Forum: African Astronomical Society
Discussion around the establishment of an African Astronomical SocietyBack to Forum List >> Back to Topic List >> VIEW ALL POSTS
History of discussion
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Modified: Friday, 24 September 2010
In this thread is the full history of the comments thus far...
Initial call for comments
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Greetings all
There have been a number of discussions going on in various circles about the formation of the African Astronomical Society (AfAS), which has thus far been driven by Prof Pius Okeke and his team at the Centre for Basic Space Sciences (CBSS) in Nigeria. Some of the discussions have been very positive whilst others were less so. This email is to try to consolidate these discussions and bring everyone onto the same page. If there are suggestions or concerns, we should address them together so that at the end of the day all of us involved in developing astronomy in Africa speak with one voice.

At the outset we should acknowledge the many efforts made thus far by Prof. Okeke and his team in growing astronomy in Africa. Acknowledgement must also be made to the many individuals in East Africa who have been doing great things for astronomy - as well as others all over the continent - there are far too many people to name but it's important for everyone on this list to realise that astronomy is steadily gaining momentum in various ways - and your updates of your development activities will always be welcome on this list. Together we will build astronomy in Africa.

I now welcome your comments on the formation of the African Astronomical Society (AfAS). All the relevant information about the society is contained in the discussion White Paper kindly prepared by Prof Okeke which I copy below. Note that this email list (africalist) is now fairly large and in order to streamline the discussions and reduce the number of emails exchanged I suggest you send your comments to me by email and I can then send out one consolidated email to the list.

We would then like to host a Skype conference where discussions arising from the comments can be addressed through real-time conversation. The proposed date and time for the Skype conference is Friday 24th September 2010 at 16:00 UT. Skype user "kevindran" will be hosting the conference - you simply log onto Skype and dial the user "kevindran".

I encourage everyone to come on board and have your say so that we can all decide together on the way forward. The development of astronomy in Africa will not be as effective as it could be if we do not speak with one united voice.

I look forward to receiving your input as soon as possible but ideally before the Skype conference a week from now.





In Support of

An Act to Establish the African Astronomical Society


In seeking a Charter of incorporation, the African Astronomical Society (AfAS) wishes to strengthen the effectiveness of its resolve and commitment to the growth, acquisition and dissemination of astronomical knowledge, and to facilitate the use of astronomy in the solution of problems of national/international interest.

In this paper, in the effort to address the need and appropriateness of a Charter for AfAS, attention will be drawn to some aspects of the development, growth, significance and contributions of astronomical societies, as learned societies. The paper will also consider, in particular, the operations/programmes, its relevance and prospects with regard to national development, as well as its contributions to national and international astronomy.



Research and development activities are universally acknowledged as integral aspects of any process for the production of new systems or for the upgrading or improvement of existing ones, or for achieving optimization with regard to their performance. Also, astronomical and technological research and development activities play a critical role with regard to the sustainability of industrial effort, especially given the overwhelming importance of engineering and technology as drivers of industry.

In this regard, a typical research and development (i.e. R&D) activity is essentially, an engagement for the systematic investigation into and study of materials, sources, etc with a view to establishing facts and hence reaching new conclusions. Alternatively, it may be considered as an exercise for the discovery of new facts or the collation of existing data or information, etc, through the scientific study of a subject or by a process of critical investigation or procedures.

This is particularly true of the vast terrain of astronomy and technology in which tremendous advances with a multitude of discoveries, inventions and innovations, along with associated applications, have brought manifest advantages and improvements to human existence.

Thus, at the launch meeting of African Physical Society (AfPS) that was held at Dakar Senegal from January 11 – 16, 2010, it was observed that African Astronomers have not been moving forward in line with other astronomers from other countries. Hence it was suggested and agreed that one way to get African astronomers together as a body. The formation of such a body will help to initiate collaboration with Astronomers from other countries, discuss and solve astronomical problems, strengthen astronomy in Africa, develop astronomy in Africa and initiate astronomy outreach programmes.

The above considerations help to explain the emergence and general acceptability of astronomical societies worldwide, over the centuries, as organizational bodies, usually operating with state financial support and approval that coordinate scholarly research and development activities, and standards, in astronomy.

