Astronomy in Europe: An Evolving Collaboration --------------------------------------------------
The European Astronomical Society (EAS) invited all its Affiliated Societies to a Workshop held in Leiden, at the Lorentz Center, from 21-23 January 2008, entitled: "Astronomy in Europe: An Evolving Collaboration", the first ever meeting of its kind.
The aims of the meeting were manifold: i) to exchange information of what role the Affiliated Societies currently play at a national and European level; ii) to discuss the role of the EAS, now and in the future; iii) to promote collaboration between National Societies, on a regional as well as European basis; iv) to design a model of cooperation between the EAS and Affiliated Societies which optimises the interaction and information flow between astronomers in the member states on the one hand, and pan-European institutes on the other; v) to work towards a Memorandum of Understanding which defines how the EAS and Affiliated Societies, by working together, can increase their effectiveness and visibility.
It is important to have a well fuctioning collaboration between the EAS and the national (Affiliated) Societies in order to gain maximum benefit for European Astronomy as a whole. This also means that the respective positions and tasks of the main players have to be well defined.
The 3-day meeting was held under the auspices of the European Astronomical Society and organised by its Secretary on behalf of EAS Council. The local organisation was in the able hands of the staff of the Lorentz Center and Prof. Harm Habing (Leiden Observatory) acted as local contact person.
In total 38 participants, predominantly presidents or secretaries representing 23 Affiliated Societies plus the entire EAS Council participated in what turned out to be an extremely useful event. The meeting opened with a talk by Peter Barthel, the chair of the Program Board for Astronomy of the Lorentz Center who presented the mission statement of the Lorentz Center and encouraged the community to consider making use of its excellent facilities.
The main topic of the first day was a presentation and discussion of the EAS position paper. The second day was devoted to presentations by each of the Affiliated Societies. If one thing stood out of those presentations it was the enormous diversity in scope and purpose of the various societies. Some are strictly set up for professional astronomers, others count large numbers of amateur astronomers among their members. Some societies are active players on the astro-political scene, whereas others fulfill a more social need. Clearly, there is strength in this diversity and it will be up to the EAS to harness this and put to good use. On an individual basis, representatives of the societies present were able to exchange experiences and set up bilateral agreements for further collaboration.
The final day was used to highlight the services currently offered by the EAS and to explore ways to improve the communication between the EAS and its Affiliated Societies, and between the societies. Part of the discussion was devoted to the proposed changes to the EAS Constitution and Bye-Laws.
The workshop has been a resounding success and EAS Council is now working hard on the implementation of several of the suggestions which were endorsed by the Affiliated Societies. Astronomy in Europe is blessed with a diverse community. It is up to the EAS, in partnership with the National Societies, to encourage and promote collaboration among all participants, to the benefit of its membership and of the European community as a whole.
Elias Brinks (Secretary, EAS)
Thierry Courvoisier (Vice-President, EAS)
Anne Dutrey (Treasurer, EAS)
Joachim Krautter (President, EAS)