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ISSUE 7 - November 2009

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Astronomy and the Media (pages 05-06)
Henri Boffin

First Paragraph

In astronomy, as in other scientific or societal fields, communication is too important to be overlooked by any organisation. Public research organisations in particular should be accountable to the public for the tax money they spend. This is only possible if the public is informed about the work of the organisation. Communication is even more crucial when trying to secure additional funding for new projects. As one scientist said, perhaps a little bit too provocatively, “the one percent spent on outreach brings the other 99 percent needed to get the project done”. This may well be an overstatement, but the general principle is clear. Good communication is also a vital channel for maintaining the necessary excellent relations with local communities — some of the large astronomical observatories know a great deal about this. Communication is also essential for astronomy to fulfil a fundamental need in modern society: attracting bright youngsters to scientific careers. Although young people are increasingly moving away from science, there is a great need for future scientists. And even if young people don’t become scientists, it is important that they are exposed to science as a whole: as adults, they won’t be able to avoid relying on science in their daily life, and they will have to take decisions with a scientific dimension.

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