SARAO launches MAPPP NINE
SARAO has collaborated with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), USA to establish a pilot Multi-wavelength Public Participation Programme (MAPPP) for implementation in South Africa and across the other eight SKA Africa partner countries in 2018/2019.
The objective of the programme is to promote the public awareness, understanding and appreciation of astronomy, and to contribute to the advancement of the public engagement sector in South Africa and Africa, by training high-potential individuals in the sector in project management and using the processes of co-design and co-opetition to develop disruptive public engagement projects.
MAPPP itself is a product of co-design between the SARAO Communications and Stakeholder Relations Unit and the NRAO National and International Non-Traditional Exchange (NINE) Programme. NINEuses bilateral partnerships to further develop the human capacity in radio astronomy and other essential STEM fields required to build, innovate, and operate radio astronomy facilities in developing countries.
The three phases of MAPPP NINE
The first phase of MAPPP NINE in South Africa was launched when a multi-disciplinary group of experts and stakeholders in astronomy and public engagement convened in a moderated brainstorm in Pretoria, Gauteng Province on 23 February 2018.The first MAPPP NINE Development Lab used co-design facilitation methodology to understand the challenges to the public engagement with astronomy in South Africa and set parameters for specific public participation projects to be designed by MAPPP NINE participants.
Twelve high-potential individuals, each with unique skills, were selected by SARAO from across multiple disciplines within astronomy and public engagement, from astronomers to outreach staff.
The selected participants travelled around South Africa over a period of four weeks to visit eight key South African astronomy sites, including Boyden Observatory, Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO), MeerKAT at the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) site, and the South African Large Telescope (SALT).
An opportunity to learn best practice in science engagement was facilitated when participants visited planetariums, museums and science centres; attended South Africa’s National Science Festival, Scifest Africa; and received masterclasses from experts in the arts sector, astronomy, corporate world, digital creative media, government, embassies, science centres and festivals, and universities.
Participants also received deep immersion training in highly specialised and valued skills during the four weeks, including creative and critical thinking, proposal development and fundraising, structured methods (project management and systems engineering), science engagement, science editing and content management, and monitoring and evaluation.
Inspired and informed by inputs at the first MAPPP NINE Development Lab and their respective engagements with stakeholders, the science engagement sector and product end-users, and using their newly-acquired skills, each of the 12 participants was required to co-design a unique multi-wavelength public participationproject in the categories local community involvement in co-design, learner and educator programmes, or virtual reality site visits.
While the projects co-design by participants were required to meet strict criteria set by SARAO, this did not limit the creativity of participants, with the final projects proposed ranging from art exhibitions and Tweet-Ups to classical music performances in planetariums and virtual reality exhibition components.
Participants will be informed of the outcome of their applications for funding at the end of April, after evaluators have also assessed the funding proposals and full project plans developed over the duration of Phase 1.
Phase 2 of MAPPP is scheduled for May 2018. This phase’s planned outcomes will include the implementation of the selected projects from Phase 1 and will require the co-design of proposals for a public participation programme in the categories of citizen science, coding and radio telescopy, or interferometry. Selected proposals will be funded for implementation in Phase 3 scheduled for October 2018.
MAPPP NINE expands to SKA AVN
Nine high-potential science engagement professionals, selected from each of the nine SKA Africa partner countries, met in Fukuoka, Japan from 21-23 March to participate in the first SKA African VLBI Network (AVN) MAPPP NINE Development Lab.
SARAO collaborated with the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) and Office of Astronomy Outreach (OAO) to identify science engagement professionals actively working in each of the partner countries.
The overall objective of the implementation was to support the SKA AVN Communications Strategy by identifying and contributing to the development of science engagement professionals who will help to drive and implement SKA AVN science engagement programmes in their respective countries.
The Development Lab, a best practice developed during the pilot MAPPP NINE programme implemented in South Africa in February 2018, required participants to identify the challenges and needs of public participation with astronomy common to all partner countries, share best practices and solutions already developed, and recombine needs and solutions for improved value creation.
Participants were then required to co-design three public participation projects that could be implemented across all partner countries over the next three years, and to produce a draft project charter and draft project implementation plan for each project.
Participants were required to co-present the outcomes of the SKA AVN MAPPP NINE Development Lab at the IAU Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) Conference held in Fukuoka from 24-28 March 2018, and will be required to present the outcomes of both the Development Lab and IAU CAP at the next SKA AVN Senior Officials Meeting in South Africa in 2018.
