SA signs astronomy agreement
Cape Town - SA will host the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) Office for Astronomy Development (OAD) as the country celebrated Science Week.
"I am particularly pleased that our Executive Committee chose South Africa and the South African Astronomical Observatory," said Professor George Miley, IAU Vice President for Development and Education.
Developing countries are not generally regarded as hubs of scientific research, and SA has been making concerted efforts to attract astronomers, most notably, the building of the South African Large Telescope (Salt) and the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array in the Northern Cape.
The hosting of the office means that SA will play an increasingly important role in the development of astronomy.
The International Astronomical Union produced a development strategy, Astronomy for the Developing World and SA was chosen out of 20 possible candidates for the office.
The announcement was made in May 2010, but was subject to a series of negotiations between various bodies that have finally been concluded on Friday.
"South Africa is a role model for us because it combines world-class astronomical research facilities with a pioneering programme of astronomical outreach," said Miley.
"The National Research Foundation is pleased to host this office, which is significant not only for South Africa and Africa but for the entire developing world. We are pleased to be associated with this effort to use astronomy to foster education and capacity building globally over the next decade at least," said Dr Albert van Jaarsveld CEO of the National Research Foundation.
The OAD will set out to build on the momentum of the IAU-UNESCO International Year of Astronomy 2009 whose activities reached millions of people in 148 countries.
Although the focus will be on developing regions, the involvement and participation of countries will be essential, both to build the field of astronomy and, perhaps more importantly, to realise the role that astronomy can play in development.
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