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AfAS2022: Annual Conference and General Assembly of the African Astronomical Society

BACKGROUND AND MOTIVATION

The inaugural annual conference of the African Astronomical Society (AfAS) took place virtually from 08 to 12 March 2021 due to restrictions on physical meetings as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 250 astronomers and representatives of mainly African Countries registered to attend the conference and a total of 90 abstracts were accepted for talks, 50 sciences, and 40 in education, development, and outreach. At the opening ceremony, the attendees were addressed by the President of AfAS, the President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the South African Minister of Science and Innovation, the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, the Director-General for Scientific and Technological Research in Algeria, and other prominent invited speakers. The diversity and quality of the presentations during the inaugural conference demonstrated that astronomy on the continent is vibrant, internationally competitive, and has the potential to expand and flourish even more into the future. Through the AfAS conference, members of the African astronomy community showcased their work and potential collaborators and partners were identified both from Africa and outside the continent.

 

The Annual AfAS conference: AfAS-2022

In line with the objectives of AfAS and its science strategy, the society plans to hold its second annual conference from 14-18 March 2022. The conference will focus on the science, outreach, communication, and education activities emanating from Astronomy in Africa and will seek to further enhance collaboration among countries in Africa as well as the rest of the world. It will also focus on the status of astronomy infrastructure, AfAS led flagship projects, astronomy for development, and initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining youth in astronomy and strengthening existing activities in the field. The conference will be organized with the involvement of all the AfAS committees and partner projects (the African Planetarium Association (APA), the African Science Stars Publication (ASSAP), and the African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP).

 

The General Assembly: AfAS-GA

The AfAS2021 General Business meeting acknowledged the good progress made by AfAS since the Astronomy in Africa meeting held in Cape Town, South Africa, at the South Africa Astronomical Observatory, from 25 to 26 March 2019.  The meeting also took note of the status of the various committees and there were calls for further inputs and topics of interest from the community. Following the AfAS Constitution, a General Assembly must be convened every three years, the next such event is due in March 2022, and this will be held immediately after the annual conference. The term of office of the current Executive Committee end on 31 March 2022, a new Executive Committee will therefore be elected at the General Assembly. The Membership Committee will use the General Assembly to provide an update of the membership status of the Society and present draft plans for the introduction of member benefits and membership fees from April 2023. Proposed changes to the Constitution will also be tabled for discussion and approval by the General Assembly.

 

OBJECTIVES

Share astronomy research from across Africa and promote discussions on research topics for the future.

Foster collaborations within the African Astronomy Community and the rest of the world

Showcase recent developments in Astronomy in African countries.

Provide a platform for policymakers, funders, researchers, outreach officers, and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns as well as practical challenges encountered, and solutions adopted.

Discuss continental, regional, and national plans including flagship projects and the idea of astronomy hubs leading up to the IAU General Assembly in 2024, and the envisaged legacy thereafter.

Elect a new Executive Committee and approve the proposed constitutional changes

Discuss and accept membership fees and benefits, and its introduction from April 2023

 

EXPECTED OUTCOMES

New partnerships and collaborations in the fields of astronomy and related big data research in Africa and internationally

Increased Awareness of activities in Africa both by Africans and international collaborators

Increase in collaborations and better dialogue amongst countries

Acceptance of the AfAS flagship projects and associated implementation strategies and action plans.

Inspired Young Africans to take ownership and drive the development of astronomy in Africa

Identification of strategic partnerships for the implementation of AfAS projects for the development of Astronomy in Africa towards the GA2024 and beyond

Free and fair election of an Executive Committee that will continue to build on the work of the outgoing leadership.

Approval of proposed constitutional changes

Approval in principle, of membership fees and benefits

 

ORGANISING COMMITTEES

Local Organising Committee (LOC)

The LOC will be responsible for the general planning and organization of the annual conference and General

Assembly. It will be responsible for the programme for the annual conference as well as the agenda for the General Assembly. Members of the LOC are members of the AfAS EC as well as members of the AfAS Committees. Members of the LOC are listed below:

Charles Takalana (Chair) – DSI-AfAS

Yunus Manjoo (co-chair) – AfAS

Mutshidzi Nelawamondo – AfAS

Lutendo Ramadwa – APA

Chair of the AfAS Science Committee

Chair of the Outreach and Education Committee

External Member to be nominated by the Executive Committee

 

Scientific & Outreach/Education Organising Committee

This Committee is to be co-chaired by the Chairs of the Science and Outreach & Education Committees of AfAS and will be responsible for selecting the talks and posters for both the Scientific and Outreach/Education programmes.

