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Astronomy news coverage is astronomical

The sky's the limit when it comes to media interest in astronomy.


Astronomers are used to a great deal of press coverage per capita. A Google search, it has been reported, reveals that there are roughly as many news stories for the 10,000 or so professional astronomers worldwide as there are for the few hundred thousand biologists or chemists. Newspapers' and other media's science sections are often filled with fundamental astronomical discoveries, such is the interest in the 'big issues' with which astronomy is concerned.

This is why it is important that professional astronomers explain their work to the public in ways which are accessible, but accurate. In line with this the RAS supports the 'Washington Charter', adopted by the International Astronomical Union in August 2006,  which codifies the importance of communicating science to the public viz.

The Washington Charter for Communicating Astronomy with the Public

As our world grows ever more complex and the pace of scientific discovery and technological change quickens, the global community of professional astronomers needs
to communicate more effectively with the public. Astronomy enriches our culture,nourishes a scientific outlook in society, and addresses important questions about humanity's place in the universe. It contributes to areas of immediate practicality, including industry,medicine, and security, and it introduces young people to quantitative reasoning and attracts them to scientific and technical careers. Sharing what we learn about the universe is an investment in our fellow citizens, our institutions, and our future. Individuals and organizations that conduct astronomical research - especially those receiving public funding for this research - have a responsibility to communicate their results and efforts with the public for the benefit of all.

Recommendations

For Funding Agencies:
Encourage and support public outreach and communication in projects and grant programs. Develop infrastructure and linkages to assist with the organization and dissemination of
outreach results. Emphasize the importance of such efforts to project and research managers. Recognize public outreach and communication plans and efforts through proposal
selection criteria and decisions and annual performance awards. Encourage international collaboration on public outreach and communication activities.

For Professional Astronomical Societies:
Endorse standards for public outreach and communication.
Assemble best practices, formats, and tools to aid effective public outreach and communication. Promote professional respect and recognition of public outreach and communication. Make public outreach and communication a visible and integral part of the activities and  operations of the respective societies. Encourage greater linkages with successful ongoing efforts of amateur astronomy groups
and others.

For Universities, Laboratories, Research Organizations, and Other Institutions:
Acknowledge the importance of public outreach and communication.Recognize public outreach and communication efforts when making decisions on hiring,
tenure, compensation and awards. Provide institutional support to enable and assist with public outreach and communication efforts. Collaborate with funding agencies and other organizations to help ensure that public outreach and communication efforts have the greatest possible impact.Make available formal public outreach and  communication training for researchers.Offer communication training in academic courses of study for the next generation of researchers.

For Individual Researchers:
Support efforts to communicate the results and benefits of astronomical research to the public, convey the importance of public outreach and communication to team members.
InstiIl this sense of responsibility in the next generation of researchers