The International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) programme is announcing a number of exciting new partnerships that will assist with the IAU’s decadal strategic plan, aimed at realising the societal benefits of astronomy. These landmark decisions involve establishing two new coordinating centres that use astronomy as a tool for development in the East and South East Asian regions, as well as launching an array of exciting programmes and events with different institutions across the world.
The first of these pioneering agreements, concerning a coordinating centre to be established in the East Asian region (in China), was signed on Tuesday 21 August 2012 by a consortium of institutes: the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA, Peking University), Beijing Planetarium and Yunnan Astronomical Observatory. The consortium is supported in their efforts by various important partners including the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), the East Asian Core Observatories Association (EACOA), and Pyongyang Astronomical Observatory (PAO).
The centre will cover two important functions: a regional node, which will coordinate astronomy for development activities in countries within the general geographical region of East Asia, and a Language Expertise Centre, which will deal with all aspects relating to (mainly) Chinese language and culture.
A second regional node will be established in the South East Asian region (in Thailand) and coordinated by the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT).
These agreements are the first of their kind to be signed anywhere in the world. They follow the IAU’s Announcement of Opportunity that went out in January 2012, and which has attracted 31 letters of intent and 15 full proposals (received from every populated continent) to establish coordinating nodes.
In addition to these exciting announcements, the OAD, in partnership with The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) has launched a call for proposals for a number of global activities aimed at using astronomy to stimulate high quality education and research at university level. One of these activities is the Associate Scientists programme, where scientists and lecturers from developing regions, who are interested in using astronomy to develop university-level education in their home countries, will be provided with the means to travel to the ICTP in Italy and stay for a period of up to six weeks per year. Individual travel grants, funds for meetings and workshops as well as regional schools for young scientists are also included in this programme.
An additional agreement with the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA, based in Pune, India) will provide training for potential leaders in the development of astronomy education at university, school and public levels, as well as facilitate visits from skilled experts. A separate agreement with the University of Central Lancashire will award 12 scholarships for their distance learning astronomy programme to African students. These scholarships will target individuals who have demonstrated a potential to lead astronomy activities in their home countries and are in need of a professional qualification in the field.
These announcements are an important step towards cultivating the field of astronomy in developing regions and allowing them to benefit from it as a tool for development.
Anyone interested in submitting a proposal for any of the OAD programmes, including earlier initiatives (not mentioned in this release) relating to universities and research, children and schools and the public are invited to visit www.astro4dev.org.
The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together almost 10 000 distinguished astronomers from all nations of the world. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.
Director, IAU Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD)
Tel: +27 824 878 466
Richard de Grijs
Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University
Tel: +86 10 62758461
Director, National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT)
Tel: +66 (0)53 225 569
Senior Research Scientist, International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)
Tel: +39 040 2240 285
General Secretary, International Astronomical Union
Tel: +33 1 43 25 83 58
Mary Ann Williams
Public Information Officer, ICTP
Tel: +39 040 2240 603