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Washington Charter

Last Updated on Monday, 10 May 2010 16:07
Published on Tuesday, 25 January 2005 00:00

At its 2004 March meeting, the Council of the RAS endorsed the 'Washington Charter' for communicating science to the public (the Statement of the 'Communicating Astronomy to the Public' Conference, held in Washington, DC, 2003 October 1-3).


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 compelling obligation to communicate their results and efforts with the public for the benefit of all.



Funding Agencies Should:

* Mandate and fund public outreach and communication in all projects and grant programs;
* Develop infrastructure and linkages to assist with the organization and dissemination of outreach results (including information, materials, etc.);
* Continuously 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; and,
* Encourage international collaboration on public outreach and communication activities.

Professional Astronomical Societies Should:

* Strongly endorse standards for public outreach and communication;
* Assemble best practices, formats, and tools that will aid in effective public outreach and communication;
* Work to 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; and,
* Encourage greater linkages with successful ongoing efforts of amateur astronomy groups and others.

Universities, Laboratories, Research Organizations, and Other Institutions Should:

* Declare public outreach and communication a clear priority for all departments and personnel;
* Actively recognize public outreach and communication efforts when making decisions on hiring, tenure, compensation, and awards;
* Provide appropriate institutional support (e.g., funding, infrastructure, personnel, training, etc.) to enable and assist with public outreach and communication efforts;
* Collaborate with funding agencies and other support organizations to help ensure that public outreach and communication efforts are efficient and have the greatest possible impact;
* Develop appropriate formal public outreach and communication training for all researchers; and,
* Integrate communication training (e.g., writing, speaking, etc.) into the academic courses of study for the next generation of researchers.

Individual Researchers Should:

* Actively participate - directly or indirectly - in communicating the results and benefits of astronomical research directly to the public;
* Convey the importance of public outreach and communication to all team members; and,
* Instill this sense of responsibility in the next generation of researchers.

Final Version (December 18, 2003)