Outreach and Public Engagement after Covid Session at EAS 2022
August 10, 2022

Outreach and Public Engagement after Covid Session at EAS 2022

The impact of Covid-19 led to a dramatic change in the landscape of public engagement, which overnight transformed from “hands on” to entirely virtual delivery. Appreciation of astronomy briefly enjoyed a higher profile, with views of the sky connecting us to the wider universe while confined to our homes. Virtual access has enabled the astronomy community to reach audiences that could not normally attend “face to face” outreach sessions, but it has simultaneously widened the gap for disadvantaged communities without access to the technology needed for online engagement.

At the European Astronomical Society (EAS) 2022 Annual Meeting in Valencia from 27 June – 1 July, the astronomy outreach community took the opportunity to come together and discuss some of these issues.

In particular, participants were asked to consider for public engagement in the years ahead:

  • Is the increase in virtual outreach initiatives “the new normal”, or is “face to face” vital for engaging marginalised communities on the wrong side of the digital divide?
  • What does this mean for collaboration across Europe and further afield? 
  • How has public perception of science changed during the pandemic and what does this mean for the outreach community?

Over a lunch session on Monday 27 June attended by around 60 participants, we heard from a number of speakers and then had an open discussion of our experiences over the past two and a half years. While the general consensus in the room was that face-to-face interaction is very important for outreach and public engagement and that the return to in-person events is very positive, the impact of Covid remains an ongoing issue – not least in that several of the scheduled speakers were unfortunately unable to take part in the session due to positive tests. The benefits of hybrid meetings for sustainability and inclusion were also a topic of much discussion at EAS 2022 in the wider context of conferences and events.

If you missed the session, some of the presentations and virtual posters are provided here with kind permission of the authors:

Astro-lògos: stories of the history of the Universe. A science-art project inspired by Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, Claudia Mignone

Increasing the science outreach in Romania during the pandemic, Sandor Kruk

Communicating science worldwide with the International Day of LightGeethu Paulose

AstroEDU, IAU open-access platform for peer-reviewed Educational ActivitiesLivia Giacomini

Inspiring the Next Generation of Space and Planetary Scientists: The 2022 EXPLORE Junior Lunar Data ChallengeDaniel Le Corre

Planets In A Room and how hands-on activities has been forced to switch to onlineFederica Duras

Bringing the night sky to Italian living rooms via livestream eventsClaudia Mignone