OAD Session at IAU General Assembly 2024

Session title: IAU Offices Institutional Meeting: OAD Office of Astronomy for Development

Date: Thursday, August 8

The Office of Astronomy for Development will organise several sessions on astronomy-for-development at the upcoming IAU General Assembly 2024. The IAU GA will take place from 6-15 August 2024 in Cape Town, South Africa, and online.

Abstracts and grant applications close on Friday, 1 March 2024.

Contact: For more information or any queries you may have, please send an email to Dr Joyful Mdhluli, joy@astro4dev.org.

Goal 3 of the IAU Strategic Plan 2020-2030 states “The IAU promotes the use of astronomy as a tool for development in every country.” To realise this the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) seeks to further the use of astronomy as a tool for addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, by capitalising on the field’s scientific, technological and cultural links and impact on society. The OAD represents a major financial and philosophical commitment of the IAU to ensure that astronomy will have a truly global impact on society. As of 2021 the OAD has supported over 200 projects in over 100 countries across the world, and established 11 regional and language offices. The OAD also conducted an analysis of all lessons and trends to date, and established a set of global “flagship” projects, which receive greater focus and are coordinated directly from the OAD. Amidst this ongoing work the OAD has also reacted to more immediate challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, with special activities. Given the scale of activity and the significant global OAD network, this meeting will allow IAU members to engage with the work of the OAD and to contribute to shaping its future.


The topics proposed here have been chosen on the broad principles within that abstract, and considering that this meeting intends to reflect on the past, present and future of Astronomy-for-Development, and to plan the next decade in line with the IAU Strategy 2020-2030.

Topic 1: The three OAD Flagship projects: OAD flagships were chosen based on the OAD’s past project experience, input from regional offices, consultations with development professionals, and an analysis of international trends as relates to the UN Sustainable Development Goals . Out of the five flagships identified through this consultative process, three were chosen by the OAD Steering Committee and are being developed within the OAD. Project proposers in the 2019 call for proposals were given the opportunity to submit proposals for “pilots” for two of these flagships, with the third launching in 2020.

Topic 2: Global structure in astronomy-for-development – OAD’s Regional Offices: The process of establishing regional offices of astronomy for development and language expertise centres is a complex and lengthy process, sometimes taking years before an office is established. Once established there is still the challenge of all offices working together in synergy and delivering on the vision of astronomy for a better world. This topic will revolve around the activities of the many regional offices that have been established and reflect on challenges and opportunities, as well as potential plans to reach regions not currently covered.

Topic 3: OAD Projects: The call for proposals has been a key part of the OAD’s portfolio and is where a significant amount of IAU funding is spent. Activities are largely run by volunteers who apply for OAD grants. Discussions here will reflect on what has been funded thus far, what has been the impact of these past-funded projects, how does one evaluate such an impact, and how the process should evolve into the future, including the involvement of the regional offices.

Topic 4: Interdisciplinary imperatives: synergies between natural and social sciences for the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the OAD Collaboration Gateway: It has always been clear within the astronomy-for-development community that in order for the IAU to realise development ambitions through astronomy, there is an important need to engage with development and social science fields. This topic will explore this need for interdisciplinary collaborations and how we should move into the future to ensure maximum societal benefit from astronomy, with specific organisations and individuals invited to participate. The OAD also launched its Collaboration Gateway in 2021, in order to help facilitate such interdisciplinary partnerships.

Topic 5: Synergies between IAU structures (OAD, OAO, OAE, OYA, IAU Divisions, Executive Community Working Groups, etc): Given the many activities within the IAU there is a constant need for synergies among its different structures. The focus of the astronomy-for-development activities on the broad UN Sustainable Development Goals means that this work has to interact with all IAU structures in order to explore how the different aspects of astronomy can be used for development. This meeting is the ideal place to discuss the broader IAU contributions to global development, and how we can optimise our collective impact through synergies. This will be in a joint session with all IAU Offices (OAE, OAO, OYA, OAD)


  • Joyful Mdhluli (OAD, South Africa) – Co-chair

  • Kevin Govender (OAD, South Africa) – Co-chair

  • Thijs Kouwenhoven (Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU), China, Nanjing)

  • Awni Moh’d khasawneh (Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, Jordan)

  • Areg Mickaelian (Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO), Armenia)

