Anita Heward and Robert Massey report from a meeting that discussed how astronomers could engage with the public and politicians – and ask what are the most effective ways to do so?What is the role of science in public debate and policymaking? If researchers in fields directly relevant to society are struggling to make their voices heard, how can astronomers join in? What do astronomers actually want to say – and are they listening to responses?We wanted to start a dialogue in Europe on best practice and the effectiveness of astronomy-related public and policy engagement. We held a session at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) 2017 on Making the Case for Astronomy: Public and Political Engagement.
EWASS is the annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society (EAS) and is Europe's largest meeting on astronomy, held in 2017 in Prague Keep in mind that good views of faint or diffuse astronomical objects will wide mixture of current astronomy, some space material, news reports and quite a lot .
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Starting the discussionContributors to the session were invited to present case studies in engagement with the public and policymakers, to explore measures for evaluating impact and share strategies for engaging with different audiences. In order to generate discussion, we limited the talks to 10 minutes each, with 30 minutes of open debate in each 90-minute session.
The first session focused on public engagement, the second on policy, overall showing a variety of viewpoints and approaches. A clear need for more information emerged, including shared best practice, case studies and social science research, that could help us engage more effectively with our target audiences – and understand the motivations and needs of our own community, too.
Here we summarize themes from the presentations and the debate. International collaborationThe importance of international collaboration was a feature of almost every talk.
Mathieu Isidro (SKA Organisation) highlighted the politics and complexities of working with hundreds of companies and institutions across 20 countries and three continents to develop the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world's largest radio telescope. As well astronomers, the SKA needs to build relationships with local communities, industry, regional and national governments and supranational entities.
In showing examples of science diplomacy, political lobbying and public engagement by the SKA, Isidro stressed the importance of ensuring each group developed strong links to the project. Presentations on EGO/Virgo, JIVE and Europlanet all demonstrated the role that EU funding has played in building pan-European communities and infrastructures for astronomy and, thus, the need for engagement with politicians at both a national and EU level. This, of course, generated some discussion on Brexit, which affects not only UK involvement in EU projects but will also have a major impact on the overall budget for the next Framework 9 funding programme.
The Royal Astronomical Society has coordinated input for the UK astronomy community to inquiries into impacts of Brexit, including the implications for the science budget, and information on citizenship from RAS demographic surveys (Massey 2017).
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Social mediaInvited speaker Karen O'Flaherty (European Space Agency) reviewed ESA's approach to engagement with external audiences for space missions, including ExoMars, Rosetta, Gaia and LISA Pathfinder.
In addition to traditional forms of reporting on missions, ESA has built up a comprehensive suite of social media channels and online interactive tools Learn what UC Berkeley Department of Astronomy Astronomers have to say about You will also need to write a statement of purpose and submit letters of .
O'Flaherty shared some of the lessons learned and reflected on the impact of these communication campaigns in reaching audiences in a world where people are bombarded in their daily lives with information from multiple diverse sources. The raw emotion and tension of the unfolding drama of Philae's landing on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was an extraordinary demonstration of the power of social media in providing up-to-the-second news of the mission.
It enabled the sense of a direct, personal connection between ESA and members of the public. However, O'Flaherty also highlighted how a successful presence on social media needs a significant investment of time; this can be extremely challenging to sustain for long periods when operated by small teams or volunteers.
Claudia Mignone (ESA/ESTEC/Vitrociset Belgium) presented a detailed study of public reactions to the Rosetta mission blog run by ESA between 2013 and 2016, from Rosetta's wake-up from deep-space hibernation to the end of the mission. A total of 682 posts were published, including news about mission operations, science publications, images of the comet and guest posts by mission scientists and engineers.
Mignone pointed out that while more than 18 600 comments were posted in response to the blogs over the period, many discussions were dominated by a group of between 10 and 20 extremely active commenters. The open debate at the end of the session included a lively discussion about the challenges of effective use of social media and whether or not it is now an essential part of any communications strategy. Given the large time investment, there needs to be a good understanding of who the real audience is and who is reached beyond a small number of highly engaged people.
Through more sharing of best practice, lessons could be learned about when the use of social media is genuinely merited and when other forms of communication might be a more effective use of resources 1 Feb 2018 - If researchers in fields directly relevant to society are struggling to make their voices heard, how can astronomers join in? What do astronomers .
