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Seeking Input on Proposals to Change AAVSO's Name

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kevinbmarvel's picture
Seeking Input on Proposals to Change AAVSO's Name

The AAVSO Council has received proposals from members to modify the name of our organization. The Council wants your input before we begin to consider any such action.

The first proposal suggests the AAVSO changes the full name of the organization to the ‘Association for the Advancement of Variable Star Observing’ (or ‘Observations’). This proposal highlighted that this new name would make clear that the AAVSO is neither strictly 'American' nor just for 'Observers.' This name would also preserve the acronym that most people recognize as our brand.

The second proposal is to change our full name to our current acronym ‘AAVSO’, perhaps with a tag line to accompany it such as ‘Enabling the Observations of Variable Stars’ or similar.  This proposal was developed in response to the first. It would keep our well-known brand, while also providing an explanation of our mission and purpose.

The Council is cognizant and respects the deep history of the full name of our organization. However we also understand that many organizations highlight their broadened focus by changing their name (e.g., The Optical Society of America, a professional organization for researchers in the optical sciences, rebranded themselves as ‘OSA: The Optical Society’).

The Council specifically wants to hear from observers who are not currently members and others if a change to our name would make it more likely that they or their colleagues would consider joining.  Please post your thoughts on this forum.  If you would like to submit your thoughts privately, please email me directly at and indicate if it is OK to share your ideas with the full Council.

Kevin Marvel, 2nd VP on behalf of the AAVSO Council


lmk's picture
Here here!

This idea is actually one I brought up several years ago on the forums/discussion lists, but had no action taken on it, so I am very happy to hear it is finally getting serious consideration!

So, absolutely, drop the "American", since AAVSO has long since moved far beyond those borders! Just like the UN is physically located primarily in NYC, but in fact is a global organization, I do not see any issue with this plan at all.

Either one of the 2 proposals sounds fine to me...



Jupe's picture
Don't change the name.

I can't believe anyone would want to change this highly regarded organization's name!


John Briol AAVSO member


RE: Seeking Input on Proposals to Change AAVSO's Name

Whatever you do, please don't change the name to what will become a meaningless acronym (option 2). In another hundred years people will be asking 'AAVSO...what does it stand for?'


ocn's picture
Seeking Input on Proposals to Change AAVSO's Name

Hi All,

How about Global Association of Variable Star Observers / GAVSO
or International Association of Variable Star Observers / IAVSO


spp's picture

Association of Variable Star Observers

This is now an international organization, so removing the first "A" describes us more accurately.  (...and if you slur the "A" a tiny bit it sounds just the same as the original name so you don't have to explain anything.)





Robert Jenkins
Robert Jenkins's picture
Two threads on one topic confusing

Hey what has happened.

There are 2 threads on this topic.  The other one is at "Seeking Member Input On Proposed Name Change for AAVSO".  Commenters need to read both to see what is being said. 

Can they be combined?


CTX's picture
A Solution in Search of a Problem

A Solution in Search of a Problem?

I took a look at observer totals spread over a fifteen year period (2001-2016) according to whether they are USA observers or represent other countries.

Here are some of the salient facts that the data shows (spread sheet attached)

  1. For the past five years (2011-2016) the percentage of USA observers has ranged between 30 to 32 %.
  2. Since the 2001-2002 reporting year, the total number of reporting observers for the 2015-2016 period shows an increase of 9.2 %,
  3. For that same time period (as in 2) USA reporting observers have decreased 13.4% while non-USA reporting observers have increased 24.5%

The American Association of Variable Star Observers does not seem to be suffering, IMO, from the name American in our Association; suffering that is, in the inability to attract non-USA observers because we have the name American In the name of our Association.

So what is the problem?  The real problem, as discussed elsewhere, is simply the problem of attracting younger members and not one of which part of the world they live in with suspected reluctance to join an “American” association.

I fully realize that reporting observers, while, the largest membership group, do not represent all of the membership; never the less, it is the observing members that represent what the purpose and function of the AAVSO is. 

