UKZN Academic Appointed to Astronomy Advisory Council
UKZN’s Professor Kavilan Moodley has been appointed by the National Research Foundation (NRF) to its newly inaugurated Astronomy Advisory Council.
This prestigious body will oversee and advise the NRF’s Astronomy sub-Agency. Working through the Deputy CEO: Astronomy and the Directors of the Astronomy National Facilities, the Council is mandated to provide strategic and technical advice to the NRF on Astronomy matters.
Moodley is an Associate Professor in UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, based in its Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU).
‘The School is very proud of Professor Moodley's appointment to the Council,’ said Dean and Head of School, Professor Kesh Govinder. ‘This appointment serves as appropriate acknowledgement of his pivotal role in driving development in Astronomy in South Africa. It also cements UKZN’s position as a significant site of Astronomy, both nationally and internationally.’
Said Moodley: ‘This appointment provides an excellent opportunity to guide the growth of the South African astronomy community into an international scientific force in this area. Building a world-class community of scholars and students to support this endeavour will be one of our key objectives.’
Other members of the Astronomy Advisory Council include Professor Renée Kraan-Korteweg of the University of Cape Town; Professor Romeel Davé of the University of the Western Cape; Professor Sergio Colafrancesco of the University of Witwatersrand; Professor Thebe Medupe and Professor Frikkie van Niekerk of the North West University; Professor David Davidson of Stellenbosch University; Professor Mamokgethi Setati-Phakeng of the University of South Africa; Professor Bo Peng of the National Astronomical Observatories in China; and Professor George Miley of Leiden University in the Netherlands.
In addition, the NRF’s Deputy CEO: Astronomy, the Directors of the Astronomy National Facilities, the Director of the SA-SKA Project and a Department of Science and Technology (DST) representative will serve on the Council in ex officio capacities. The terms of the Council members will run from 1 November 2013 until 31 October 2016.
In light of South Africa’s strategic investment and involvement in astronomy, with the country hosting the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) and the major share of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), and developing the African VLBI Network (AVN), the Council will strengthen the NRF’s ability to manage these initiatives on behalf of the country.
The Council will also carry out its mandate in cooperation with other astronomy-related bodies such as the SA-SKA Steering Committee, the SA Large Telescope (SALT) Board, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office of Astronomy for Development Steering Committee and the JIVE Consortium.
CEO of the NRF, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, said: ‘The Council will assess critically the extent to which the Astronomy sub-Agency carries out its mandate in alignment with national strategic astronomy objectives, by ensuring that South Africa derives maximum benefit from its investments in astronomy, and that astronomy in South Africa grows to become truly globally competitive.’
The Council will also facilitate collaborations across different wavelength regimes in astronomy; provide advice on technical innovations; and monitor transformation and human capacity development as well as engage with the broader astronomy community by holding periodic Astronomy Town Meetings. Their work will be guided by the DST Astronomy Desk’s ten-year strategic plan currently being developed by the astronomy community. Moodley is chairing the Astronomy Desk panel for Human Capacity Development in South African Astronomy.
In marking the inauguration of the Astronomy Advisory Council, Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director General, Department of Science and Technology, said: ‘The National Research and Development Strategy identifies astronomy as a scientific discipline in which South Africa has a geographic advantage. This, therefore, warrants that our endeavours in this field are appropriately managed so as to ensure that the country and the scientific community derive maximum benefit and the Advisory Council will therefore play an important role in this regard.’
Auf de Heyde said the DST was pleased with the calibre of the people who have been appointed to serve on the Advisory Council.
- Sally Frost