The last few months have been both busy and exciting within the SKAO Comms Team.
Communications Steering Committee face-to-face meeting
Main highlight was probably the annual face-to-face meeting of the SKA Communications Steering Committee (CommsSC), that we organised parallel to the Engineering Meeting in June in Rotterdam. For readers of this eNews not necessarily familiar with the structure of the Comms group across the partnership, the CommsSC group comprises one representative from each SKA member country (with the exception of China and New Zealand that have no representative at present) and is in charge of developing and overseeing the overarching SKA Communications and Outreach Strategy. In addition to myself (Chair) and Mathieu (vice-Chair), representatives from Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden and the UK were in attendance this year. This was an extremely productive meeting, and the 3 full days we dedicated to this didn’t seem to suffice to cover the breadth of activities under our remit. Overall, the case was made with SC colleagues for more coordination between the partner institutes and SKAO up-stream to take full advantage of opportunities and maximise impact and avoid some of the missed opportunities we have seen recently. Good progress were also made and clear actions/way forward were identified on a number of topics, including:
- SKA Branding: a brand health check will be conducted shortly to assess the brand awareness and brand recognition amongst diverse stakeholder groups;
- Overarching comms strategy vs national comms strategies: how to make sure they support and complement each other;
- Communication plan around key upcoming activities:
- IGO initialling and signature ceremony;
- Dish story;
- AAVS1 story;
- MeerKAT launch;
- Strategic presence at key upcoming international conferences;
- Online Communication strategy in IGO era;
- Strategy around SKAO in-house publications;
- Media Visits Strategy;
- Visitors Programme Strategy.
Some members of the SKA Communications Steering Committee during the annual face-to-face meeting held in Rotterdam during the Engineering Meeting. From left to right: Robert Cumming (Sweden), Iris Nijman (invited as guest, Netherlands), Jerry Skinner (Australia), Lorenzo Raynard (South Africa), Mathieu Isidro (SKAO), William Garnier (SKAO), Roy van der Werp (Netherlands), Eleonora Ferroni (Italy). Missing on the photo is Chris Buratta (UK).
SKA Engineering Meeting and diplomatic engagement
As reported by many other contributors of this publication, the SKA Engineering Meeting was another highlight of the last few months in the project. The SKA Comms Team was heavily involved in the organisation of the conference to ensure a seamless and pleasant experience for all delegates. This year we also proactively approached the SKA Member Country embassies in the country to invite them to take part in the engineering meeting. This falls squarely within our stakeholder engagement strategy to build engagement with the SKA in diplomatic & governmental circles and proved a success, providing the opportunity for diplomats and ambassadors to engage with engineers and scientists from their countries who work on the SKA. It is our hope to continue to do this at every opportunity.
European Week of Astronomy and Space Science
On the conferences front, SKAO also had a strong presence at the recent European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) conference held in Prague, Czech Republic, at the end of June. In collaboration with other facilities, the SKA Science Team organised a session on Synergies between the SKA, Athena and the CTA. The session was very well attended, generating a lot of very productive discussions. This was complemented by a media briefing where we took the opportunity to highlight some exciting areas of research (among many) where the SKA will largely contribute.
We also had a stand allowing for further engagement with the community and providing us the opportunity to test live our recently launched SKA Virtual Reality (VR) experience. Feedback from the lucky experimenters was very good.
Last but not least, Mathieu Isidro, the SKAO Deputy Communications Manager, gave a talk on our stakeholder engagement activities in a well-attended session on policy and public engagement. Roger Davies, the newly elected President of the European Astronomical Society (EAS) – was in the session and supportive of the SKA’s efforts to reach the public through “innovation and inspiration”. He then went on to make this point in the closing remarks of the EWASS meeting.
Last but not least, we are pleased to report that a lot of high-school students around the world will now be exposed to the SKA Project, since we now feature in the Oxford University Press Mathematics textbooks to be used internationally by International Baccalaureate students aged 14-16. Last year, 55,000 students in more than 600 schools in 86 countries undertook the IB’s Middle Years Programme. This again fits within our global strategy where, due to insufficient resources, we currently provide only limited but very targeted efforts in Education, looking at the widest possible use of material in multiple countries.