SKA Africa participates in major international science communication conferences
Representatives of SARAO and science engagement professionals from the SKA Africa partner countries presented informal sessions, talks and papers at the following major international science communication conferences:
Science Centre World Summit (SCWS), Tokyo, Japan
The Japanese wordtsunagarimeans “connection” and is the spirit in whichprofessionals from science centres and museums around the world met at the Science Centre World Summit (SCWS) 2017 in Tokyo, Japanfrom15-17 November 2017.
The summit, held at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), saw 828 participants from 98 countries discuss how science centres and museums can be relevant to the communities in which they are based, as well as workshop new approaches for the sector to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
SARAO Science Engagement Manager, Anja Fourie, attended the SCWS and participated in the session titledCommunicating big science, where she presented a paper co-authored with SARAO/SKA SA Head of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, Lorenzo Raynard.
The presentation outlined how science engagement and stakeholder relations are entrenched in policy and strategy in South Africa, the country’s National Research Foundation (NRF), and SARAO; the lessons learnt and best practice developed by SARAO in science engagement and stakeholder relations; as well as the role that science centres and museums and their regional networks can play in communication and stakeholder relations for the SKA project.
IAU Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP), Fukuoka, Japan
Nine active science engagement professionals, selected from each of the nine SKA Africa partner countries, were invited to attend the IAU Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) Conference held in Fukuoka, Japan from 24-28 March 2018.
The conference was used as an opportunity to introduce participants to the international astronomy outreach community and the SKA Communications and Outreach Network (SKACON), as well as to allow participants to network with the community and discuss possible co-design and collaboration on future science engagement programmes in each country.
Participants were also required to advertise, prepare and co-present a session during the Unconference programme of the conference. The session, titled “Co-design: Towards a science engagement strategy for the SKA African VLBI Network (AVN)” introduced the audience to the concept of SARAO’s Multi-wavelength Astronomy Public Participation Programme (MAPPP); presented the outcomes of the SKA AVN MAPPP NINE Development Lab held in Fukuoka directly before IAU CAP; and outlined the potential use of MAPPP NINE for science diplomacy.
Participants will be required to present on the outcomes of the conference at the next SKA AVN Senior Officials Meeting in South Africa in 2018.
Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Conference, Dunedin, New Zealand
SARAO Northern Cape Stakeholder Manager, Dr Anton Binneman, represented SARAO at the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Conference held in Dunedin, New Zealand from 3-6 April 2018.
Binneman’s talk and individual paper, titled“The Square Kilometre Array South Africa: Understanding San cosmology”and“The Square Kilometre Array’s (MeerKAT) struggles with anti-science advocacy groups” respectively, were presented in the category ofBuilding a theoretical basis for science communicationat the conference.
The talk profiled the San Peoples’ understanding of cosmology and their support of the SKA project. It highlighted comparisons between the indigenous knowledge systems of the San Peoples and modern astronomy, and some lessons learnt through the implementation of activities with the San Peoples. The talk made use of art, stories and artefacts sourced from local San tribes.
The individual paper briefly highlighted South African media content related to the SKA project and including a succinct analysis of associated social media. This established a base for in-depth analysis of the qualitative content of two particular Facebook pages administered by advocacy groups that are explicitly opposed to the SKA project. The analysis included coding of the qualitative content of these two publicly accessible Facebook pages. Common misconceptions and critique on the project were clustered and compared to the facts as published by SKA South Africa. The paper concluded with a conceptual communications strategy, that could address misconceptions propagated by anti-science alliance groups, using SKA and the development of MeerKAT as an example. The paper was co-authored by SARAO Head of Science Communication and Stakeholder Relations, Lorenzo Raynard.
PCST 2018 was held under the themeScience, Stories and Society.
Learners co-design with leaders for sustainable tourism
SARAO hosted the last in a series of Department of Science and Technology (DST) Mini Science Forums at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, Northern Cape Province on 1 December 2017.
Mini Science Forums were hosted around the country by DST entities in the lead up to the official Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria, Gauteng Province from 7-8 December 2017.
The Mini Science Forum formed part of SARAO’s celebration of the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism 2017 by bringing together learners and stakeholders from the Northern Cape, including Carnarvon, to discuss sustainable astronomy tourism.
The full-day programme consisted of a panel discussion featuring leaders in tourism in the Northern Cape; an interactive workshop that introduced participants to the SKA and MeerKAT; a science café during which participants worked in groups to co-design ideas for the planned SARAO and SKA visitors centres; and an opportunity to visit the McGregor Museum.