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Lack of information flow frustrated those commenters most engaged with the blog, while some scientists felt that the commenters lacked understanding of the scientific process. Julia Heuritsch (Centre for Science and Technology Studies, University of Leiden, Netherlands) gave a wider context to the discussion by describing a qualitative and quantitative study she is undertaking of how the evaluation system in astronomy, with its focus on publication and citation rates, affects the research behaviour of astronomers.
She has conducted interviews with astronomers at different career stages from the Sterrenwacht Observatory in Leiden and examined whether scientists, who have a vested interest in continuing their research to earn a living, are influenced by the need to hit targets required to secure future funding. Understanding this kind of strategic behaviour, which Heuritsch linked to gaming, can inform policymaking in order to safeguard the quality of astronomy research.
Role models and human interestSona Farmanyan, who spoke about science communication activities by the Armenian Astronomical Society, stressed the important role that “traditional” science communication methods and face-to-face interactions, such as public talks, festivals, events and journalism, continue to have in generating in-depth engagement and providing role models to the community. It can also be important for scientists to see the “human face” of the wider society that funds and benefits from their work.
As an example, Claudia Mignone presented the Rosetta Legacy Campaign, in which 235 people shared images, stories and videos to demonstrate how they had been influenced by Rosetta in their daily lives (figure 1). Contributors included artists who had drawn inspiration from the mission, students who changed their subject or career choices and adults who had made changes in their lives.
1The Rosetta mission captured the public's imagination, in part through ESA's use of social media. The Rosetta Legacy Campaign enabled members of the public to publish online their thoughts about the mission's impact on their own lives: . 1The Rosetta mission captured the public's imagination, in part through ESA's use of social media.
The Rosetta Legacy Campaign enabled members of the public to publish online their thoughts about the mission's impact on their own lives: .
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Since its launch in March 2015, the Horizon 2020-funded EU Space Awareness project has trained 2800 teachers, developed a repository of space-related teaching resources and activities in eight languages, produced professional development tools for educators, and created a space career hub, with a particular focus on engaging with underprivileged communities and developing countries, especially in Africa This widespread interest in astronomy can be tapped not only to increase knowledge and Education and public outreach provide means to do so. follows closely the report prepared by the Panel on Astronomy Education and Policy..
Debates and dialogueThe open debate parts of the EWASS session included some discussion of models of science communication and attitudes towards engagement within the astronomy community.
While some participants argued that if the public and policymakers knew more about astronomy and space science they would be more supportive, others argued that the picture was more complex. Invited speaker Mario Bisi (STFC) presented a case study of policy and public engagement about the risks from space weather of disruption to the technological infrastructures (such as power, transport, communications and finance) that are now so critical to the smooth functioning of human societies and their economies.
Bisi stressed the importance for the scientific community of engaging in sustained dialogue with a range of audiences, including policymakers, engineers, insurers and the public, to understand the implications of the science for each of these different groups and derive insights that can help with future planning and research. In his presentation on public and political engagement activities by the European Geosciences Union, Ozg r Karatekin touched on strategies for tackling controversial topics, such as climate change and mineral extraction.
In these cases, it is essential to have a good understanding of what people think in order to build an engagement strategy and address any misconceptions. Studies such as the Review of Key Issues Around Social Acceptance of Geoscience Activities and Earth Sciences in Ireland (Geological Survey Ireland 2016) have been very helpful in better understanding public knowledge and attitudes to geosciences.
The EWASS session also prompted discussion about the assumptions and preconceptions underlying astronomy engagement. A common central pillar of astronomy communication is based on the idea that space provides a hook to draw people, particularly children, into other areas of science. An EU Space Awareness survey suggests that an interest in space follows an interest in science as a whole.
Can you describe a day on the job as an astronomer? (beginner
The survey, published by DeWitt and Bultitude (2017), explored the influence of activities, experiences and individuals on the career-related motivations and choices of participants. When participants were asked when they became interested in science in general and space science in particular, responses suggested that the interest in general science began at an earlier age, with the interest in space science following a bit later.
The authors stress that the findings could be influenced by their sample and the phrasing of the question. However, further research that would give a more robust understanding of the role of space and/or astronomy in influencing career choices would be valuable, especially to shape strategy aimed at inspiring the next generation of scientists.
Impact vs intrinsic valueGeosciences and space weather have an obvious relevance to wider society, but many areas of astronomy are less tangible for the public and policymakers. Surveys on public attitudes, such as Eurobarometer, cite global challenges as the main priorities for science; blue-skies research is seen as less important (European Commission 2014).
