OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

A. Basic space science

  1. In order to assist scientists in developing countries in finding the necessary support in the pursuit of basic space science, great efforts should be made to create awareness of the importance of basic space science for national development among decision makers and the general public. In reconsidering the suggestions contained in the reports of the first three United Nations/ESA Workshops on Basic Space Science, held in India, in 1991 (A/AC.105/489), in Costa Rica and Colombia, in 1992 (A/AC.105/530), and in Nigeria, in 1993 (A/AC.105/560/Add.1), participants noted that the goals associated with basic space science in West Asia are related to the desire to educate their own basic space scientists as well as the engineers, managers and technicians needed for self-reliant development and management of the resources of the continent through the tools and knowledge acquired in the pursuit of basic space science as defined by the following areas of research:

    1. astronomy and astrophysics;

    2. solar-terrestrial interaction and its influence on terrestrial climate;

    3. planetary and atmospheric studies; and

    4. origin of life and exobiology.

    The participants stressed that the pursuit of basic space science, even under the current difficult economic conditions, represents an important effort to maintain cultural values and at the same time stimulate the modernization of society. The fact that basic space science relate to subjects which extend beyond the geopolitical distribution of the world, assures that they also present a very powerful means to foster inter-regional collaboration.

  2. Participants agreed that the following techniques would be applicable for pursuing basic space science research:

    1. Ground-based optical, infrared and radio observations and radio and optical telescopes with associated equipment;

    2. Remote sensing, both from the ground and from space;

    3. In situ measurements from rocket, balloon and satellite platforms;

    4. All measurements from ground-inaccessible windows (e.g. X-ray and others) which could be made only through the use of instruments and telescopes in Earth orbit; and

    5. Phased radar techniques.

    B. Availability and dissemination of scientific information

    1. Access to information

  3. Major space agencies of the world should be urged to supply advanced information regarding various projects to scientists in developing countries so that those scientists may involve themselves in follow-up studies.

  4. Considering the very high price of scientific journals and the recognized disadvantage associated with the unavailability at a professional level of information on front-line research in all countries associated with the previous workshops, it is recommended that all research groups interested in basic space science should request assistance in contacting publishers with a view to investigating mechanisms that would enhance worldwide availability of such journals.

  5. In view of the severe difficulties encountered by researchers in acquiring textbooks, conference proceedings and other materials needed for advanced scientific research, efforts should be made to ensure the printing, in association with activities already being carried out by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), ICTP, European Physical Society (EPS) and AIP, of textbooks in English on basic space science at the elementary, primary, secondary and undergraduate levels, as well as popular texts on basic space science in that language. The participants felt that there is a strong need to create a wider awareness of the importance of basic space science in the general public. It was highlighted that such can only be accomplished through information distribution in the native language. It was recommended that the United Nations investigates avenues to promote the availability of the already existing information in ways more accessible to the general public.

    2. Data archives and data centres

  6. The participants emphasized the importance of the availability at the national level of existing basic space science data archives for building up first-rate educational and research capabilities for internationally recognized scientific investigations. The availability of some of those on a regional basis could be considered an important step in this direction, but a national center for such data will greatly enhance its availability.

  7. Member States were urged to select, through national discussion, local or regional clearing-houses for the highly valuable data archives that are still available at no cost from their producing agencies. The owners should be requested to deliver such data products in a manner conducive to easy dissemination and access at the national level, e.g. COBE skymaps, ROSAT survey data, International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), Uniform Low Dispersion Archive (ULDA) and Planetary Data System (PDS). Those clearing-houses (or data centres) would foster the development of national basic space science resources and stimulate international collaboration by the existence of centres of common interest. They would also make highly valued data pertaining to individual countries more accessible to other countries, and consequently enhance awareness of the capabilities of each country.

  8. Existing or planned centres are strongly recommended to open their facilities beyond national borders to support and stimulate regional access, which is considered to be mutually beneficial and will stimulate development at a regional level, making also use of the services of the Regional African Satellite Communication System (RASCOM).

    3. Information management system

  9. The participants noted that the United Nations had consulted with institutes and researchers concerning the availability of the above-mentioned information and the collection of detailed information on bilateral and multilateral arrangements allowing an exchange of students and researchers for learning as well as teaching purposes. A document containing that information was distributed at the meeting (A/AC.105/548).

  10. Recognizing that a country's level of involvement in the activities in basic space science is invariably associated with existing economic conditions, the participants recommended the development of new initiatives in developing countries for deeper involvement in basic space science. They recognized, however, that such new initiatives should be accommodated within the existing individual infrastructure of the country. They also recognized the importance of exploring ways and means by which the evolution of individual countries' basic space science activities and international cooperation could be maintained and stimulated.

  11. The participants noted with satisfaction the efforts already taking place in the region to enhance the university curriculum in basic space science and highlighted the importance of these curricula especially when established at the introductory level, even without incorporation of advanced degrees.