I much enjoyed our 100th Anniversary and the fine history and traditions of our fine organization, as did many members from around the world did also.  I would hope that those able to enjoy the 200th Anniversary will do so as proud members of the American Association of Variable Star Observers, regardless of where they may live in the world.

Yep, I have heard the pros for changing the name for a number of years now.  The reasons, IMO,  still appear to be a solution hunting for a problem. 

‘nough said by this ol’ Curmudgeon

Tim Crawford, CTX

PS-sometimes new brooms sweep away to much…. only to be realized in hindsight


File upload: 
I wholeheartedly agree with

I wholeheartedly agree with Tim's read-out of this.  I think the Council would be better served to bring the issue itself prompting this to the membership for input.  It's IMHO misguided to think there is a quick fix for the issue that I suspect the Council is trying to adress here.

Ed Wiley_WEY
Ed Wiley_WEY's picture

This reminds me of a piece I saw on the effort of Best Western Motels to change their name, given that they were spread through the US. After much money spend, the consulting firm came up with something like "Best Motels." If you will note, they are still called "Best Western."

Sometimes it is necessary to change a name. In my profession university natural history museums used to be called "Natural History Museums." This did not impress deans. Since deans cannot be further educated (AAVSO members who might be deans excepted of course), names were changed to things like "Biodiversity Research Center." 

Taking off the "American" might be worth considering, but how much would that impact membership for our non-US colleagues? Those are data I would like to see.


Ah, but just last week I was

Ah, but just last week I was at a BW with my sister and she commented very negatively on their new logo.  GW



I am very sorry to hear of this idea, and I was unaware that this matter was even under consideration.  The AAVSO has a long history and it is perhaps the only amateur group which I have much feeling towards.  I, for one, would like to see the group stay out of concerns about "branding" and so forth and I would hope the AAVSO would continue to be the great organization it has always been, preferably with the same name.  One of the true virtues of this group, besides its high quality, is the fact that it has remained just barely obscure and unknown enough to make it appeal to those who are really interested in this subject. 

There may be some who would like for the group to have 10,000 members, but I know that would ruin it in some essential way.  It is possible that I do not know all the facts, because it has been my impression that the number of members is far fewer than it once was.  If that is the case and it is creating problems for the continuing operation of the Association, then I can understand that times change and something might need to be done.

This reminds me of the name changes the little colleges I have worked at have undergone.  Every little college had to become a "university" - except those that were truly classy.  Now, the ones still named "college" can represent status to some people..... The AAVSO name is a classic and I would be hesitant to see it change.


BHU's picture
I like the current name and "brand" of AAVSO

Every successful organization has a “brand” in the eyes of its customers, competitors, partners, and members.  Sometimes it is difficult to articulate the various attributes of that “brand”, but it nevertheless exists.  It is comprised of such diverse attributes as the name or logo of the organization, its history, product mix, strategic decisions, employment policies, reputation, etc.

If the “brand” is well-known and well-respected, then changing any aspect of the branding is fraught with risks and should not be undertaken lightly. Sometimes there are good strategic reasons to make the change. Those reasons might be growth-oriented (e.g. Nissan’s elimination of the Datsun brand).  Sometimes the reasons are defensive, or are designed to overcome a disaster (e.g. about 20 years ago, a mid-size US airline’s operational sloppiness led to an inflight fire and gruesome passenger deaths; the defensive maneuver was to buy a smaller airline and then change the whole company to the name of the newly-acquired airline, thereby erasing the ruined brand).

I don’t see any issues that would drive AAVSO to change its name or brand.  So, I’m against it.  On the other hand, if there are good reasons that I’m not aware of, please be sure that the reasons truly justify such a major change.

There may be discomfort in some corners about AAVSO’s  “American” name and brand.  I don’t share that discomfort.  Rather, I see AAVSO’s brand shining in the best American traditions of progress, generosity, and encouragement of worldwide communities.  The “American” AAVSO opens its doors to all people everywhere; makes all of its assets available to international communities of observers and researchers; and thereby spends some of its resources to benefit less-privileged parts of the globe.  All good!

