This page describes the process that was followed in order to reach the outcomes of the meeting. It should be read in conjunction with the “Road to now…” page which describes the events leading up to the meeting.
- In order to ensure a diverse and representative list of participants, information about this meeting was distributed as widely as possible, following a desktop study of active researchers in Africa. Key individuals who had previously driven the African Astronomical Society were also invited.
- All interested individuals could complete a pre-registration form in which they could motivate both for their attendance and the attendance of anyone else who they felt would be important to have at such a meeting. Those suggested individuals were then contacted and invited to pre-register.
- There were 97 unique pre-registrations received, out of which the Programme Committee selected 73 individuals to invite to the meeting. Those individuals were then asked to complete a registration form where they could submit requests to speak and requests for travel support.
- Thanks to generous funding from the Department of Science and Technology, all requests for travel support were granted.
- All those who were not selected from the pre-registrations for the in-person participation still had the option, along with anyone else, to participate in other ways, including joining by video/audio, contributing to the constitution, nominating members of the Executive Committee, and submitting their expectations.
- The first part of the programme was to get an overview of the astronomy landscape in Africa, with around 30 short presentations (using an on-screen timer) describing activities on the continent. All requests to make presentations were granted and slides are available online.
- There was then a discussion of expectations of an African Astronomical Society. This involved a combination of presenting expectations received in advance electronically as well as an exercise where participants wrote their expectations on post-it notes, which were then grouped into themes.
- The discussion on the constitution was split between the end of the first day and the beginning of the second day, to allow participants to work on it overnight. Prior to the meeting the text of the original AfAS constitution was shared openly on a Google document allowing for anyone to submit comments and suggested changes. All that input was consolidated into a version of the constitution that was distributed to participants on paper at the meeting, and discussed section by section during the item on the programme. This was a non-trivial process and agreement on text in each section was achieved either by consensus or a clear majority from show-of-hands voting.
- Once the constitution had been debated and adopted, the meeting discussed the legal standing of the organisation and the future location of a Secretariat. It was agreed that the Executive Committee would need to consider all options in terms of legal standing before any decisions/actions were taken on registration of an AfAS organisation, and that the offer from the South African government to host the Secretariat for the first 3 years would be accepted.
- The final item on the programme, at the end of Day 2, was the Election of the Executive Committee.
- Nominations were openly received via an online form since prior to the meeting and until just before this item on the programme towards the end of the second day. The submitted nominations were publicly accessible so that anyone could see who was nominated, who nominated them, and why.
- Nominees were contacted and asked to make themselves available either in person or via Zoom (video/audio) to say a few words before elections took place.
- At the meeting all nominees were given 1 minute (using an on-screen timer) to say a few words, indicate whether they accepted or rejected the nomination, state their preference for roles on the Executive Committee, and motivate for their election.
- All participants (both in person and via Zoom) were then asked to vote (via an online form and using their unique email addresses) as to who they would want in each of the respective Executive Committee positions. Each voter therefore made 8 selections for the 8 respective positions as described in the adopted constitution (they could choose any of the candidates for any of the positions).
- The counting of the votes was done publicly on screen, after verifying that there were no repeat votes (all unique and identifiable emails) and then hiding the email addresses from the screen. The results spreadsheet (without email addresses visible) is publicly available.
It was acknowledged at the meeting that although the process was not ideal, it was in fact the best we could do in order to obtain as open and widespread participation as possible and in order to achieve an outcome that would move the African Astronomical Society forward. The participants at the meeting were asked to indicate at the end, by show of hands, whether they were satisfied with the process adopted to reach the outcomes of the meeting. There was unanimous agreement that the process was acceptable.