Communicating ‘astronomy for development’ – Approaches to communicate the relevance of science to society

Author: Ramasamy Venugopal – International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development, Cape Town, South Africa

Astronomy is one of the most appealing topics in Science. From time immemorial, humans have been pondering questions about the origin of the universe, life outside Earth etc. As the field has progressed, bigger and bigger investments have been necessary for further breakthroughs. These investments have become harder to justify, especially for developing countries who are pouring money into the field in order to attract students to STEM as well as generate exciting science. (As one observer put it, “a blackhole somewhere in space is not going to put food on my table”). Even the various spin-off technologies produced by Astronomy research are insufficient justification.

The Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) was setup in South Africa to mobilize the human and financial resources to use Astronomy as a tool to tackle the biggest challenges of the world. The OAD is working with experts from astronomy as well as a number of social science fields to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

This poster will describe some of the methods employed by the OAD when communicating this (fairly new) idea of using Astronomy for Development. As we have discovered, people find it rather difficult to connect Astronomy with development issues. It is frequently confused with the development of the field of Astronomy, especially when communicating with non-native English speakers. In describing our work, we have found it quite useful to first inspire the public with the grandeur of the universe and to connect with them emotionally. Even when the details are not clear to them, people are excited by the big idea and the possibilities. We use examples and stories of communities and people whose lives have been changed by the OAD. Through this visual talk, I also want to engage with the scicomm community on their experiences.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice