iau2010 — Press Release

Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2018
17 December 2020
Kavli Foundation Strengthens IAU Public Engagement Programmes and Scientific Meeting
The International Astronomical Union is awarded $220 000 towards public engagement programmes and scientific meetings in 2021–2024

The IAU is delighted to announce that it has signed three grant agreements with The Kavli Foundation totalling $220 000. $80 000 is to develop a Kavli–IAU Public Engagement Training Programme in 2021; $20 000 is to support the online Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference proposed for April 2021; and $40 000 per year for three years will go towards dedicated Kavli–IAU Interdisciplinary Symposia in 2022–2024.

The ongoing collaboration between the IAU and The Kavli Foundation has been strengthened with three different initiatives aimed at stimulating excellence in science and science communication across the globe: the new Kavli–IAU Public Engagement Training Programme, the eighth Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference in 2021, and a new series of Kavli–IAU Interdisciplinary Symposia. In addition to these three initiatives, the Kavli Foundation has committed to continue supporting the Kavli–IAU Global Coordination of Large Facilities workshops once every three years.

To accomplish Goal 4 in the IAU Strategic Plan 2020–2030, which is to communicate the science of astronomy to the public, it is crucial to assess the needs of astronomers regarding public engagement. Astronomers are renowned for their dedication to outreach, often more so than researchers in any other scientific field (see iau1813) [1]. The Kavli–IAU Public Engagement Training Programme is a novel pilot scheme that aims to transform young astronomers’ skills, attitudes and motivations, empowering them to inform, inspire and collaborate with the public. Coordinated by the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach (OAO), the programme will start, initially online, in 2021. A steering committee of public engagement experts will oversee the project which includes John Besley and IAU members Catherine Heymans, Pedro Russo and Shazrene Mohamad. The training will enable astronomers to identify key communication goals, articulate their communication objectives, utilise a variety of engagement methodologies and build partnerships with communication professionals. 

The Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) Conferences are organised by the IAU Commission C2, and welcome up to 400 science communicators per conference. The 2021 CAP Conference will host a Kavli invited lecturer and a special session highlighting shared best practices in the field of science communication. 

An annual Kavli–IAU Interdisciplinary Symposium will be selected as one of the nine IAU Symposia each year, thereby forming the first regular series of interdisciplinary symposia centered around astronomy, and bringing hundreds of scientists together. They reflect the increasingly multidisciplinary nature of astronomy, that includes to varying degrees physics, mathematics, informatics, chemistry, biology and geology, as well as social sciences and humanities. The first symposium will be held in 2022 and will be selected through the regular annual call for IAU Symposia.

IAU President Ewine van Dishoeck, says: “At a time when it has never been more important to value science and science communication, it is an honour to receive such significant funding from The Kavli Foundation. We are most grateful to the Foundation for their unstinting support of scientific excellence and public engagement.

Supporting scientists through meetings and the Kavli–IAU Public Engagement Training Programme is important in helping us achieve our mission to advance science for the benefit of humanity. We are pleased to continue our longstanding partnership with the IAU on these transformative programmes to ensure scientists work across disciplines, and so they are empowered to engage with the public as effectively as possible.” says Brooke Smith, Director of Public Engagement, Kavli Foundation.


[1] Entradas, M. & Bauer, W., 2018, Bustling public communication by astronomers around the world driven by personal and contextual factors, Nature Astronomy, 3, 183.

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.


Genevieve Marshall
IAU Fundraiser
Leiden, the Netherlands
Tel: +31 71 527 5737
Email: marshall@strw.leidenuniv.nl

Lina Canas
International Outreach Coordinator, IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: +81 422 34 3966
Email: lina.canas@nao.ac.jp

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621
Email: lars@eso.org


Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2018
IAU GA 2018 Focus Meeting 14