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Broadening the involvement in amateur astronomy - help please!


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I'm currently involved in some work to try to understand why the demographic of the amateur astronomy community is so different to the demogarphics of UK society (obvious when one attends any sort of

I attended a fairly large and well established club regularly for about two years. During that time there was little or no engagement from the committee towards new members. I did raise that point som

I find a lot of feelings of not being welcome come from negativity of the individual involved. How many people have actually been made unwelcome - very few if at all. It's all down to the individual's

Hello All 🙂 

Thanks to those who have completed the survey so far.  We've just published some interim analysis - it makes interesting reading.  This is the start of the process though, and we've been encouraged by the number of people willing to work together to try to improve things.

https://ras.ac.uk/sites/default/files/posters/final-RAS-Astronomy-for-all-All-for-astronomy - Osnat Katz.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1d_sq_SvUGU67yBRSClm6wUL1w8i-XLWAoWWdEzoYPPIyEIVkiVeymunI

We're publishing a slightly longer version next week at the Europlanet Science Congress, so I'll post up a link to that idc too.

Thanks

Helen

 

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35 minutes ago, andrew s said:

Thanks @Helen, largely as I would have guessed.  Any ideas on what actions are being considered? 

Regards Andrew 

Thanks both.   We're hoping to up the number of respondents, particularly from under represented groups so that the stats can be more robust.  (We're well over 400 in total now though.)

Then we're looking at the detail, and going to work on follow up with participants.  Lots of the national organisations are keen to be involved (RAS, BAA, SPA, Fed of Astro societies), so hopefully we can have some debate about action, guidelines, codes of conduct etc. 

For me, I think once we identify the barriers, understand how people feel, we can perhaps start lots of small actions which could cumulate to positive change.  Some positives might also come from covid - online meetings more accessible etc...

At the moment I'm encouraged that people are talking about it, recognising that some action is needed, and being prepared to be part of taking it forward.

Hopefully we'll make a difference!

Helen

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According to the summary results, the 3 principle barriers to participation seem to be:

- Time availability

- Money availability

- Feeling inexperienced

I would say those were the same principle barriers that existed when I first got interested seriously in practicing astronomy during the late 1970's / early 1980's

Or am I missing something ?

SGL certainly helped a lot with the 3rd one :smiley:

I guess an equipment loan facility might have helped with the 2nd barrier but time was something that I had to sort out between myself and my family.

 

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7 minutes ago, John said:

According to the summary results, the 3 principle barriers to participation seem to be:

- Time availability

- Money availability

- Feeling inexperienced

I would say those were the same principle barriers that existed when I first got interested seriously in practicing astronomy during the late 1970's / early 1980's

Or am I missing something ?

SGL certainly helped a lot with the 3rd one :smiley:

I guess an equipment loan facility might have helped with the 2nd barrier but time was something that I had to sort out between myself and my family.

 

Thanks John, yes I think time, money (weather!!) all score highly with all of us! 

The majority of amateur astronomers are white, male and over 35 (mostly over 55), so the main barriers cited will reflect the barriers for them (just because more of them filled in the form).  And if there's something we can help with with these (eg SGL helping with experience, online sessions which are recorded so can be played at a convenient time, loan schemes) then growing the total pool of astronomers is fantastic.  What we also want to investigate though is the extent to which the barriers may be different for different groups - and that's where a more granular analysis of the data will come in.  As a simple example,  I as a lone female would be much more wary about going out to a dark place with a group of males I don't know well! So safety is a bigger barrier for me than for most men probably. 

If there is a similar level of interest in astronomy and science amongst different demographs, but the participation is skewed, then something is awry.  The stats in the survey which show how welcome people feel are for me the nub of the problem - most astronomers clearly think they are welcoming to certain groups, but people in those groups don't feel welcomed.  That's an understanding/perception issue, which hopefully we can all do something about.

Helen

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43 minutes ago, Helen said:

If there is a similar level of interest in astronomy and science amongst different demographs, but the participation is skewed, then something is awry.  The stats in the survey which show how welcome people feel are for me the nub of the problem - most astronomers clearly think they are welcoming to certain groups, but people in those groups don't feel welcomed.  That's an understanding/perception issue, which hopefully we can all do something about.

Helen

@Helen I think the above is very important. 

The first big "if" won't be discernable from looking at active astronomers especially if limited to physical societies.

The welcome/unwelcome is a real challenge. The reality is all groups attract like and repel different. It is not unique to astronomy. I hope your work points to solutions. 

Regards Andrew 

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I find a lot of feelings of not being welcome come from negativity of the individual involved. How many people have actually been made unwelcome - very few if at all. It's all down to the individual's perception of events.

When you are feeling insecure then the slightest thing might feel like an enormous sleight. 

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3 hours ago, andrew s said:

@Helen I think the above is very important. 

The first big "if" won't be discernable from looking at active astronomers especially if limited to physical societies.

The welcome/unwelcome is a real challenge. The reality is all groups attract like and repel different. It is not unique to astronomy. I hope your work points to solutions. 

Regards Andrew 

I attended a fairly large and well established club regularly for about two years. During that time there was little or no engagement from the committee towards new members. I did raise that point somehow and they ended up appointing someone as a kind of welcomer for new members and just to generally be more approachable. It helped, but still I think it can be difficult to break into the groups of friends that build up over time in any club or society.

I like to think our little group welcomes all comers, but am sure there is still plenty we could do to help some of our female members feel more comfortable heading out to dark sites, or even coming along to the local meeting point in the dark. Something to ponder.

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5 minutes ago, Stu said:

I attended a fairly large and well established club regularly for about two years. During that time there was little or no engagement from the committee towards new members. I did raise that point somehow and they ended up appointing someone as a kind of welcomer for new members and just to generally be more approachable. It helped, but still I think it can be difficult to break into the groups of friends that build up over time in any club or society.

I like to think our little group welcomes all comers, but am sure there is still plenty we could do to help some of our female members feel more comfortable heading out to dark sites, or even coming along to the local meeting point in the dark. Something to ponder.

Well done. I think it is a real issue in clubs but also on line. I look for unread posts to try to stop them just going unremarked. 

Regards Andrew 

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On 15/09/2020 at 18:46, Mr Spock said:

I find a lot of feelings of not being welcome come from negativity of the individual involved. How many people have actually been made unwelcome - very few if at all. It's all down to the individual's perception of events.

When you are feeling insecure then the slightest thing might feel like an enormous sleight. 

Being negative and feeling insecure don't go hand in hand. Entering a new group, most people will feel insecure to some degree on first meeting.

The welcoming group needs to understand this to reduce barriers with the new attendee, rather than make the situation harder. Something I've encountered unfortunately.

 

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