I couldn't imagine a better place to host the conference Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) 2016: the amazing city of Medellin in Colombia. Together with a top-level science centre, a cutting-edge planetarium, a well organised amateur community and a research community that is elevating itself to an international level. Colombia plays an active role in several areas of astronomy.
The first CAP conference was more than ten years ago. It took place at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Munich, Germany. Since then we, the astronomy communication community, came a long way. We are now a very well organised, structured and ambitious community, who kept the same level of enthusiasm and engagement. We cannot forget that as a community, we organised the largest science event ever: the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) with more than 140 countries involved.
Since IYA2009, we have a coordinated approach to outreach and development projects through international professional offices, like the Office for Astronomy Outreach and the Office of Astronomy for Development, including the Andean regional OAD node based here in Colombia.
Now it's time to look ahead. We need to consolidate our successful efforts but also find new ways to engage our fellow citizens with astronomy. For that, we need breadth in our initiatives. From large projects and programmes to grassroots amateur projects. From centralised PR machines to community driven initiatives. From formal to informal education activities.From high-tech planetariums and Virtual Reality Systems to low tech Do-It-Yourself initiatives.
We should also build on previous experiences and lessons learned. It's important that when we embark on new projects, we review similar experiences, learn from others, from the literature what works and what doesn't work. We need to establish the culture of sharing lessons and findings, the culture of critically reviewing our projects and projects.
Forums like this CAP conference and the CAPjournal are essential to cultivate these aspects. We need to keep them alive and active.
In the next five days, we will share, discuss, learn and feel motivated to elevate our activities to an even better level! That's the goal of CAP2016
Recently I attended the 2016 Public Communication of Science & Technology conference (in Istanbul, Turkey) where science communicators from different scientific communities gathered. A colleague from another field asked: “Why is astronomy so visible despite the low number of astronomers?” I replied: “Because we, the astronomy community are very passionate about our science: astronomy. And that passion is reflected in everything that we do.”
Let's keep communicating astronomy with passion!