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The Global Office of Astronomy for Development December 10, 2011

Posted by International.Chair in : Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), Technology Transfer, Business Development and Entrepreneurism (TBE) , trackback Bookmark and Share

by Dr. Jarita Holbrook
Friday December 9, 2011

The International Astronomical Union has opened the Global Office of Astronomy for Development in Cape Town, South Africa. The OAD was officially inaugurated in April 2011. The new office is housed in a refurbished building on the grounds of the South African Astronomical Observatory headquarters. It is part of the thriving astronomy community in South Africa.

SAAO grounds

My trip to South Africa has three purposes:

1) To represent the National Society of Black Physicists at the first OAD stakeholders workshop, December 11 – 14, 2011. See http://www.astronomyfordevelopment.org/index.php/oadevents/oadworkshop.

2) To plan the next African Cultural Astronomy conference for 2014 in Cape Town.

3) To discuss the findings of my research on the South African National Astrophysics and Space Sciences Programme (NASSP) with NASSP instructors and administrators.

Today, my focus is on the workshop. What is exciting is that the workshop is structured in an unique way that includes participant input as to what talks they want to hear on the last day! People have submitted possible talks for consideration. Given my absorption with finishing my book on NASSP, I did not submit a potential talk topic.

My role in the OAD workshop is multifold: Working with Astronomy without Borders, Steward Observatory, and the National Society of Black Physicists, we first considered hosting the OAD in the United States, but ultimately chose to support the South Africa bid, which they won. However, there is the possibility of a USA OAD node, i.e. there is a chance of an OAD satellite office in the United States. Though I haven’t been part of any formal discussions this last year, I know that there is still some interest from US astronomers to have a local office. I think an office in the USA would give greater access to USA based funding organizations that might be interested in financially supporting OAD projects.

More about OAD: Though based in South Africa, it is a global effort.

GOAD Office Plaque

OAD came out of one of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) projects. There are many IYA2009 people involved in OAD and they will be attending the workshop. Through my IYA2009 involvement I know many of them.

From the OAD website:

“The mission of the OAD is to help further the use of astronomy as a tool for development by mobilizing the human and financial resources necessary in order to realize the field’s scientific, technological and cultural benefits to society.”

OAD specifically addresses for the first time how astronomy positively impacts society economically as well as intellectually. Astronomers often think about and foster connections to K12 education and the public, but rarely think about how astronomy can stimulate local economies. OAD seeks to foster projects that encourage local economies and, more broadly, stimulate development. Though there is a historic connection between astronomy and economic development, it has not been the goal of or of great interest to astronomers. Thus, OAD marks a major change in the way astronomers think about themselves, what they do, and their impact on society.

I’m looking forward to this workshop!

OAD office space

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