IAU Member Statistics
The IAU is a truly international body, with a total membership of 12489 individual members (9983 Active) from 101 different countries across all continents as of July 2017 (for the latest data go here). To better understand the unique characteristics of our membership, and to address the needs of our community in a more informed way, the International Astronomical Union has prepared an analysis of its membership numbers across the globe. In this IAU Theme, you can find an overview of the IAU data collected, showing the number of national members present up to 2015, categorised by age group and gender.
IAU Membership Growth
The IAU celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2019 and in its almost century old existence its membership growth reflects the many societal, political and scientific changes the world has been through throughout this time span. Figure 1 shows the evolution of the IAU Membership Growth from 1922 to 2015, in which we can see an expected general growth, having a clear steepness around the mid-sixties, with the “space race” and the adherence of new Asian countries and IAU’s public visibility due to the Pluto issue as possible sources for this increase in slope.
Figure 1: IAU Membership Growth from 1922 to 2015 (total members, including both active and inactive). Source: IAU. (Please, find more information here)
The IAU has two different types of membership: National Members, which are organisations representing national professional astronomical communities, and Individual Members, who are professional scientists whose research is directly relevant to some branch of astronomy, and therefore eligible for membership (IAU Affiliation). Figure 2 shows the evolution of the number of IAU National Members from 1920-2015, running from eight members back in 1920 to 2015 with 78 National Members.
Please note that a new category of membership, the Junior Member, will be proposed for approval at the XXX General Assembly (Vienna, August 2018). The Junior Member is a researcher in some branch of astronomy that has just completed his/her PhD and has the intention to continue to work in the field of astronomy. If approved, new Junior Members may be admitted into the Union every year for a maximum period of six years, after which they may qualify as Individual Members. It is expected that the admission of the Junior Members in 2018 will substantially modify the age and gender distributions.
Figure 2 - Number of IAU National Members from 1920 to 2015. Source: IAU. (Please, find the latest data here)
This analysis results in four key charts plotted according to the number of members in each country. Countries with fewer than 20 members are represented in Figure 3; with between 20 and 99 members in Figure 4, with between 100 and 399 members Figure 5, and, Figure 6, representing the data for countries with more than 400 members.
The age range of the members by country is shown in percentage bars, divided into eight categories (with a ten year interval) from the age of 20 to 99 years old. For reference, the number of members per country is also displayed (in black numbers above each bar), and the number of female members per age group per country is shown in white numbers inside each bar. The blank space above a bar accounts for members in a country for whom we lack age data.
Figure 3 - Active members from countries with 1-19 members. (Data retrieved on February, 2016. Please, find the latest data here) (Note: Blank space percentage above a bar accounts for members for whom we lack age data.)
Figure 4 - Active members from countries with 20-99 members. (Data retrieved on February, 2016. Please, find the latest data here) (Note: Blank space percentage above a bar accounts for members for whom we lack age data.)
Figure 5 - Active members from countries with 100 to 399 members. (Data retrieved on February, 2016. Please, find the latest data here) (Note: Blank space percentage above a bar accounts for members for whom we lack age data.)
Figure 6 - Active members from countries with more than 400 members. (Data retrieved on February, 2016. Please, find the latest data here). (Note: Blank space percentage above a bar accounts for members for whom we lack age data.)
IAU Gender distribution
Across the entire membership of the IAU, only 17% are women (retrieved on July 2017, for the latest data, please follow this link). There is little variation in this figure across the four membership groups as presented here in Graphs II to V, although the proportion of women members falls slightly with increasing overall membership in a country (19% in the two groups representing total membership below 100 per country, and 16% for the group with over 400 members per country).
The Cornerstone Project “She is an Astronomer” during the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) started collecting statistics about female astronomers, taking a first look at the numbers across the world and finding considerable variations around different regions (Cesarsky, C. and Walker, H. (2010)). Severe deficiencies in proper (systematical) data collecting were also identified. Throughout the years, the IAU is firmly committed to increasing the number of women studying and working in astronomy, and maintains the Women in Astronomy Working Group to pursue this objective.
In 2016, the IAU successfully applied as a project partner to the International Council for Science (ICSU) grant program with the proposal: "A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical and Natural Sciences: how to measure it, how to reduce it?". The program, led by the International Mathematical Union (IMU), will allow, for the first time, different scientific communities and international unions, to join forces in measuring and reducing the gender gap in the scientific community.
IAU Age Distribution
For this analysis, the term “young astronomer” refers to an IAU member aged between 25 and 45 years old. This range is divided into five categories of five years each — 20-25, 25-30 and so forth. This definition is distinct from other ways of analysing career development, such as years since obtaining a PhD.
In Table I, we see that 18% of our membership falls within the age range of young astronomers. In addition, 11% falls within the 75-100 age-range. The largest proportion of IAU members in a five-year category is between 55-60 years old — this category alone has 12% of the total membership.
Over many years, the IAU has taken different actions to encourage young members to become actively involved within the work of the IAU. The IAU Office of Young Astronomers (OYA) and the IAU PhD prize are recent examples of these measures.
Table I: Total number and corresponding percentages in Gender within the IAU Active Members by age range. Please note that this does not include IAU Members for which we do not have a date of birth. (Source: IAU) (Date retrieved on June 2017. Please, find the latest data here)
Office of Young Astronomers (OYA)
The primary purpose of the OYA is to run the IAU program International Schools for Young Astronomers (ISYA). The OYA was established in 2015 by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (NASL) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) with the aim of ensuring a robust financial and organizational basis for the implementation of the ISYA program.
Women in Astronomy Working Group (WiA WG)
The WiA WG reports directly to the IAU Executive Committee (EC). It seeks to collect statistics on female participation in astronomy throughout all countries where astronomical research is conducted, and to also develop and execute strategies that help to achieve equity for women in this field.
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