Established in 2015, the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) is a partnership of the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and the University of Pretoria. The overarching goal IDIA is to build the capacity and expertise in data intensive research within the South African university research community to enable global leadership on MeerKAT large survey science projects and large projects on other SKA pathfinder telescopes, and leadership on SKA phase 1 Key Science programs. IDIA has developed a data intensive cloud computing facility, enabling researchers at its partner universities to work on large data sets from the MeerKAT telescope and other telescopes. This includes supporting graduate students and research projects. IDIA has a department for Development and Outreach (IDIA – D&O), based at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), working to develop societal benefits of IDIA’s work, among other things.

The OAD was established in 2011 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in partnership with the South African National Research Foundation. The OAD is a key part of the IAU’s strategy to use astronomy for sustainable development. Since 2011, the OAD has coordinated IAU grants totalling €851,959 for 160 projects around the world, through its annual call for proposals, targeting audiences in more than 100 countries (with an extra 43 projects funded during 2020 as part of a special COVID-related call). The OAD has also established 11 regional offices around the world (in Armenia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand, USA and Zambia) with two of these offices serving as a joint language centre, and one serving as a dedicated language centre. During the same period, the OAD registered over 600 volunteers from around the world, and formed 17 partnerships with organisations sharing in the OAD vision.

In 2020, the OAD, in collaboration with the International Science Council Regional Office for Africa organised a Science for Development workshop that IDIA-D&O attended. During the workshop, IDIA-D&O proposed to develop a course on “Science for Development” at UWC. This proposal was identified as the best idea suggested at the workshop, and was awarded seed funding from the OAD in order to begin implementation. The proposed course forms part of a larger interest in science-for-development from both IDIA-D&O, and the OAD.

Science for Development Project

Panel discussion at the first Science 4 Development workshop held in January 2020

Some help from the youth.

Both partners recognise the important role and potential of science for development and are independently working towards achieving and facilitating the development impact of science. The purpose of this collaboration is to synergise such efforts and work together on a broader Science for Development (Science4Dev) Project, which will include the course development and other related initiatives. The educational resources created for the science for development course will be licensed as Open Education Resources with Creative Commons licenses.

Role of IDIA

IDIA will develop the Science for Development course, which will be implemented at the University of the Western Cape, and will provide relevant content management for the Science for Development Project website.

Role of the OAD

The OAD will provide technical input into the Science for Development course, cover related costs through the seed funding allocated, and provide the hosting of the Science for Development Project website. The OAD will also bring in other potential partners to support the Science for Development project, such as those who participated in the 2020 Science for Development workshop.

Both parties may develop science-for-development initiatives on their own, which could later form part of the collaborative Science4Dev project, with the ultimate aim being to build a multi-faceted project working towards a coherent Science for Development big picture.

Expected outcomes

1. A joint Science4Dev website featuring the vision of the project, as well as initiatives, information around the science for development course, publications and interventions on the subject of science for development.

2. Creative Commons licensed Open Education Resources arising from the development of the course, to be made available on the website

3. When the opportunity arises to develop more science for development initiatives, they will be done by either partner, or both, as appropriate, and placed under the Science4Dev project where appropriate.