By the nature of things, any successful “American” organization is likely to have an outsize influence across the globe – we are, after all, the premier scientific and economic power and home to the world’s wealthiest population.  That doesn’t imply that we should be shy about our heritage, or appear to co-opt the meritorious efforts in other countries by trying to sound “more international”.  There will probably always be a BAA in Britain, and AFOEV in France, BAV in Germany, etc,  I look forward to there always being an  “American” AAVSO, even as we share with those other fine organizations a curiosity about the stars, a desire to participate in science, with mutual support and overlap in our memberships.

Bob Buchheim

conan's picture
Name change OK, but keep "AAVSO".

Personally I am OK with the idea of the name change, I doubt very much it would hurt, and might help in parts of the world where being member of "The American (whatever)" could seem suspicious to the authorities or nationalistic locals. The AAVSO is indeed an international organization, and changing the name would be appropriate.

However, I would definitely keep the acronym "AAVSO". That is how the organization is generally known; the full name is rarely spelled out in full by anyone, even us. After all, nobody says "United Parcel Service" or "International House of Pancakes" in real life, they say "UPS" or "IHOP." In particular, that is how our organization is listed in citations in journal papers and magazine articles (that is what is used in "Sky and Telescope"). To change the acronym would cause a confusing discontinuity in the history of citations, and confuse people who are used to seeing "AAVSO".

Of course, if we can't figure out a good name that fits the acronym, then we might be stuck with "American Association of Variable Star Observers." The suggested name in the first post above, "Association for the Advancement of Variable Star Observing," works well enough for me. I tried to come up with some alternatives, and the best I could come up with were names like:

Association for Acquisition of Variable Star Observations

Amateur Analysis of Varying Stellar Objects

And considering the comments on other threads about the aging of the membership of the AAVSO, maybe our name should be "Aging Alliance of Variable Star Old-timers." ;-)  (Just kidding.)

So to sum up, name change OK (hardly anyone will notice, but might make a difference to those who do), but acronym should stay the same.

Conan M.

lmk's picture
International is the best

I also observe comets and contribute to ICQ = "International Comet Quarterly", and also observe meteors for IMO = "International Meteor Organization". AAVSO is the world leader for VSO, so why isn't it named "International" as well, begs the question?

Yes, just keep the acronym, change the title to be more in line with the international nature of science!

Pero, todos pueden ver, tenemos una amplia gama de opiniones sobre este tema, pero espero que esto tampoco suceda como siempre en USA, donde con tan amplios desacuerdos y la diversidad de opiniones que nada se hace :(


SET's picture
Name change

I cannot believe that the Council is considering changing the wonderful name of the AAVSO. I would think there are hundreds of more important things for the Council to do!! Come on Folks.


Chris Stephan   SET

SpenceB's picture

Association for the Advancement of Variable Star Observing seems too contrived and wordy in trying to keep the AAVSO acronym. We got over Pluto's change of planetary status. Also it's not only about observers. Why not be explicit in saying we want to become more obviously international, as in International Variable Star Association or International Variable Star Activites Association?

BGW's picture
Strongly support change

I strongly support a name change.  I'd rather see "International Association of Variable Star Observers", but I think "Assoc'n for the Advancement of Variable Star Observing" is a good compromise.  That change recognizes both our history, and says quite clearly that we are more than just one country.  We all know know that we have international members (I am one), but it is a significant and very tangible step to make a name change, to a name that honours that.

My understanding is that this has LONG been recognized as a problem, especially when we reach out to the international community for both observations and donations.  My understanding is that we call our database the "AAVSO International Database" as an effort to "prove" our "internationalness".  I recall hearing stories (more anecdotal information, I know) that Janet faced criticism overseas, from people who said essentially, "if you are so international, why are you only called American?".  

I don't favour the second proposal:  It just begs the question of "what does it stand for", which is the old name.  I don't think it is really a change.


Herr_Alien's picture
I don't see the reason to change the name.

I'm seconding Tim Crawford on this.

I'm one of those  24.5% non-USA observers that started reporting estimates in the time interval 2001-2016 (list item 3 in comment #8). I don't see a reason to change the name. The 'American' part was never a factor in deciding where I was going to send my estimates.

I consider the 'American' part of the name as some sort of heritage, some sort of indication of where it started. Don't lose that piece of the organization's identity.

