Greetings From Incoming President-Elect Debra Elmegreen
The scientific highlights and historical reflections presented over the last two weeks in Vienna at the XXXth General Assembly have underscored how far astronomy has come and how much the IAU has evolved in the last century. We’re now as far beyond the first moon landing (almost 50 years) as the formation of the IAU was ahead of it. The astronomical and technological advances in the interim have taken us from a time of lone observers on mountaintops to an era of enormous international teams, big telescopes on the ground and in space, massive datasets, and multi-messenger astronomy, as beautifully illustrated in the IAU’s 100-year exhibition “Above and Beyond.”
Astronomy is truly a global endeavor, and the IAU, as the worldwide organisation of professional astronomers, is uniquely positioned to help foster broad scientific exchanges. We are active on many fronts to help advance astronomy internationally, such as the executive-level working group on global coordination of ground and space-based astrophysics and heliophysics. Beyond its initial focus of bringing astronomers together through General Assemblies, symposia, and workshops, the IAU has expanded in just the last decade to include offices whose primary responsibilities are to train our next generation of astronomers, to use astronomy and its technologies as tools for development, and to communicate astronomy to the public.
With the new Strategic Plan for 2020-2030, we look forward to initiating an office of astronomy for education, which will be engaged in helping primary and secondary school teachers incorporate astronomy in the classroom through training, development of syllabi and standards, and access to materials and activities. Because it generates broad excitement, astronomy is the natural gateway to a lifelong interest in science. The new junior member category, as well as increased efforts for gender equity in astronomy and other inclusion initiatives, should continue to make the IAU a more welcoming and diverse body, which ultimately benefits all of astronomy.
As incoming president-elect, I look forward to learning from our outstanding outgoing president Silvia Torres-Peimbert and incoming president Ewine van Dishoeck, and continuing to serve with our Executive Committee and Division Presidents. I hope to build on our mission of “promoting and safeguarding astronomy through all its aspects (including research, communication, education, and development) through international cooperation” and to help make the IAU the global go-to organization for astronomy. I am counting on our membership to work with us to achieve our new Strategic Plan goals, and I welcome suggestions. Together we can usher in a second amazing hundred years.