Astronomy is a feriociously collaborative field. I would call it the canary in the international affairs coal mine. Many countries that have a delicate political relationship have managed to work together on astronomy projects, when a military, economic or social project would certainly be seen as too controversial and destabilizing. The Apollo/Soyuz cold-war collaboration, our various partnerships with ESA even while we differed on the Iraq War II, there are enough examples I may try to later milk a full article from this concept.
Astronomy is also one of the first fields to use the early WWW, to first do open access journals (e.g. ads.harvard.edu), and to (along with the CIA) implement internal social networking-- the CIA with Intellipedia, NASA with Spacebook. Personally, I just think we're friendly and more interested in results than ideologies.
To set this international stage, here are pull quotes from the keynote address by Michael S. Turner, a University of Chicago professor and former NSF assistant director. While I'm writing a lengthier piece (akin to my coverage of Neil deGrasse Tyson's keynote), I can quickly start things here and now with these tweets I sent earlier today.
On what astronomy is essentially about, this trio of quotes:
How far can you see on a clear day? Well, you can see back to the birth of galaxies. And Hubble did that. M. Turner #astroconf
Use the universe as a Heavenly Laboratory to extend our Understanding of the laws of Nature. M. Turner #astroconf
Astronomy [today] is almost purely discovery science (no economic value present) [and the] #1 gateway to STEM careers. M. Turner #astroconf
On how funding works for big projects:
Anything over a billion looks lke a global science project. M. Turner #astroconf
1 fighter jet = NSF budget for 1 year. moderator #astroconf
Any my favorite, on frankness in scientific culture:
Academics (you can tell from this talk) are not afraid to just get up and say what's in their mind. M. Turner #astroconf
These were posted to my science twitter feed, @skyday. Please follow me there. I promise it will remain science-focused and low-traffic with the occassional rapid bursts of realtime quotes when I attend science and social media conferences.