Astronomical societies are formed for a variety of reasons, among the most important of which are the following:

(a) Production and distribution of knowledge, among astronomers/experts, based on facts and logical deductions/predictions.

(b) The patriotic imperatives guiding the efforts of the societies towards contributing to the safety and well-being of the citizenry in their various countries.

(c) The socio-economic implications of astronomy and its applications.

While the interest of the astronomers/experts may be said to be largely propelled by (a) and (b), the attention of governments worldwide has been increasingly attracted by (c), given the acknowledged vital role of astronomy and technology as drivers of industrial processes and hence their strategic importance with regard to the economic advancement of nations.

Indeed, over the years, governments have come to rely increasingly on demonstrably productive linkages with astronomical societies, to the extent that even when such learned societies have been established independently by the expert astronomers, governments have often been keen to grant them recognition and provide support in the national interest. Furthermore, in a large number of countries, governments have generally found it convenient to ensure or facilitate the establishment of these organizations.


Any appraisal of the worldwide development of astronomical societies readily brings into focus their global spread and growing importance. Thus, of the 192 current member states of the United Nations, over 90 of them rely on their national or on regional astronomical societies. Furthermore, the acknowledged relevance of the astronomical societies to national economic development is reflected in the membership of the various world economic groupings. For example, each member of both G7, which is the group of seven of the world’s leading economies (i.e. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States) and the G8 (which is the G7 together with Russia) relies on the scientific inputs into governance provided by its national astronomy society. This society is reciprocally accorded full recognition and adequate support.

This situation is also reflected in the membership of the newer G20 organization, which is essentially an enlargement of the G8. It consists of the 20 largest economies of the world (i.e. 19 of the world’s largest economies, together with the European Union (EU)). The 19 nations of the organization (which provides a forum for cooperation and consultation on international finance) are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. All these countries have strong astronomical societies, with the sole exception of Saudi Arabia.

It is to be observed that the development and growth of the world system of astronomical societies has been facilitated by the emergence of global science organizations, as distinct from national bodies. Among these organizations is the International Astronomical Union (IAU). With a membership of over 100 astronomical societies worldwide (including national academies/institutions, as well as regional/global groups of astronomers), the IAU, being essentially a global network of astronomical societies, has as its primary objective, the provision of assistance to member astronomical societies to facilitate their mutual cooperation, with a view to proffering astronomy advice on national and critical global issues. The IAU enjoys secure funding for its operations, provided by member nations.

An important aspect of the global development of astronomical societies is their worldwide spread which cuts across national/ regional boundaries, world economic groupings and other interests. Also, as observed from the membership of the United Nations, this spread is not restrained by the disparities in the economic strengths of nations.



An Astronomer is a professional scientist, who does or did research on celestial bodies and /or the universe as a whole.


An AfAS member must be a PhD /MSc holder, actively involved in astronomy research


An AfAS student member must be an undergraduate /or graduate student in the area of astronomy.


A new member shall be recommended by the coordinator of astronomy in his/her country of residence.

On the recommendation, the council shall consider and approve his/her membership.


1. To grow the astronomical profession in Africa to a highly recognized international level.

2. Specifically, the purpose of the African Astronomical Society (AfAS) is to organize and network the community of African research astronomers, to advocate for more resources for astronomy research, to grow the number of African astronomers doing research at African-based telescopes, and to better bridge the African astronomy community to the global astronomical community.


AfAS shall consists of;

a). “The General Assembly”, comprising all members, which is the highest authority of the society,

b). “The Executive council (EXCO)” which shall comprise of the following:

i. The President who shall be the Chair of the EXCO.

ii. The Vice President

iii The Executive Secretary

iv. the Treasurer

v. The Financial Secretary

vi, The National coordinator

It has the responsibility for the administration and general management of the society, and ensures that the objectives of the society are actively pursued.

c). committees of the society.

d). “The Secretariat”, to be maintained by the society and headed by the Executive Secretary.


The Society will be established to promote the growth, acquisition and dissemination of astronomical knowledge, and to facilitate its use in the solution of major problems of national interest. This is achieved by:

(i)Providing advice on specific problems of astronomical

and technological nature, presented to it by the

government and its agencies, as well as by private


(ii) Bringing to the attention of the government and its

agencies problems of national interest that astronomy and technology can help to solve;

(iii) Establishing and maintaining the highest standards of

astronomical endeavour and achievement in Africa.