  • Peter Kretschmar (European Space Agency (ESA), Spain)

  • Mirjana Povic (SSGI, Ethiopia)

  • Chukwujekwu Nworah (NASRDA-Centre for Basic Space Science, Nigeria)

  • Tshiamiso Makwela (Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE), South Africa)

  • Kelly Blumenthal (Office of Astronomy for Outreach (OAO),  Japan)

  • Edward Jurua (Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda)

OAD session at IAU General Assembly 2024

Draft Programme

Session 1: OAD Projects and Programs

Invited talk 1: Khotso Mokhele – The significance of the OAD in the global science landscape (15′)

Invited talk 2: Vanessa Mcbride – Science as a global public good (10′)

Invited talk 3: Debra Elmegreen – Astronomy for a Better World: Reflections on the OAD (10′)


Oral Presentation 1: Overview of OAD activities 

Oral Presentation 2: Samyukta Manikumar – Flagship 1: Astronomy for Socioeconomic Development

Oral Presentation 3: Dominic Vertue – The Universe Within: Using Astronomy to Explore Inner Spaces and Mental Health

Oral Presentation 4: Eslam Hussein – Empowering Global Communities Through Data Skills Development: The Hack4dev Initiative

(Flash talks 7′ each)

Oral Presentation 5: Rena Lee – Impact Report of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development’s Funded Projects in 2022-2023 

Oral Presentation 6: Sofia Rojas Ruiz – BARCo: Bringing Astronomy to Rural Communities of Colombia 

Oral Presentation 7: Ofodum Chukwujekwu On the Prisoner’s Reformation Programme in Nigeria through Astro-prison Projects (Virtual)

Oral Presentation 8: Ann Njeri – Elimisha Msichana Elimisha Jamii na Astronomia (Swahili for “Educate a girl, educate the entire community with Astronomy”).

Oral Presentation 9: Sonal Asgotraa – Astrostays : Creating sustainable livelihoods through Community Led Astro-tourism


Session 2: OAD Projects and Regions

(Flash talks 7′ each)

Oral Presentation 10: Giovanna Pugliese – The NOVA SKIES Programme – A training on entrepreneurial competences for young astronomers (Virtual)

Oral Presentation 11: Johanna Maria Casado – Research on access, use and effective exploration of astronomical data (Virtual)

Oral Presentation 12: Saeed Jafari – Under Iran Sky Programme: How to Share and Protect Indigenous Astronomical Knowledge and Indigenous Languages (Virtual)

Oral Presentation 13: Bella Bayu – Advancing Disaster Resilience in Ethiopia: Harnessing Astronomy and Interdisciplinary Collaboration for Sustainable Development 

Regions (60′) – Moderator: Dr. Charles Takalana

Afternoon e-poster and Coffe/Tea Break

Session 3: Interdisciplinary imperatives 

Invited talk 4: Ashley Cooper – Astronomy and the Reduction of Anxiety: Digestible Astrophysics and Immersive Experiences (10′ – Virtual)

(Flash talks 7′ each)

Oral Presentation 14 : Sandra Benitez – Astronomy for Mental Health activities in Spain: supporting elderly people, refugees and children (Virtual)

Oral Presentation 15: Vanessa Moss – The connection of “how we science” with UN Sustainable Development Goals

Oral Presentation 16: Rosa Maria Ros Ferre – The impact of hands-on and eyes on the sky activities after 15 years NASE (Virtual)

Oral Presentation 17: Mirwat Shamshad – Astro-Phy Quench – Unlocking potential through STEM exposure for undeserved and underrepresented community

Oral Presentation 18: Beatriz Mingo – Astronomers for Planet Earth (Virtual)


(Flash talks 7′ each)

Oral Presentation 19: Niruj Mohan Ramanujam – Hanle Dark Sky Reserve in India: socio-economic development using science tourism.

Oral Presentation 20: Bethelhem Nigussie SSGI’s Vital Contribution to OAD Mission: Advancing Astronomy in the East African Region and Beyond

Oral Presentation 21: Emmy Iiyambo A holistic approach to societal impact: the African Millimetre Telescope in Namibia

Oral Presentation 22: Timi Ekubo Illuminating the Night Sky; Harnessing Astronomy for Socio-Economic Development in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria

Closing Remarks (5′)