    4. Electronic communication network

  12. The participants reconfirmed the importance of the free flow of ideas and concepts for a strong participation in basic space science. The implementation of local (national) information and communication networks, as well as the internationally functional INTERNET and other similar activities are of fundamental importance for creating the infrastructure required to enhance and expand the regional participation in basic space science.

  13. It is especially desirable to realize the regional importance of such central connections, since this will more than any other investment stimulate regional development by communication between scientists with common interests, to address regionally associated problems with far higher efficiency.

  14. Member States should identify requirements without which the above-mentioned facilities cannot be implemented and should identify and possibly provide the minimum necessary investment to start implementation.

    5. Use of available scientific databases

  15. The participants recognized the importance of access to advanced instrumentation and modern extended data sets for the evolution of basic space science disciplines and urged Member States and their scientists to utilize those facilities that are currently available. Much of this could be accomplished by the utilization of existing available databases (such as those available for IUE and EXOSAT and that have now become available from the planetary missions), but additional direct use of these facilities would add critical impetus to the development of institutions currently unfamiliar with these facilities.

  16. The distribution and acquisition of software, especially in relation to the techniques related to data acquisition, data reduction, image processing and physical modelling, which has already been developed, could save considerable investment.

  17. The United Nations recognizes the importance of the international nature of the major basic space science facilities in Africa such as the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HARTRAO). It recognizes the opportunities offered on a regional basis for Africa and West Asia in basic space science. The United Nations recommends using the focus and experience to stimulate the development of basic space science in the region through the sharing of facilities.

    C. Availability and establishment of scientific facilities

    1. Utilization of infrastructural facilities

  18. In order to stimulate the utilization of the existing major facilities in basic space science by scientists from developing countries and to enhance their awareness,

    1. countries possessing better facilities should be encouraged to open them to developing countries; and

    2. developing countries should seek short-term fellowships and travel grants for such purposes.

    2. Utilization of ground-based facilities available in developing countries

  19. Questions on basic space science require experimental verification beyond the resources of individual nations. Therefore, the development, on a regional basis, of locations in West Asia and Africa, whose climatic and geographical conditions offer unique opportunities for such work should be considered. On a global scale these should be considered for development and coordination with other organizations supplying similar facilities elsewhere in the world. International and interregional collaboration also supplies unique opportunities also for the upgrading of already existing facilities.

  20. In order to help in the development of space science and technology in West Asia and Africa, relevant international organizations should support (a) the participation of West Asian and African technology in space science projects of the major space agencies; and (b) hardware development in West Asian and African countries for these projects.

    D. International cooperation in basic space science

    1. International cooperation and internationally coordinated basic space science programmes/projects

  21. A regional directory of basic space scientists and institutions in West Asia and Africa should be published. Information on possible sources of funding for training and research support for the different countries should be collected and included in the directory.

  22. The United Nations, recognizing that the benefits of the pursuit of basic space science investigations constitute a prime motive for collaboration between Member States, should therefore support and recommend:

    1. Further expansion and continuation of studies of the Equatorial Electrojet (EEJ) and the South Atlantic Geomagnetic Anomaly in the context of regional/international collaboration involving:

      1. Reactivating selected geomagnetic and ionospheric observatories, as well as enhancing support for the networks of such observatories;

      2. Encouraging active scientists to participate in and to organize international meetings;

      3. Creating national committees for the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) for those Member States not already belonging to that organization, which is a major focal point for the coordination of studies in the field;

    2. Developing and constructing optical telescopes and radio telescopes with observatory facilities by West Asian and African countries for use by the basic space scientists of the region;

    3. Augmenting the global coverage of INTERMAGNET by supporting the establishment of three observatories in Sri Lanka, eight in Africa and eight in Latin America and the Caribbean;

    4. Establishing a regional information centre specifically oriented towards astrophysics and atmospheric and planetary sciences for the purpose of:

      1. Disseminating all relevant data obtained under basic space science activities such as remote sensing, atmospheric probing, astrophysics and geophysics to provide vital regional information of fundamental importance for addressing problems related to disaster avoidance and warning;

      2. Developing a new understanding of the globally important equatorial zone, and therefore developing a plan, in the developing countries, leading to improved resource management and improved living conditions;

    5. Strengthening and reorienting current research activities in the fields of solar-terrestrial, atmospheric and climatic studies, combined with space remote-sensing observations and comparative planetary sciences with participation in the internationally coordinated Global Change and associated programmes such as System for Analysis, Research and Training (STAR), including:

      1. Satellite observations to assess pollutant-rich areas;

      2. Ground and air truth measurements of solar radiation related to a variety of minor constituents;

      3. Physical understanding and mathematical modelling of the interlinked processes of global change;

    6. Strengthening current research activities in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics, including:

      1. Experimental, observational and theoretical astrophysics;

      2. Participation of West Asian and African astrophysicists in worldwide programmes supported by IAU;

      3. Systematic galactic and extragalactic observations from equatorial latitudes in the southern hemisphere over the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

    7. Further development of the Kottamia Observatory, to assure that the importance of this telescope facility, which represents the major telescope in West Asia, should be realized. The importance of this facility, which would supply major experimental capabilities for basic space science in the region is enormous. The participants noted with great satisfaction that willingness to cooperate in this effort exists and stressed that a collaborative effort to bring about the modernization of the Kottamia Observatory represents one of the most important efforts in West Asia and recommends that this should be done with the highest urgency. The intention to open the Kottamia Observatory for access to all scientists from the region presents very important experimental opportunities for basic space science. The plans of scientists from other countries, both in West Asia and Africa, to share in the further development of the Kottamia Observatory will contribute much to the future development of basic space science in the regions and will enhance in a significant manner the opportunities for all basic space scientists in the region, especially for studies in astronomy.