Insights and ideas from the DST Mini Science Forum were taken forward for discussion at a World Café and panel discussion about sustainable astronomy tourism at SFSA.
SARAO participates in Science Forum SA 2018
SARAO participated in the third annual Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria, Gauteng Province from 7-8 December 2017.
The SFSA is an open science event that aims to create a platform for vibrant debate on the role of science, technology, innovation in society in South Africa and Africa. The annual event is proposed by South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology and implemented by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
SFSA 2018 welcomed more than2,500 participants from 60 countries, and hosted more than 70 parallel sessions and 60 exhibitions in 12 venues inside the CSIR International Convention Centre.
South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa (then Deputy President), delivered the keynote address, while Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor (then Minister of Science and Technology), delivered the welcome address.
SARAO hosted a World Café, which combined the use of an accessible space, i.e. a coffee shop, and simple but effective facilitation methodology, to lead a large group dialogue and workshop session about the use of astronomy for sustainable tourism in South Africa. The World Café programme started with a short panel discussion to introduce terms, outline the current status of astronomy tourism in South Africa, explore the challenges for the development of astronomy tourism, and introduced the topic for the workshop session. Stakeholders and the general public then worked in groups to co-design ideas for sustainable astronomy tourism in the Northern Cape and South Africa.
Staff of SKAO and SARAO were invited to participate in two panel discussions:
The first, titled“Towards the UN SDGs: Sustainable astronomy tourism for sustainable development”,aimed to ignite conversations about how astronomy can strengthen the South African brand and tourism; who should drive astronomy tourism in South Africa; how South Africa can learn from best practice in sustainable tourism and leap-frog the implementation process; and what the main priorities should be for authorities to help develop, innovate and implement sustainable astronomy tourism in South Africa. Panel members included SKAO Director-General, Prof. Phil Diamond; SARAO/SKA SA Science Engagement Manager, Anja Fourie; IAU Office for Astronomy for Development (OAD) Director, Kevin Govender; and Head of Department: Archaeology at the McGregor Museum, Dr David Morris.
The second panel discussion, titled “Big science, human development, and the Square Kilometre Array Telescope”, reflected on the relationship between the SKA and human development, drawing on theoretical debates at this interface, the available evidence, and the experiences and perceptions of members of the SKA organisation itself. Panel members included University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) WBS/Telkom Chair in Digital Business, Prof. Brian Armstrong,
SKAO Director-General, Prof. Phil Diamond; Human Science Research Council (HSRC) Research Specialist, Dr Michael Gastrow; Special Advisor to the Minister in the Department of Science and Technology, Dr Khotso Mokhele; and SARAO Head of Strategyand Business Processes, Dr Adrian Tiplady,
SARAO also facilitated an interactive exhibition for the duration of the event, which focused on the organisation’s investment in the training of San field guides, the advancement of sustainable astronomy tourism, and the development of the SARAO Karoo operational area and Northern Cape Province.
Learners explore opportunities in astronomy and big data with SARAO
SARAO participates in career expos in its operational areas in order to introduce learners, educators and undergraduate students to the SKA and MeerKAT, the variety of careers available in radio/astronomy and big data, and the SARAO bursaries and graduate employment programmes.
Participants in the Mangaung Youth Empowerment Week, Bloemfontein, Free State Province and Prieska Career Day, Northern Cape Province engaged with SARAO/SKA SA content specialists and bursary holders through panel discussions, motivational talks and interactive exhibitions.
SKA SA Site staff and students undergo media training
Five SARAO electrician trade artisan students and their supervisor received media training outside Carnarvon, Northern Cape Province from 31 January to 1 February 2018.
The media training was conducted to prepare the students for media requests in the lead-up to the MeerKAT launch later this year, after it has become evident that the media interest in the SKA project involves huge enthusiasm for positive human-interest stories related to the project.
The students, Morgan Daba, Joleen George, Celeste Marlow, Simone Pieterse and Brendan Swarts, were joined by SARAO Education, Training and Development Practitioner, Albert Brand, at the facility’s Electrical Artisan Training Centre on the SARAO/SKA SA Karoo operational base outside Carnarvon.
The training, presented by personality and media expert, Jenna-Leigh Bilong and SARAO Communications and Stakeholder Relations staff, included modules that helped participants develop an understanding of the media and tailor their messaging, as well as practical exercises which saw the participants being interviewed before and after the training to evaluate their learning.