ARJ's picture
Name change not value added

Ok, let me reflect a bit on this initiative for a name change. We are members of an origination that has carried the same name since 1911, some 106 years, has a international reputation of excellence and collaboration and is probably as much professional as amateur. Normally you do things like organizational name changes when the brand is on a downward slide, fighting bad publicity, or wish to redirect their purpose/goals. I don’t think thats the case for us. Read the 2015-2016 Annual Report. An impressive organization, and an outstanding year. So what’s the driver to remove  American from the name? To get what, more respect from the international community or perhaps to attract more international members? Again look at the Annual Report, a reasonable percentage of the new members are international. I think that our international members are a valuable asset to our membership base making strong contributions to our science but I really can’t believe that changing American to Global, International, or other name will enhance our credibility or attract more members or improve the functioning. It would abandon a Historic organizational name and that’s about all. I sincerely hope this initiative goes the way that the one of a few years ago to redesign the logo went, on the the back shelf or into the dust bin.

kevinbmarvel's picture
Thanks for input!

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for taking the time to share your opinions.  I am tabulating the responses for discussion at the upcoming Council meeting.  Not surprisingly, there is a wide range of opinion with a slight number of people answering here on the General Forum that they would not like to see the name changed.  Good discussion and arguments on both sides.  

A word on why we posted here and in the Members forum...the goal was to get observers to comment who might not be members.  That seems to have worked a bit, so thanks again for answering.

If Council takes any action, we'll be sure to share it with everyone and rest assured that nothing will take place without an actual vote by the membership.

Good observing and enjoy the eclipse!




kevinbmarvel's picture
No name change the conclusion of our forum posts...


At its meeting in Ontario, California earlier this year, the AAVSO Council discussed two member proposals to change the name of the organization. A decision was made to post on the General and Governance Forums and ask for opinions. The text of the original posts was carefully structured to explain that the proposal was from members to the Council and that no action would be taken or contemplated until we got input from these two groups. Despite that wording, some people were still confused and thought the idea was a Council-generated proposal, which it was not.  It was Council's decision to seek input on the forums however.

That issue aside, I screen grabbed the responses to both forums after the frequency of comments subsided and prior to my departure from Washington to view the eclipse in Idaho. On the plane, I read and summarized all the posts. I presented the report to Council for their consideration and am now posting the report here for everyone to read.


General Forum: 19 responses received, 1 was about the fact that two threads existed. 1 was a reply to another post. One response was from the President and did not express an opinion.

6 people felt a name change was a good thing to do. 9 people thought it was not and one person presented a neutral position with no clear lean toward yes or no.

Governance Forum: 53 posts received, 3 related to having two forums, some number from the President not expressing an opinion or providing explanation. 12 were replies to other posts.

9 people felt a name change was a good thing to do. 16 people thought it was not. 1 person said maybe, but leaned yes, while 4 said maybe and leaned no. 2 were clearly neutral.


The majority of people posting in response to our queries to the General and Governance Forum did not feel a name change was a good idea at this time. Some were highly critical of the idea or were passionately supportive of the historical context of our organization’s name. The people who expressed support for the name change were generally international in nature or younger and felt that a change would better represent who the AAVSO is and what it does. Of the people expressing a position of maybe, and leaning yes, no or neutral, many expressed understanding of both points of view. Some people provided opinions on other issues not central to the original posts.

I believe that a name change for the organization would not be supported by the majority of our membership based on the posts I tabulated and assuming that the Forums are a good gauge of member opinion generally and that no biases toward answering lean toward the naysayers.

Several responses highlighted the important point that we are known for what we do, and that people are drawn to us because of what we do, not because (or in spite of) our name or our acronym. This is a very positive sentiment, as it means that our members believe our mission...our tangible activities...are the core of what we are as an organization. I suggest that the Council discuss this going forward and consider ways to better articulate our mission to members, observers and potential members, observers and supporters, such as the open Town Hall results from the Ontario meeting.

We should consider using the forums more extensively as a Council as a communication vehicle that can help us lead the organization forward. 

If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me directly ( or post here on the forums.

Clear skies!


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