    8. The participation of scientists in developing countries in the campaigns associated with WHET-activities. This represents a strong and efficient mechanism to foster collaborations between scientists in the developing and developed countries. These will in an effective way promote:

      1. basic space science research and education in the participating countries;

      2. the expansion of networks and, through this, allow a more efficient flow of scientific information; and

      3. the development of existing facilities in developing countries.

  23. The participants recognized the difficulties existing in smaller developing countries relating to maintaining and participating in the technological and social developments following naturally from a viable programme in basic space science. They also recognized the problems associated with the relative isolation in which scientists pursue their efforts in those cases. International organizations should therefore support:

    1. The organization of regional connectivity through data networks;

    2. The stimulation of institutional relations between those regional centres of expertise and local institutes to allow the build-up of a national capability to participate in the rapid scientific, technical and associated cultural development in the world;

    3. The training and further development of human resources, to stimulate and enhance the participation, in a balanced development, even of smaller countries;

    4. The active stimulation of students in basic space science by participation in exchange programmes on a regional basis, as well as the exchange of prominent teachers and high- level technicians on a regional basis;

    5. Efforts to create awareness of the importance of basic space science in both decision makers and the general public.

    2. Meetings and symposia on basic space science

  24. Considering the growing interest and contribution made by several developing countries in basic space science and the need for further encouraging such activities, the United Nations should organize and support international meetings, for in-depth discussions on specific topics of basic space science.

    3. Continuation of the Workshop on basic space science

  25. In order to assure a continued and coordinated evolution of the important issues raised in the current and the previous workshops, it was proposed to hold future basic space science workshops annually, although in the long run they should be held no more than biennially.

  26. The United Nations should inquire into the possibilities for hosting the next basic space science workshop in 1996.

    4. Space education

  27. Considering that basic space science is not taught at higher levels in many developing countries, relevant international organizations should act to encourage and support:

    1. The introduction of the teaching of basic space science, including experimental techniques, as a part of the curriculum for primary and secondary level education as well as undergraduate and graduate education, by the implementation of basic space science curricula at universities and technical schools;

    2. Formation of research facilities at universities so that motivated students may be encouraged to pursue basic space science research;

    3. Organization of summer schools and other similar orientation programmes to train existing faculty in the physical sciences necessary to teach basic space science;

    4. Exchange of teachers, scientists and students to make use of the facilities in Member States and of the services of organizations such as IAU and COSPAR;

    5. Organization of seminars, workshops and topical conferences within the developing countries for the benefit of teachers, scientists, students and the general public;

    6. Introduction of popular programmes to encourage and support awareness of basic space science, and the coordination of such activities between Member States;

    7. Establishment of programmes ensuring the availability of basic textbooks and more popular information media at the professional and general public levels;

    8. Distribution and acquisition of educational software for basic space science;

    9. Generation of national career opportunities for professionals trained under the above-mentioned programmes, leading to the increased competitiveness of developing countries in the peaceful study and utilization of resources associated with basic space science;

    10. Strengthening of the IAU visiting lecturer programme, in coordination with IAU, with special emphasis on West Asia and Africa;

    11. Organization, under the auspices of IAU, of two consecutive, annual, regional African summer schools for teachers in the application of experimental techniques.

    5. International core group

  28. In order to pursue and follow up the recommendations made during the Workshop, it was decided to constitute a core group, under the auspices of the United Nations (Office for Outer Space Affairs), of international scientists consisting of the following members at the functional and advisory levels:

    Functional members: Selection of a group of five members in good standing from the basic space science community and one member from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs;

    Advisory members: COSPAR, ESA, IAU, ICTP, Institute for Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), NASA, TPS and two members from the region of the next Workshop.

  29. The creation of the international core group is considered critical to maintaining the impetus generated by the first four workshops on basic space science for developing countries, and will assure the continuity of this important activity in the future.

  30. Core group activities:

    1. Review at Workshop the status of basic space science developments in the region;

    2. Provide assurance that the regional benefits of the Workshop are optimized through the selection of the programme;

    3. Maintain the purely scientific nature of the Workshop.

  31. Recognizing the on-going efforts of the Programme on Space Applications to establish regional centres for space science and technology education, the Workshop urges all West Asian and African Member States of the United Nations to give maximum support to this initiative of the United Nations.