ann21007 — Announcement

Poster CAP Virtual 2021
15 February 2021
CAP Conference Goes Virtual in 2021

In May 2021 the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU’s) Commission C2 — Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) — will host an entirely virtual conference in its long-running Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference series, CAP 2021. The face-to-face CAP conference that had been planned for September 2020 in Sydney, Australia, has been postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CAP 2021 will be held 24–27 May 2021, under the central theme Communicating Astronomy with the Public in the Age of Global Crises. Thanks to generous support from The Kavli Foundation, which has provided a grant to strengthen the IAU’s public engagement programmes and scientific meetings, registration for CAP 2021 will be free to all attendees.

The Scientific Organising Committee (SOC) is arranging for several keynote presentations by prominent science communicators and communication researchers. Among those already confirmed is John C. Besley, Ellis N. Brandt Professor of Public Relations at Michigan State University (USA). Besley is renowned for his studies of public opinion about science and scientists’ opinions about the public in the context of trying to help science communicators be more strategic. The SOC also invites proposals for oral presentations, e-posters, workshops, and panel discussions to be submitted online by 15 March 2021. Conference topics will include the following:

  • Nontraditional Ways of Communicating Astronomy During a Pandemic;
  • Communicating Climate Change through Astronomy;
  • Communicating Astronomy and Its Relevance in a Post-Factual Society;
  • Anti-Science Actions, Disinformation & Fake News;
  • Promoting Diversity and Inclusion through Astronomy Communication;
  • Current Challenges in Astronomy Communication;
  • The Media’s Role in Astronomy Communication;
  • Using Multimedia, Social Media, Immersive Environments and Other Technologies for Public Engagement with Astronomy;
  • Communicating Astronomy Across Different Regions.

In addition, the SOC is planning two special sessions, for which abstracts are also invited:

  • Legacy of the IAU100 Celebrations
  • Communicating Astronomy: The IAU Strategic Plan 2020–2030

“It is paramount to bring together astronomers and communication professionals to tackle global challenges and the critical role communication and engagement can play to empower and inform society,” says Brooke Smith, Director of Public Engagement at The Kavli Foundation. “We are pleased to continue our partnership with the IAU and to contribute to the CAP Conference, sharing best practices and discussing opportunities to further engage the public in the astronomy community’s discoveries and work.”

The Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2021 Virtual Conference (#VirtualCAP2021) will feature:

  • Live Online Sessions in various time zones suitable for participants in different regions;
  • Recorded Sessions that participants will be able to access and watch at their own pace and later engage in further live discussions with the speakers and other participants;
  • Discussion Forums and Networking Sessions, in which participants will be able to reach out and engage in direct dialogue with the speakers and other participants.

Professionals from science communication, informal education and outreach, as well as professional and amateur astronomers, planetarium and science centre staff members, journalists, public information officers, and other creatives, are invited to attend the conference virtually to exchange ideas and discuss best practices.

Participants will also have the opportunity to add their own topics for discussion during the event’s “unconference” slots. Digital networking activities will encourage learning from peers, identifying potential partnerships, and strengthening the links between participants through various digital platforms.

All contributors who submitted abstracts to the face-to-face conference planned for September 2020 will be contacted by the CAP 2021 Virtual Organising Committee (VOC) and given the opportunity to re-submit (or withdraw) their work for the virtual conference.

The IAU will offer a small number of grants to selected participants from around the world who may struggle with access to the online conference. Those participants who are awarded such a grant are expected to submit abstracts and will receive their grants only after their abstracts have been accepted for presentation at the conference.

Abstract submissions and grant applications are now open (registration will open in March 2021).

Important dates

  • Abstract submission deadline: 15 March 2021
  • Grant application deadline: 15 March 2021
  • Grant winners announcement & accepted works notified: 5 April 2021
  • Submissions of presentations & posters: 5 May 2021
  • Registration deadline: 15 May 2021
  • Virtual CAP 2021: 24–27 May 2021

To stay up to date with the latest information on the Virtual CAP 2021 and the face-to-face CAP 2022, please join the conference mailing list, follow us on Facebook, Twitter with the hashtag #VirtualCAP2021, or send an email to

More information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together almost 12 000 active professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, 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.



Oana Sandu
CAP2021 SOC Co-chair
ESO Department of Communication
Tel: +49 89 320 069 65

Lina Canas
CAP2021 SOC Co-Chair
IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach
Tel: +81-(0)422-34-3966

Ramasamy Venugopal
CAP2021 SOC Co-Chair
IAU Office of Astronomy for Development
Tel: +27 60 776 3832

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621

About the Announcement



Poster CAP Virtual 2021
Logo CAP Virtual 2021
Logo CAP Virtual 2021