Dr Paul A. Daniels - VP, A
c/o Royal Astronomical Society
BSc (Hons), PhD, FRAS; Director, Qsoft Ltd (1992-present), Committee (2008- present) and President (2012- present) of the Guildford Astronomical Society.
Special interests: Solar system, orbital dynamics, asteroids and the orbits, structure & evolution of comets. Science education and public outreach.
I have a formal education in astronomy & astrophysics and continue to be engaged with the intellectual challenges of the science but, for over 30 years, my livelihood has been in IT.
If elected I should like to initiate a scheme to encourage and facilitate collaboration between professional and amateur astronomers many of whom use high-quality equipment that is often as good as that available to professional astronomers. Amateurs enjoy their recreational commitment to astronomy and are generally keen to observe, study or research whenever they can and, with the right guidance, can contribute significantly to professional publishable results. At the very least, such involvement fulfils part of a professional astronomer's outreach duty but, in practice, the imparting of relevant science and methodology in active pursuit of a common research project is more enduring than that. In particular, engaging amateur organisations in professional collaboration can potentially expose young astronomers to the world of professional astronomy and increase the number that might consider astronomy as a future career.
Through their outreach programmes, local astronomical societies play a significant part in demonstrating astronomy to the public. IYA2009 was a huge success and I would like to see an annual National Astronomy Week similarly supported by the RAS in collaboration with the media.
I am disturbed by the general decline in the impact of mathematics and science teaching at school. Many children will grow to become 'consumers' of our science, learning about it from popular television programmes, some will become astronomers and an influential few will become politicians controlling the research investment in UK astronomy. Ultimately, a lack of essential basic scientific awareness amongst politicians, journalists and the public will make it harder for astronomers and other 'Big Science' scientists to successfully justify the budgets for their research and even harder in the face of austerity cuts, commercial interests, pseudo-scientific 'deniers' and dogmatic ideology.
I am passionate about teaching astronomy to young people as an exciting and engaging introduction to the STEM subjects and, if elected to the RAS Council, would seek to use my position to promote that teaching and use my academic and commercial experience to bring a fresh, non-establishment, viewpoint to the table.