Next year’s international astronomy General Assembly to be doubly historic, says NRF

1st November 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The National Research Foundation (NRF) has highlighted the doubly historic nature of next year’s General Assembly (GA) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which will be held in Cape Town, in August. Held triennially, not only will the 2024 GA be the first ever to be held in Africa, in the more than 100-year history of the IAU, but it will also be the first to have an open-access format.

Registration for the GA opened on October 30. Delegates ccan attend in person or participate virtually. The open access aspect is that people, worldwide, will be able to remotely access the talks being given at the assembly, while they are being delivered. However, only paying delegates will be able to deliver papers, pose questions in real time, actually meet and interact with the other delegates and speakers, and participate in related activities.

The IAU GA is being hosted by the NRF, supported by the Department of Science and Innovation and the African Astronomical Society. “The organising committee is confident that in-person participants will find their time in South Africa to be stimulating, enriching, and enjoyable; that virtual participants will have an effective and rewarding online conference experience; and that the general public all around the world will freely and directly connect to the latest developments in astronomy,” affirmed the NRF in its statement.

The 2024 IAU GA will have three core elements – accessibility, impact, and environmental sustainability.

Accessibility refers to both the GA’s hybrid format, which will allow scientists and students who could not travel, to participate, and to the open-access policy. The organising committee is also committed to making the assembly a family-friendly environment, so that delegates physically attending it can successfully balance their professional and familial responsibilities.

Impact was conceived of in both scientific and social terms. Scientifically, the aim is to expand the impact of research, and create longstanding collaborations, including through “novel networking arrangements”. Societally, the organising committee seeks to involve local artists and small businesses in the GA, giving them a global platform, as well as give the delegates the opportunity to engage with the cultures and spirit of Africa.

Environmental sustainability means that the organising committee has made an “emphatic commitment” to minimise the conference’s environmental footprint as far as is possible. “We’re considering measures from offering carbon credit offsets for travel, to innovative solutions for reducing food waste, to engaging in discussions that drive action towards building climate-resilient societies,” assured the NRF.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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