is unclear to me how much time he would be able/willing to commit to this – if we can't work with him we would need to hire a new developer outright.

Staffing Needs Summary

Position Estimated Cost 
Digital Preservationist  ~$65K + fringe 
Engineering Librarian ~$65K + fringe
Archivist and Resident Historian ~$68K + fringe
Research Software Engineer for DASCH Talk to Peter
Curator and Asst. Curator need to be re-graded TBD

How much is HCO already spending on Library LHTs and Fellows in FY22?


$ 96,138.89


Most of this could be used to offset costs.

Avoiding the Glass Cliff also requires acknowlegement:

  • Public recognition of the Library's role and changing relationship to DASCH
    • Brief CfA-wide email- can just say technical challenges and staff changes due to retirements have necessitated a transition etc.
  • I need a title change
    • Director of the John G. Wolbach Library and Harvard's Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection 
  • I need a raise
    • I am currently paid less by HCO than SAO so a raise should establish basic parity
  • Katie also needs a raise

The Plates and DASCH data are irreplaceable.


If Harvard values these things it needs to take care of them.


We can fix DASCH, we want to fix DASCH,

we just need time and recognition.

DASCH and the Glass Cliff

By Daina Bouquin

DASCH and the Glass Cliff

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