Joleen George says that the media training added to her confidence. “I now feel self-assured when I walk into a room, and now have the confidence to speak to anyone.”
“The media training was fun and educational. I learned not to fear the media, how to understand the media’s needs and how to respond to their questions confidently, appropriately and effectively. The training was needed and will be of great use to me in future,” said Morgan Daba.
Festivals: Science in unexpected spaces
Festivals promote the public awareness, understanding and appreciation of science, technology and innovation through a programme of unique, interactive events that allow leading scientists the opportunity to share their work, make science accessible within the reach of ordinary people, network with non-scientists, provide career guidance and act as role models for the youth, in order to encourage the youth to embark oncareers and become leaders in these fields.
SARAO content specialists supported the Science Beyond Borders Festival in Kimberley, Northern Cape Province from 12-15 February 2018, by engaging with learners of all grades and the general public through public talks, interactive exhibitions and workshops.
The Kalahari Desert Festival held in Askham, Northern Cape Province from 21-24 March 2018 featured an interactive exhibition which focused on SARAO/SKA SA’s investment in the development of San youth and the development of the Northern Cape Province.
SARAO and Oculus announce partnership
SARAO and Oculus announced a new partnership in virtual reality for education and science engagement during the official opening of South Africa’s National Science Festival, Scifest Africa, in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape Province on 9 March 2018.
South Africa’s newly appointed Minister of Science and Technology,Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, was the guest of honour at the event.
The partnership, announced by SARAO Managing Director, Dr Rob Adam, andOculus Vice-President: Business Development and Partnerships, Andy Mathis, will see Oculus provide Rift + Touch virtual reality (VR) sets for use by SARAO in its schools programme and science engagement activities.
VR provides a means for the general public to explore celestial objects and bodies, visit astronomy sites and facilities remotely, and visualise abstract scientific outcomes from astronomy instruments, thereby promoting the public awareness, understanding and appreciation of multi-wavelength astronomy, SARAO and its instruments, and the SKA.
Projects in education and science engagement, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of the projects, will be co-designed by SARAO and Oculus for implementation in 2018. Project outcomes, best practice and impact will be shared at Science Forum South Africa in December 2018, as well as other relevant education and science engagement platforms identified by SARAO and Oculus.
The first collaborative project under this evolving partnership was a workshop at Scifest Africa 2018, co-designed by Jim Adams’ World; the National Institute of Aerospace, USA; North Carolina A&T State University; Oculus and SARAO that introduces participants to augmented, mixed and virtual reality and the fields of astronomy and space science.
The SARAO Schools Programme will work to identify VR content that is aligned with specific topics in South Africa’s Physical Science curriculum and that will be used to support the teaching of the curriculum in high schools in the SARAO Karoo operational area.
SARAO has already produced VR content that transports users to the MeerKAT and SKA site outside Carnarvon, Northern Cape, and project plans are being developed for multi-wavelength VR exhibit components through the SARAO SA Multi-wavelength Astronomy Public Participation Programme (MAPPP).
SARAO wins Best Workshop at South Africa’s National Science Festival
SARAO was awarded Best Workshop: Innovation at Scifest Africa, South Africa’s National Science Festival, for a virtual reality workshop co-designed with organisations in the USA.
The workshop, titled“An introduction to the world of virtual reality”, wasco-designed by Jim Adams’ World, the National Institute of Aerospace, USA, North Carolina A&T State University, Oculus and SARAO, and introduced participants to augmented, mixed and virtual reality; the fields of astronomy and space science; and the MeerKAT and SKA site.
Each workshop at Scifest Africa 2018 was evaluated by a panel of judges consisting of members of the Scifest Africa Advisory Committee and using official feedback received from educators, learners and the general public that participated in the workshop.
Scifest Africa was established in 1996 to promote the public awareness, understanding and appreciation of science, technology and innovation in South Africa. The 22nd edition of the annual festival was held in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape Province from 7-13 March 2018. The theme for Scifest Africa 2018 wasInnovation 4.0 with reference to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The SARAO/SKA SA team, consisting of Anja Fourie, Dimpho Lephaila, Namhla Mabombo, Thizwikoni Mposhomali, Anele Nzama, and Marion West, presented two other workshops at Scifest Africa, namely“Colour by Number”and“Satellite Laser Rangers”, which introduced participants to radio astronomy and laser ranging, respectively.
The team also presented an interactive exhibition, and SARAO Science Engagement Manager, Anja Fourie, participated in a science café titled“Embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Is South Africa ready?”