Focus Meeting20: Astronomy for Development,IAU GA 2015

The OAD coordinated a Focus Meeting (FM20) at the 2015 IAU General Assembly titled “Astronomy for Development.” The meeting took place on 13-14 August 2015. Please visit www.astronomy2015.org for more information.

Overview

This Focus Meeting is about the global developmental impact that all aspects related to astronomy can deliver. It focuses on impact at university and research level; children and school level; and public outreach level. The interdisciplinary nature of this meeting makes it relevant to all IAU Divisions and the professional astronomy community in general. The manner in which the strategic plan has been designed and the way in which OAD implements it allows for input and innovation from the professional community both to develop the astronomy field globally and to stimulate the developmental benefits arising from the astronomy field. The OAD Regional Nodes and Language Expertise Centres have brought in high level support from institutions and governments all over the world, and drive the “bottom up” approach of the strategic plan. IAU members have played a key role in every stage of implementation of the strategic plan, from its ratification, through to strong participation in its implementation. This meeting serves to report back to them in terms of progress, as well as seek input from them in terms of shaping the way forward.

Topics

1. The IAU Strategic Plan and the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development
2. Synergies between the OAD and IAU Divisions
3. Regional Nodes and Language Expertise Centres
4. OAD Call for proposals and funded projects
5. Global projects relating to Astronomy for Development, including citizen science
6. Monitoring and evaluation across all activities
7. Long term goals for the IAU’s Astronomy for Development activities
8. Fundraising and implementation of special projects
9. Volunteers and volunteer opportunities for IAU members
10. Technological capacity building, astronomical instrumentation and IT

SOC

Claude Carignan, UCT SA
Ian Corbett, UK
JP de Greve, Vrije Universiteit/C46 Brussels
Megan Donahue, Michigan State US
Edward Gomez, LCOGT UK
Kevin Govender, IAU OAD South Africa
Ed Guinan, Villanova US
George Miley, Leiden University Netherlands
Khotso Mokhele, NRF SA
Pedro Russo, UNAWE Netherlands
Ian Robson, STFC UK
Kaz Sekiguchi, NAOJ Japan
Robert Simpson, Zooniverse UK
Patricia Whitelock, SAAO SA

Programme

Please see www.astronomy2015.org for the final programme. This page will be updated with presentations from the meeting. If you have any queries in the meantime please contact Kevin Govender (kg@astro4dev.org).

Rationale

The IAU Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) was established in 2011 as part of the IAU’s decadal strategic plan (this plan was ratified by IAU membership at the 2009 General Assembly). Since then the OAD has engaged with IAU members through regular updates in Information Bulletins, a call for volunteers and the establishment of three Task Forces (Universities and Research – TF1; Children and Schools – TF2; Public Outreach – TF3). Throughout its existence the OAD has worked closely with Division C’s Commission 46 (Education and Development) and Commission 55 (Communicating Astronomy with the Public), with members of the respective Organising Committees playing key roles in the OAD Task Forces. Through these Task Forces the OAD conducts an annual Call for Proposals, which seeks to award funding to innovative astronomy-for-development projects from around the world. Ultimate oversight of the OAD is conducted by the Extended Development Oversight Committee (EDOC) comprising the IAU President, IAU General Secretary, President of Division C, and the 6 members of the OAD Steering Committee.

This proposed Focus Meeting will be of interest to all IAU members, more especially the many members who have already participated in OAD activities, and those who wish to do so in the future. It will also be of interest to all IAU Divisions because of a specific topic on synergies between the OAD and each Division. To stimulate these synergies we intend to host a panel discussion during the FM with representatives from all Divisions.

Beyond this it will showcase a substantial accomplishment of the IAU, carried out with IAU funding. The visibility of having this meeting at the GA is also important to the IAU’s partner, the South African government, who hosts the OAD and provides a significant part of the operational funding. The meeting will emphasise the societal importance of astronomy and the relevance of the IAU, particularly to the US community, who will be hosting the GA.