Co-Chair: David Buckley

Co-Chair: Niruj Mohan-Ramanujam

Other members to be co-opted by the co-chairs (minimum of 4)

 

DATES

14 – 18 March 2022

 

FORMAT

The conference will be hybrid (online and physical), with the physical venue being the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa. This is the same venue where AfAS was officially relaunched in March 2019. The proposed format for the conference is listed below:

Day 1: (i)   Short address by special guests who represent the major stakeholders of AfAS

3 keynote talks on major topics/flagship projects

(ii) Science, Education, Development, and Outreach plenary talks

Day 2: Science, Education, Development, and Outreach  –     Special Session 1

Day 3: Science, Education, Development, and Outreach  –     Special Session 2

Day 4. Science, Education, Development, and Outreach

  • Special Session 3

Day 5: AfAS2022-General Assembly, networking sessions, and Hackathon

  • Special Session 4

 

The keynote plenary talks will take place in the mornings, followed by parallel sessions which are more thematic. The Science, Education, Development, and Outreach sessions will include a variety of primarily invited talks and contributed posters. Interactive networking sessions, including the Hackathon, will promote discussions, stimulate conversations.

 

 

VENUE

The physical venue will be the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) which will also serve as the host for the Control Centre for the virtual platform. The virtual platform will be contracted to an external service provider (probably the same provider as 2021). The proposed fundraising workshop and networking will take place at the SAAO in Sutherland. It is envisaged that, due to COVID regulations, a maximum of 40 delegates (target: 50% local – 50% international) will be allowed to attend the event physically, this will be confirmed with SAAO Admin and Management.

BUDGET

Description Quantity y Unit Price Cost
Virtual meeting platforms 1 R 270 000 R 270 000
Travel grants (Flights and accommodation for Exec Members & Committee Chairs) 5 R 20 000 R 100 000
Meals (lunch and 2 tea breaks) – 5 days 40 R 250 R 40 000
Fundraising Workshop Sutherland 1 R 100 000 R 100 000
Total R 510 000

The budget for the annual conference is R350K, the additional costs will be funded from savings arising from the 2021/22 budget. Depending on the level of savings, AfAS could spend an additional R200K in travel grants to fund 10 additional attendees. This can only be confirmed at the end of January 2022.

TIMELINE

ACTIVITY DATE RESPONSIBILITY
Approve the Concept Note 03rd November Executive Committee/Secretariat
Draft conference call and posters 04th November Secretariat
Appoint remaining SOC and LOC Committee members End November Secretariat/Chairs of Science &

Outreach/Education

Committees

Confirm Venue & Number of attendees End November Secretariat
Call for abstracts 08th November to 10th January

Possible extension (20th January)

S &OE Organizing Committee/Secretariat
Contact & confirm Invited Speakers Mid-December to Mid of January LOC
Appoint Digital Platform Service providers End November Secretariat
Confirm abstracts

Advise speakers

07th – February

14th – February

S & OE Organizing Committee
Final Programme & General Assembly Agenda Mid-February LOC

PROGRAMME
Day 1 (14 March 2021)
09:00 Opening, Welcome speech, and the Keynote address:
Opening Remarks by the Programme Director
Welcoming and Opening Remarks by the President of AfAS (Prof. Jamal
Mimouni)
Keynote Address
Message from African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science
and Technology
Message from President of IAU
Message from North African Astronomy Community
Message from East African Astronomy Society/Community
Message from West African Astronomy Community
Message from CEO NRF
Message from President of SAIP
Message from Ethiopian Ministry representative
Message from the IAU-OAD (Kevin Govender)

10:00 Tea Break
10:15 Invited talks
12:45 Lunch Break
13:30 Talks (15-20 minutes each, Thematic parallel sessions)
14:45 Tea Break
15:00 Talks (15-20 minutes each, Thematic parallel sessions)

Day 2 – 4 (15 -17 March 2021)
09:00 Invited Talks
10:30 Tea Break
10:45 Talks (15-20 minutes each, Thematic parallel sessions)
12:30 Lunch Break

Day 2 – 4 (15 -17 March 2021)
13:15 Invited Science Talks
15:00 Tea Break
15:15 Science talks (15-20 minutes each, Thematic parallel sessions)

Day 5 (18 March 2020): AfAS General Assembly
09:00 General Assembly

Updates by President, Secretariat, Sub-committee Chairs, Project managers
Constitutional Amendments

10:30 Tea Break
10:15 General Assembly (continued)

AfAS Membership
Voting
12:15 Lunch break
13:00 General Assembly (continued)
Announcement of results
Address by President-elect

15:15 Tea Break
15:30 Special sessions, networking, Hackathon, side meetings, collaborations
17:00 Closure

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Date

Mar 14 - 18 2022

Time

All Day

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