A Half-Century of Astronomy Outreach: Reflections, and Lessons Learned
I reflect on my half-century of experience in astronomy
outreach in Canada and beyond, on the organizations in
which I have served, and on the factors that have contributed to success in outreach. One factor is partnership that builds on the strengths of two or more individuals or organizations, such as the pro-am partnership in Canada during International Year of Astronomy. Challenges remain: the lack of a science "culture" in Canada; the lack of funding for outreach;
the low priority of outreach in many parts of the professional community; and the difficulties in reaching new and diverse audiences-especially underserved ones. For success, there is a strong need for astronomy outreachers to seek high-impact, high-leverage strategies, to make themselves aware of "best practices" in outreach, to make training part of their outreach
activities, and to strive constantly for improvement by
evaluating and/or reflecting on the results. I attribute my own modest successes to my mentors and role models, to the help of colleagues, students, and partner organizations and their members-not the least being the RASC-and to the sheer enjoyment of communicating astronomy to diverse audiences. This article is based on a presentation given to the Canadian Astronomical Society on 2012 June 6, on the occasion of my receiving the inaugural Qilak Award, for my work in communicating astronomy to the public.