Letters of Intent for 2015

LoI 2015-216
Focus Meeting: Communicating Astronomy with the Public in the Big Data Era


10 August 2015 to 12 August 2015


IAU GA, Honolulu, United States


Pedro Russo (

Coordinating division:

Division C Education, Outreach and Heritage

Co-Chairs of SOC:

Pedro Russo (Leiden Obs/Leiden University)
Kazuhiro Sekiguchi (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)
Pamela Gay (Southwest Illinois University Edwardsville)
Ian Robson (Science & Technology Facilities Council)
Carolina Ödman-Govender (SAAO/SKA/OAD)

Chair of LOC:




IAU Commission 55 would like to organise a focus meeting on astronomy communication. The focus will be on the new role of the researcher in astronomy communication. Some of the questions and topics that we would like to see addressed during such session are:

How to recognise the work of researchers in astro communication?
How will big data and big science affect the way that we communicate with the public?
What would researchers like to improve in communication initiatives?
How to engage researchers with "upstream communication"?
How can communicators support the work of the researchers?
What is the relationship between public opinion and research funding?



One of the most important current trends in astronomy communication in recent years has been “change”. The field of astronomy communication have in recent years changed — in some cases even drastically. And research astronomy also have changed very visibly, for instance in the fields dealing with handling of large amounts of data. How can scientists and communicators together navigate the raging waters of the data flood and keep up with the ever-changing society?

There has been a notable shift in the profile of the information gatekeepers: from being a select group of scientists, authors, journalists and editors to the new curators of knowledge: the crowd. Social media tools has been developing incredibly rapidly, and services like Facebook and Twitter are extremely popular and are helping the new information gatekeepers to share knowledge.

There is room for improvement and innovation to prevent important knowledge from being drowned out by the sheer volume of data created and research published each day. With an average of 40 scientific papers published each day on astro-ph in 2012, we have to keep up with the fast pace of astronomy research and technology developments and develop new and innovative ways of steering the public through the huge amounts of new research. There have been some successful initiatives dealing with these changes. Large organisations, such as NASA, ESO, ESA and JAXA, have embraced the social media to reach out to new audiences. Other organisations have created citizen science projects that have made scientific data accessible to the general public. This Focus Meeting will deal with these pressing issues, and investigate some of the successful and less successful initiatives.


Office for Astronomy Development

Office for Astronomy Development

Strategic Plan

International Year of Astronomy