Flagship projects

Background: Part of the OAD’s strategy is to coordinate global “flagship” or “signature” projects, which would be implemented on a much larger scale than those funded through the annual call for proposals, and funded through external fundraising. Flagships are seen as an effective means for achieving significant impact of astronomy for development over a substantial part of the world. The OAD has identified five flagship themes that encapsulate the idea of astronomy for development, and which have the potential for global roll-out. The selection of these themes was based on the experience gained from supporting 140 projects (and reviewing about 1000 proposals) since 2013, and with input from 10 regional offices around the world, as well as special OAD projects, partnerships, international trends, etc.

Themes: The five themes that emerged from a consultative and review process are:

  1. Knowledge and skills from astronomy (e.g. data science, teacher training, schools, etc)
  2. Technology from astronomy (e.g. software, water, solar, dark skies, etc)
  3. Stimulating economies (e.g. astrotourism, observatories for communities, etc)
  4. Addressing inequality (e.g. gender, geographic, ability, etc)
  5. Science diplomacy (e.g. peace, post-conflict, partnerships, policy, etc)

Flagship projects: Following discussions with the OAD Steering Committee in February 2019, it was decided that there should be an initial focus on two of these themes (numbered 3 and 5 above). Subsequently the OAD developed these ideas further into the following two flagship projects:

  1. Sustainable, local socio-economic development through Astronomy

This Flagship aims to use an astronomical facility, such as an observatory or planetarium, as a “hub” within a small town or village to stimulate various associated socio-economic benefits for the local community. Benefits could include job creation through astronomy-related tourism; community skills development; educational programmes; stimulation of local innovation; alternative activities for youth in order to keep away from negative/harmful activities; and infrastructure development. The establishment of such a facility in close collaboration with relevant government, industry, academic and development partners, including local and traditional leadership, will ensure the sustainability of the initiative. Read more

  1. Science diplomacy through Astronomy: Celebrating our Common Humanity

Astronomy brings us a perspective of the beauty and scale of the universe. Most famously, Carl Sagan used this perspective to try to positively influence how people interact with their fellow human beings, and our planet, through his description of the earth as a “pale blue dot”. This project aims to take the inspiring potential of astronomy and use it to stimulate a sense of tolerance and common humanity in all parts of the world. Read more

Implementing flagships: The OAD has recruited Visiting Fellows who will work on developing each of these two flagships (desktop studies, identifying partners, investigating costs, implementation plans, potential funders, etc). The two flagships have also been included in the 2019 call for proposals, seeking potential implementers of “pilots” for these flagships. Based on the work of the Visiting Fellows, these potential pilot projects will be developed further during Stage 2 of the call for proposals. All this will inform approaches to potential funders as we continue to fundraise for large scale implementation of these flagship projects.