taskGNU Astronomy Utilities - Tasks: task #14495, Grant proposal for IAU Office of...


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task #14495: Grant proposal for IAU Office of Astronomy for developement

Submitted by:  Mohammad Akhlaghi <makhlaghi>
Submitted on:  Fri 28 Apr 2017 06:02:50 PM UTC  
Should Start On: Thu 27 Apr 2017 10:00:00 PM UTCShould be Finished on: Thu 27 Apr 2017 10:00:00 PM UTC
Category: All GnuastroPriority: 5 - Normal
Item Group: EnhancementStatus: In Progress
Privacy: PublicPercent Complete: 0%
Assigned to: NoneOpen/Closed: Open
Effort: 0.00

Fri 28 Apr 2017 06:02:50 PM UTC, original submission:

Today I saw that this year's call for proposals to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) is now open.

Gnuastro was not defined to be purely a tool for research, but as discussed in the "Science and its tools" section of the manual's introduction, its primary purpose is social/technical development (same as GNU in general): giving people interested in Astronomy the knowledge/power/tools to develop their own science/tools and express their creativity.

This is also visible from the extent and completeness of the manual: how it describes everything (from the command-line environment, to the mathematics and even history of the concepts) for someone with no background. Its codes are also heavily commented and particularly formatted for an early user to read easily.

Given the vast range of astronomical datasets that are freely available today, and the public interest astronomy enjoys. It is possible to teach high-school students or undergraduates (for example) who are interested in astronomy a good level of the command-line environment, programming, and even statistical analysis using Gnuastro. They will learn the command-line and even programming for some intresting processing (for example playing/reducing HST images), but this experience that they gain during the process will be very useful for them in what ever job they ultimately choose to pursue (if they don't continue in astronomy).

Since Gnuastro is purely written in C and has a robust command-line user interface (thanks to GNU C Library's Argp), it is arguably the best tool for this job. Using it doesn't need any particular high-level language (like Python that is in fashion today, or any other high-level language that will supercede it in 5-10 years). So what people learn when learning Gnuastro is applicable in a very wide range of applications and will be useful for them as long as the current popular operating systems (all written in C) are available.

This is particularly more relevant to young people in developing countries: they should be given the low-level tools to create their own paths rather than some high-level language/tool that will always keep them unable to make any significant change and dependent on more advanced countries for the low-level/fundamental expertise and knowledge.

Finally, since the copyright of Gnuastro is owned by GNU, we can ensure that it will always be free and independent of any particular astronomical institution/project.

So I thought of sharing these initial thoughts with you and see if you have any ideas/suggestions on the feasability of defining an IAU OAD project to help Gnuastro be more useful for social development ;-).

Mohammad Akhlaghi <makhlaghi>
Project Administrator


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