1 December 2019

Heidelberg to Host IAU Education Office

This post is adapted from an IAU press release:

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) Strategic Plan 2020–2030 provides for the establishment of an Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE), which will support the astronomy community and astronomy educators in bringing the fascination of astronomy into schools. Its activities will include establishing a worldwide network of National Astronomy Education Coordinators (NAECs), promoting astronomy in national curricula, supporting teachers with evidence-based education research, and helping the community with its professional development. The OAE is also intended to facilitate discussion and knowledge sharing within the community, particularly between astronomy education researchers and astronomy education practitioners.

In response to the IAU call aimed at international institutions interested in hosting the new OAE, the IAU received 23 letters of intent, which were subject to an initial evaluation. Nine proposers were then invited to submit a full proposal — from Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, and the USA. By the deadline, six proposals were received, which were evaluated and ranked independently by each ad-hoc evaluation committee member, and then discussed and merged into a final ranking. This committee has now concluded the evaluation and ranking of the six proposals received, and a very clear winner emerged, which subsequently also received the unanimous approval of the IAU Executive Committee: Haus der Astronomie (HdA) in Heidelberg, Germany.

Haus der Astronomie


Haus der Astronomie has been actively engaging the public in astronomy since 2009 by delivering workshops for students, creating teaching materials and holding public events, and a variety of other activities. With close ties and past collaborations with numerous international institutions engaged in astronomy education, it is well placed to help coordinate astronomy education activities on an international level. HdA was founded by the Max Planck Society and the Klaus Tschira Foundation. Additional partners are the city of Heidelberg and Heidelberg University. HdA is managed by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy.

HdA’s alignment with the mission of the OAE makes it an advantageous setting for establishing the OAE, which will benefit from the relevant backgrounds and experience of the HdA staff. Additional dedicated staff will also be required to undertake the new activities, leading to new job opportunities. The new OAE will undertake its activities in close collaboration with the IAU’s Office of Astronomy for Development and Office for Astronomy Outreach as well as with numerous education projects that are already active in the community.

The opening of the Office of Astronomy for Education, the opportunities it affords for more intensive international collaboration on astronomy education, and feedback from the astronomy education community on the OAE’s strategy and plans for implementation will be the discussion topic of the 1st Shaw-IAU Workshop on Astronomy for Education, which takes place 17–19 December 2019 at the IAU Headquarters at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris. This will be the first of a series of such workshops, funded by the Shaw Prize Foundation.

IAU General Secretary Teresa Lago says, “At the 1st Shaw-IAU Workshop on ‘Astronomy for Education’ we will be sharing ideas, ambitions, experiences, and practices, but also laying a solid foundation for a global collaborative network through a broad and inclusive IAU Office of Astronomy for Education."