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How can astronomy be used to engage the public with the SDGs; in particular, climate change?

24 November 2021
  • Other

Programme for Week 2

Speakers Travis Rector (University of Alaska), Cecilia Scorza (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München), Violette Impellizzeri (Leiden University) and Sanne van Gammeren (Leiden University) will share perspectives on this question based on their own experiences of developing and delivering astronomy public engagement activities. The practical, interactive part of the session will see participants returning to their small groups to explore their research topic from the point of view of different audiences and different engagement formats, and to ideate multiple versions of an astronomy/space science public engagement initiative. By the end of this session, teams will have decided upon an audience type and mode of public engagement to develop further in subsequent weeks.

Please have a pen and paper to hand as you join this live stream - one of the speakers has a simple creative challenge for our audience!

This event is part of the Ecsite Workroom Series: “Sharing Space: Creative Collaboration for Public Engagement with Cutting-Edge Astronomy” through which astronomy researchers and science communicators collaborate to explore the challenge “how might we engage the public in a discussion about cutting-edge astronomy and space science research?”

Speaker Bios:

Dr. Travis Rector is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Alaska Anchorage. For over twenty years he has taught about the causes and consequences of climate change as well as advocated for solutions. He is also the chair of the sustainability committee for the American Astronomical Society and one of the organizers for the group “Astronomers for Planet Earth.” In these roles he is working to help his fellow astronomers to be better educators and communicators about climate change as well as to reduce the carbon footprint of our profession.

Dr. Cecilia Scorza is a Venezuelan astrophysicist with PhD from the University of Heidelberg. After years of research in the extragalactic field, she devoted herself to the educational and public outreach work. Together with Prof. George Miley (Leiden Observatory) and Claus Madsen (ESO), she initiated the IAU's Universe Awareness Programme (UNAWE) in 2005, for which she developed the Universe in the Box, currently used in more than 60 countries. She has developed numerous teacher training initiatives and educational materials relating to astronomy including “The Journey of Ideas", which vividly explains the origins of astronomy for schoolchildren. She was an advisor to the IAU's Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) and supported the establishment of the "Andean Regional Node" in Latin America. From 2013 she was a consultant to ESO, working on the development and design of the ESO Supernova exhibition and student workshops. In November 2021 she received the educational award from the German Association of Foundations for the programme “Climate change: understanding and acting”.

Sanne van Gammeren is the Learning Spaces and Community Engagement Manager of the Astronomy and Society group within Leiden University. Trained as biologist and science communicator, she explores connections between art and different disciplines in science to translate these into innovative educational projects for the Old Observatory in Leiden, an entity within the Leiden Observatory.

Dr. Violette Impellizzeri is the programme manager of Allegro, an ALMA expertise centre, at Leiden University. She received her PhD in 2008 at the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomie in Bonn, after which she moved as a postdoc to NRAO, in Charlottesville, to work on the Megamaser Cosmology Project. In 2011, she moved to Chile where she worked for 10 years on the commissioning and operations of ALMA, the largest sub-mm and mm telescope in the world. It was during this time that Violette started to be involved in several outreach and science communication events, which she truly enjoyed. She is also very passionate about climate and ways we can contribute to mitigate this crisis, which is why she now always speaks about climate & astronomy in her public talks.


  • Space
  • researchers
  • science communicators


Sharing Space: creative collaboration for public engagement with cutting-edge astronomy

Many astronomers and science communicators are familiar with communicating the wonder of the solar system, or missions to Mars. However, cutting-edge astronomical research such as the search for dark energy, or gravitational waves, while showing up in press releases, is much less common in the public engagement of science and technology.