The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the indigenous Hawaiian community and to the indigenous peoples in Chile.
NCOA is committed to authentic and productive community engagement with diverse audiences which include our users, stakeholders, and advocates in the astronomy research system. Our community engagement efforts have the goal that we will be important and effective partners, as well as authentic collaborators, in engaging with the broader astronomy research, communications, and education ecosystems.
To develop a strong community engagement system requires NCOA to identify the stakeholders and partners necessary to achieve our overall mission and to identify specific audiences and their specific needs to which NCOA can skillfully contribute. For example, NCOA is committed to the preservation of dark skies around our observing facilities to maintain our research productivity. To achieve this goal, NCOA partners with research and education organizations and co-develops programs with our partners that can collectively advance us towards our shared goal of dark night skies optimized for research work, for the appreciation of the public, for preservation of health and energy, and even for economic growth through astro-tourism.
Similarly, NCOA works closely with local communities, including indigenous communities where our research sites are located, to make significant contributions to improve STEM education. In our community engagement effort, we strive to be authentic collaborators to solve the problems that our partners have identified as important. Another example of community engagement is our comprehensive, practical science communications effort, done in collaboration with the researchers who produce exciting results and our communications partners, who help us spread these results to multiple audiences using diverse media.
Under NCOA all education, public engagement and communication at Gemini, NOAO and LSST Operations are merged into a shared services unit called Communications, Outreach, and Education (COE).
The long-range program plan for NCOA’s formal and informal education work is based on the high-level deliverables of the 2018 federal strategic plan “Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education” which describes a vision for the future where “all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment”. These plans serve to inform the future NCOA education strategy.