EAS inaction and plans for an A4E symposium

The European Astronomical Society

Since the EAS council shows a continuous lack of action towards any of the sustainability goals that they have even set themselves (by joining the UN climate neutral now initiative), most members of the EAS Sustainability Advisory Committee stepped down in protest on June 26. In order to be seen and heard, we have written a Communication piece for Nature Astronomy. EAS council has seen our letter in advance and was offered the opportunity to write a reply in the same issue but as everyone can read, they did not really deal with our arguments. The A4E authors have summarised the status and checked the arguments of the EAS at this webpage. An example is that, despite EAS Council’s claims, the EAS 2022 meeting was not a step forward for sustainable astronomy, but probably had the highest carbon footprint from travel since the meeting in Tenerife in 2015 based on the location and number of participants.

As we were not allowed to organise our EAS 2022 special session 33 in an inclusive and environmentally sustainable way, we reduced the EAS 2022 A4E session to an in-person-only lunch session. It was held on the last day of the EAS 2022 meeting on Friday, July 1st, in Valencia and chaired by Lola Balaguer and Annie Hughes (coordinator, A4E Europe regional group). The session focussed on a discussion about the future of the EAS annual meeting (again) with the panelists Lex Kaper (for the EAS meeting board), Holly Andrews (for Diversity and Inclusion), Corentin Cadiou (for Sustainability), Anniek Gloudemans (for Early Career Researchers), Charles Takalana (for the African Astronomical Society), and Michelle Willebrands (for Astronomy for development).

There was wide agreement among most panelists that the meeting needs to be improved in terms of accessibility and sustainability, but there were a number of different ideas on the way to get there. Suggestions included improvements of the in-person meeting itself, e.g., with better daycare or by turning it into a multi-site meeting to at least avoid long-distance trips. Others favoured a true hybrid component for every meeting, or even a fully online meeting every other year. There is some hope that next year’s (in-person) EAS annual meeting, at the very modern conference centre ICE Krakow, will finally support full remote participation. Several people voiced concerns, however, that the current business model of the EAS annual meeting – which involves paying many tens if not hundreds of k€ to a commercial company – is not sustainable in itself. Unfortunately, the EAS Council is currently not open to discuss the business model itself. Discussion about the future of this meetings is happening in the channel #region_europe.

Since we had to cancel our A4E special session, we need to find a replacement, but the scope will be wider and the idea is to organise an all-A4E event, currently dubbed A4E symposium, in late November or early December this year. Leo Burtscher has put in a proposal to support this symposium financially and a number of institutes / people have pledged financial support (Würzburg, Amsterdam), asked for financial support (Barcelona) or offered organisational help. We have started to secure funding and are waiting for a few more replies. Organisation will start soon and we are still looking for people who want to help make this a big A4E online event this year! If you would like to help organise this A4E symposium, please join #project_a4e_symposium.

(July 4, 2022)