Towards the achievement of its aims and objectives as

summarized in Section V, The Society will engage in a wide range of programmes, such as:

(a) Publication of journals, discourses, proceedings and


(b) Organization of conferences, seminars, workshops and


(c) Recognition of outstanding contributions to astronomy and

(d) Development of effective linkages with other national and international scientific agencies and astronomical societies including, in particular, engagement on collaborative programmes and projects, involving the promotion of evidence-based research and development activities.

Other major activities, including the following:

(i) Expert Meetings and Workshops: The Society will provide a neutral platform to bring together professionals and to stimulate exchange of ideas on diverse matters of astronomy. The Society serves as astronomy adviser to government and society.

(ii) International Conferences: In line with its vision, mission and objectives, the Society will participate actively in many conferences of major global/regional astronomical societies.

(iii) Scientific Information: The Society will produce reports, annals and other related publications. These serve as credible sources of unbiased astronomical information. The Society will also publish journals, monographs, abstracts, reviews, directories, etc. In particular, it will publish highly reputable and prestigious Proceedings in which astronomers may publish the results of recent research.


. This paper has drawn attention to some aspects of the development, growth, significance and contributions of national astronomical societies, as learned societies. It has also considered, in particular, the emergence and activities of the African Astronomical Society, its relevance and prospects with regard to national development, as well as its contributions to international astronomy.
From Omar
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Dear Dr. Kevin
I'll join your group during the skype conference at Friday 24 /9/2001 at 16:00 UT
to share with you our experience in the field of Astronomy education and Astronomical activities at the Planetarium science Center.
Thank you

Omar Fikry, Ph.D.
Head of Planetarium Section
Planetarium Science Center
Bibleothica Alexandrina
From Solomon
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Dear Prof. Pius Okeke,

First of all I appreciate the initiative of Prof. Pius Okeke and his team for the establishment of African Astronomical Society (AfAS).

I have taken a look at the proposed document that you have developed. Based on your document here I have addressed some of my comments and suggestions to be included into the proposal for further development.

1. I recommend that the document shall indicate a follow up By-Laws and Working rules of the society. I hope that the up coming by-laws and working rules bears the general article like: name of the society, Logo, Status, Scope, Objectives, Head quarter of the Society, Membership, Administrative bodies and divisions, Financial affairs, future prospective, so on. Here it is my believe that you may also communicate us for the draft by-laws and working rules you prepare in the future.
2. The document didn’t clearly state the scope, Logo, Head quarter and Status of the society. I recommend that you include the clear scope, Logo, status and objectives of the society into the upcoming by-laws by dividing it into different articles.
3. Since the proposed society is AfAS, then it will be better to involve African Union and African Science and Technology commission to facilitate the process easily and to get strong support from African governments. Also, I suggest that Head quarter of the society shall be at the capital city of AU to make the society stronger in finance and capacity.
4. I didn’t see the different categories of membership type. I hope that you include memberships like

National members, Full members, Associate members, Fellows Members, Honorary members, Emeritus members

5. I hope that Officers and Committee, election of committee and terms of committee and the General assembly shall be included into by-laws in detail.
6. Duties and responsibilities of Officers, Members Executive committee and Sub-committee shall be included into By-laws in detail in separate article
7. Responsibility and accountability of individual members, National Members and so on shall be included in the up coming by-laws
8. I didn’t see admission fee and annual fee, method of payment and in general financial transaction. I hope you will include into By-laws and working rules
9. In the administrative structure I believe that Editor-in-Chief and Assistant Editor shall be included.

I am looking forward to see detail By-Laws and Working rules for the establishement of African Astronomical Society (AfAS) soon.


Solomon Belay (PhD)

Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS) Board Member,

Education, Research and Outreach programe Coordinator,

ESSS, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
From Abiy
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Hi all,

While it is a great idea to have a continental astronomical society for various reasons, I feel it is very very important to give a good thought, and also consult with concerned body in the continent before establishing it .