In addition, the OAD’s presence at the GA should be anchored to an event like a Focus Meeting. As with the previous GA, the OAD intends to have an exhibition area and play a key role in coordinating the Young Astronomers Events such as the Young Astronomers Lunch and the Young Astronomers Consultancy Service. These other activities do not allow for the necessary discussion on future planning and synergies that a Focus Meeting brings. The presence of the OAD at the GA through those other activities would also attract attention to this Focus Meeting (as we saw happening at the Beijing GA) so we do expect a full house at the Focus Meeting (as we had during the Special Session at the Beijing GA).

In terms of the content of the Focus Meeting, the OAD has made significant progress in implementing the Strategic Plan 2010-2020. At the GA in 2015 we will be in a position, halfway through the decade, to reflect on impact and plan the way forward. The question of monitoring and evaluation will therefore be a crucial topic and applicable to any education or development programmes conducted by IAU members and beyond. Specific comments on each topic are given here:

1. The IAU Strategic Plan and the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development:
This topic will reflect on the original vision behind the Strategic Plan and discuss its future. The OAD will also showcase the activities it has been involved in so far and lay the framework for the rest of the discussions.

2. Synergies between the OAD and IAU Divisions:
It is important for the OAD to be able to tap into each of the IAU Divisions in order to effectively carry out its mandate. This GA will be an ideal opportunity to develop, and in some cases reinforce, synergies that will be of benefit both to the Divisions and the OAD. The specific item on the programme will revolve around a panel discussion with representatives from each Division.

3. Regional Nodes and Language Expertise Centres:
We intend to have representation from several Regional Nodes and Language Expertise Centres to engage on regional developments. These nodes have attracted the support at very high (national) level with several institutions and governments around the world becoming involved. The activities thus contribute, in the long term, to increase the national membership of the IAU through the involvement of countries sometimes new to the union.

4. OAD Call for proposals and funded projects
This has become an increasingly important activity of the OAD with the annual call seeing a 20% increase in demand from the first to the second year of implementation. In these first two years of implementation approximately 40 projects will have been funded globally. These projects will be highlighted in an overview talk with some selected projects showcased through posters and presentations, demonstrating the impact of the Strategic Plan.

5. Global projects relating to Astronomy for Development, including citizen science:
In the international astronomy education and outreach arena there are several projects that aspire towards global reach. This will be an opportunity to highlight some of the projects related to the IAU and collaborating with the OAD such as the International School for Young Astronomers (ISYA), the Universe Awareness Programme (UNAWE), the Galileo Teacher Training Programme (GTTP) and the Network for Astronomy School Education (NASE), as well as various citizen science projects, such as the Zooniverse, that reach people from across the world.

6. Monitoring and evaluation across all activities:
From 2014 the OAD will be implementing a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework that was developed during 2013 in collaboration with the Institute for Monitoring and Evaluation at the University of Cape Town. This (dynamic) framework is an excellent tool for the astronomy community to help formulate monitoring and evaluation plans for any education or development projects, and will be highlighted in the programme.

7. Long term goals for the IAU’s Astronomy for Development activities:
Importantly this meeting will also discuss the long term goals for the IAU’s astronomy-for-development activities and explore the various possibilities in terms of sustainability. It is intended to facilitate planning the next phase of the implementation of the Strategic Plan. For this there needs to be a wide representation of astronomers and also those interested in education/outreach. These issues will tie in closely with the discussion on synergies between the OAD and IAU Divisions.

8. Fundraising and implementation of special projects:
This topic, which will be highlighted in the programme, relates to the OAD’s role in fundraising and implementing special projects. Once again this ties in to the synergies between the OAD and IAU Divisions, especially concerning the OAD’s role in raising funds for, and possibly implementing, education and development activities that may be proposed within each Division.

9. Volunteers and volunteer opportunities for IAU members:
The OAD has attracted hundreds of volunteers both from within the IAU membership and beyond. During the meeting the opportunities for volunteers will be highlighted as well as some specific activities carried out by volunteers. The OAD serves as a place where anyone in the global astronomical community can go to if they wish to contribute to any education, outreach or development projects at all levels of education.

10. Technological capacity building, astronomical instrumentation and IT:
Through the work of the OAD the need for technological capacity building in many parts of the world has become abundantly clear. Another challenge is the availability of appropriate astronomical instrumentation and computing resources, with the corresponding skills sets. The choice of speakers and projects to be highlighted will take this into consideration in the final programme.