Funding programmes at national and European level place increasing emphasis on impact, with evaluation of Horizon 2020 proposals giving scores on impact equal weight to scores on scientific excellence. Perhaps the topic that generated most discussion during the EWASS session concerned the context in which to present astronomy and space science to policymakers.
Some participants felt strongly that astronomers should focus on demonstrating direct relevancies to wider society, such as spin-offs, applications (e.
for big data), the inspirational value for STEM and the economic worth of the space sector 19 Jun 2015 - It's tough to answer what an astronomer does every day since different days we do different things. We typically divide our time between 5 or 6 .
Others felt equally strongly that there would always be other areas that had more societal relevance (e. biosciences), so astronomers should make a strong case for the importance of blue-skies research for its own sake. Make your case in LiverpoolWe will follow up these discussions with another session on Making the Case for Astronomy and Space Science on Thursday 5 April at EWASS 2018 ( /EWASS2018; held jointly with the NAM) in Liverpool.
It will focus predominantly on engagement with policymakers, and panellists include Clare Moody MEP, Terry O'Connor (STFC) and Nathalie Meusy (ESA). We hope you will join us for a lively discussion.
Current challenges for effective engagementThe world is becoming an increasingly technical place, yet there are instances from across the world of policy decisions being strongly influenced by non-scientific views. Engagement with our stakeholders has never been more relevant.
While researchers consider outreach to be of increasing importance, public confidence in “experts” has declined, as documented by the Edelman Trust (Edelman 2017), among others. In the UK, the outcome of the referendum on leaving the European Union (EU) showed the public mood.
And, despite dedicated campaigns since the Brexit vote, science and the scientific community have not made much of an impact at government level. At the same time, funding for research is under pressure in most European countries. Between 2013 and 2015, gross domestic expenditure on research and development (R&D) as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in the EU stagnated at 2.
03% and only Denmark, Finland and Sweden have met the target investment of 3%, according to Europe 2020 indicators (Eurostat 2017).
Space is a strong economic sector in Europe that employs more than 230 000 professionals; its value was estimated at £41–48 billion in 2014, representing around 21% of the value of the global space sector When you write for Sky & Telescope, you're writing for a global readership of more reviews of telescopes and other astronomical equipment in S&T Test Report. The query should describe what the article will be about, why it would be of .
7 billion in 2014/15 and provided direct employment for 37 522 workers (UKSA 2016).
The EU leads the world in global science output, producing 34% of publications (UNESCO 2015). Astronomy is the most international discipline, with 52.
7% of publications having international co-authors, according to the US National Science Foundation (National Science Board 2016). And astronomers are one of the most active groups of scientists in public engagement.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has invested over £3 million in public engagement over the past five years and more than half of applications to their award schemes come from astronomers and solar system scientists (STFC 2017). The EU's Horizon 2020 Work Programmes in 2014 and 2018 have included specific calls to address space outreach and education. Astronomy and space retain a strong presence in the media, with high-profile coverage in recent months of discoveries including gravitational waves, images from Juno and the end of the Cassini mission.
Social media and online tools provide greater opportunities than ever for dialogue with members of the public and the direct involvement of the taxpayers who ultimately pay for astronomy facilities and the science carried out with them 22 Dec 2016 - Many employers will expect you to have completed, or be working and do complex calculations; the ability to produce scientific reports for .
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In the US, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report in 2017, Communicating Science Effectively, that offers a research agenda to fill gaps in knowledge about how to communicate effectively about science (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017). One of their main findings was “the paucity of evidence” for how to best affect “policymakers' understanding, perception and use of science”.
One of the lead authors of the report pointed out: “Most scientific organizations include policy engagement as part of their mission, yet a recent survey of scientific organizations found that only 20% provided their members with suggested practices for communicating with policymakers. ” Examples and case studies illustrating effective – or otherwise – approaches to reach policymakers would be very useful for astronomers.
MEETING DETAILSMaking the Case for European Astronomy and Space Science: Public and Political Engagement was held on 28–29 June 2017 as part of EWASS in Prague, /EWASS2017/ ?id=SS22ACKNOWLEDGMENTsThe authors wish to thank all those who presented at the EWASS 2017 Special Session 22: Making the Case for Astronomy and Space Science, as well as the EWASS meeting organizers. The authors also thank Karen O'Flaherty and Mike Bode, the co-conveners of the EWASS 2018 Special Session 17.
Europlanet 2020 RI has received funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no.