First of all this society is standing for the entire continent and hence I don't see any particular reason why it should be a business of very small number of people while the majority of the people don't know about it. I would recommend that the people the society is going to stand for should be given all the opportunity to discuss the matter well. There are very important institution in the continent which should have been consulted from the very inception of the process. This includes the South African Astronomical Observatory. Being from that institution, I can witness that maybe people just came to know about the entire issue let alone contributing towards it.

Second, we all should remember that astronomy in the continent is still in its infancy and only in the last couple of years astronomy stars to reach out to different part of the continent. This process is already starting to materalize and different regional societies are in the process of formation. If once these regional societies stand strong, maybe the the need of formation a bigger society that can represent Africa in international level would make more sense.

Otherwise, a society that is going to form without consulting different stakeholders in the continent and without waiting the right natural timing, could easily fail and reflect a bad picture about Africa.

Therefore, one option I would suggest is, while it is important to bring up and discuss the entire issue in the Ouagadougou, launching it might not be wise idea.

Best regards,

From Keith
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Dear Kevin,

I fully support the founding of an African Astronomy Society. It is routine amongst such professional entities to have some minimum floor qualification, which he proposes be (1) an M.Sc & (2) active in research.

I would like to propose an amendment. To provide for some further category / s of membership that would enable existing societies such as ASSA to in some way affiliate.

Common terminology in these cases is to call professional astronomers
FELLOWS of AfAS, while amateurs, & other supporters & patrons of Astronomy could be called members.

Another option is to term professional astronomers MEMBERS, & the others
associate members,
student members,
affiliate members.

My motivation is that with our continent's limited resources, it will be optimal to not duplicate, but have one secretariat serving all,
Please pass my proposal to those concerned. I do not have access to skype etc.

with warmest regards, Keith.
From Peter
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
I strongly support this proposal. It would-be greets if it could provide a vehicle for networking between former NASSP graduates.

Sent from my iPad

Professor Peter KS Dunsby,

Director, National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme
and Co-Director, Centre for Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravitation

Cosmology and Gravity Group
Department of Mathematics
and Applied Mathematics,
University of Cape Town,
Rondebosch 7701

Tel: +27 21 650 2344
From Claire
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Hello Pius and Kevin

Sorry, it’s not clear to me – is this a proposed Act within the Nigerian legal system?



Claire Flanagan

Wits Planetarium

011-717-1391 / 9


011-339-2926 (fax)
From Case
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Hi Kevin,

What a wonderful idea! Some comments that my be useful. It will need:

1 a permanent "home" is some institution - (OAD?) - see below
2 funding - this could be along the IAU lines of governments paying subs for its members
3 a small management team (secretariat, paid) to keep it active and running, say 2/3 people, in an office with proper telecoms etc.
4 a regular big meeting - possibly replace MEARIM? See below
5 regular smaller meetings on a rotational basis
6 address the usual anglo-/franco-phone divide to avoid getting two camps within AfAS

I think it would be great ito funding and management if AfAS could become a Commission within the IAU

The advantages are:

-- this would mean that all African members of the IAU are automatically members of AfAS
-- it would ensure sustainability and meet every three years in an international environment at the GA of the IAU
-- Symposia could be organized under the IAU structures, giving status to them + publications
-- Maybe the MEARIM Series could become the tri-denial home for the AfAS
-- it could then also become one of the "pillars" of the OAD and have a permanent base there.

The disadvantages:

-- a possible decrease in autonomy - but that should be addressable
- - one doesn't want to set a precedent so that other groupings would also like to enjoy these benefits - should be able to overcome that by saying it forms part of the OAD plan (?) and is a once off special case - I think that under current circumstances the IAU might be sympathetic.

Further, should SKA appear on the local scene the axis of SALT, SKA and HESS could well form an important driver for AfAS. And a possible role for NASSP must also be considered - students could form important ambassadors for AfAS.

What about calling it "The African Institute of Astronomy"? AIA sounds OK and maybe a bit more professional! Most astronomical societies are amateur oriented.

If I dream up any more crazy ideas I'll forward them! But I hope that some of these are useful

Kind reegards

From Kingsley
Posted Friday, 24 September 2010 By kg
Dear Kelvin,

I think the paper is a significant step forward for the establishment
of the Continental Society. Hope others show enough enthusiasm towards
the skype meeting.

Kingsley Okpala
Department of Physics and Astronomy,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka,
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