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United Nations / Italy Workshop on the Open Universe initiative and open space science data

Vienna, Austria, November 2017

Organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and

The Italian Space Agency, on behalf of the Government of Italy


  • Information Note (to be uploaded)
  • Applications for the November Workshop will open on 15 March. Deadline for applications: 31 July 2017


The Programme on Space Applications, established in 1971, soon recognized that space science-related activities and access to astronomical facilities and data could offer a cost-effective, entry-level path for capacity-building and science and technology education. To address this, the Basic Space Science Initiative (BSSI) was launched in 1991 (see A/AC.105/2013/CRP.11).

BSSI has been a long-term effort for the development of astronomy and space science through regional and international cooperation on a worldwide basis, particularly in developing nations. A series of workshops were held from 1991 to 2004; and astronomical telescope facilities and planetariums, donated by Japan, were established and inaugurated in several developing countries. From 2005 to 2008, BSSI focused on the preparations for and the follow-ups to the International Heliophysical Year 2007, which resulted in the establishment of 16 worldwide instrument arrays with close to 1000 instruments recording data on solar-terrestrial interaction. Since 2009 BSSI contributed with its activities to the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI), which was concluded in 2012.

From its inception, BSSI has established ties with the virtual observatory community, as a way to promote access to space science and data. Similar initiatives have picked up in recent years, in particular in Europe with the ESASky platform of the European Space Agency, and now the efforts of the Italian Space Agency with its Open Universe Initiative, first proposed at COPUOS in its 2016 session. The "Open Universe" initiative (see A/AC.105/2016/CRP.6), has been devised to stimulate dramatic increases in the use of space science data to satisfy anyone in the world with interest in science on its broadest canvas, the Universe. Its aims are to foster dialogue between the data providers from projects of all sizes and the networks of creative forces at large in the modern internet in order to extend the potential of scientific discovery to all parts of the world for research, education and inspiration among all communities from professionals to citizens of all ages.

As a way to contribute to these goals, the United Nations and the Government of Italy are organizing the United Nations/ Italy Workshop on the Open Universe initiative and open space science data, under the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. The Workshop will follow a preparatory expert meeting taking place at the Italian Space Agency Headquarters in Rome, Italy, from 11 to 12 April 2017.  The November workshop will be held at the UN Headquarters in Vienna and will bring together experts from the space science and astronomy sector, as well as decision makers, educators, and practitioners to discuss the most recent advances and methods to access and utilize space science and astronomy data. The Vienna workshop openly invites participation from the world's providers of space science data and current and potential clients in education, commerce and other sectors.

Expected Contributions to UNISPACE+50


A series of high level fora, on preparation for UNISPACE+50, have identified key pillars to address the broader perspective of space activities. One of these pillars is "Space Accessibility", which refers to all user communities and decision-makers being able, on an equal basis, to benefit from and use space technologies and space-based data. The OpenUniverse initiative, by promoting and providing access to open space data and expanding the end-user base directly contributes to this purpose.

The promotion of the access and use of science-data will directly contribute to the UNISPACE+50 Thematic Priority 7: "Capacity building for the 21st Century", as well as the SDG5 on "Quality Education" by further advancing knowledge and increasing the level of sharing of scientific discoveries among user communities and with new participants in all parts of the world. In addition, the open-source philosophy and the proposed collaborative approach in the development of the platform aligns with Thematic Priority 1: "Global Partnership on Space Exploration and Innovation". Finally, the access to planetary science data, including solar activity, will support Thematic Priority 4: "International Framework on Space Weather Services", with possible projects such as citizen scientists distributed reporting on location and intensity of auroras.


The objectives of the UN/Italy Workshop are to:

  1. Review the status of capacity building in basic space science with regards to astronomical data sharing including lessons learned from the past and on-going astronomical data sharing activities.
  2. Discuss on long term sustainability of astronomical data archives as enabler for the robust provision and preservation of astronomic science ready data and its links to the UNISPACE+50 thematic priorities and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 9 on "Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation"
  3. Exchange views on the design of a Roadmap to satisfy in timely fashion the various requirements of an ever more diverse clientele, and on any expansion plans for service provision needed.
  4. Examine the opportunities for education and capacity-building in the field of astronomical data, linked to UNISPACE+50 thematic priority 7 "Capacity building for the 21st Century" and the Sustainable Development Goal number 4 on "Quality Education"
  5. Explore the potential to foster citizen innovation through the access to open source science-ready astronomic data
  6. Discuss the implementation and coordination of an Open Data Index listing reviewed providers of space science data according to a set of criteria on ease of access, quality, robustness, transparency, completeness and timeliness
  7. Discuss the way forward for UNOOSA's capacity-building and international cooperation activities in preparation of UNISPACE+50.

Preliminary Programme

The programme of this Workshop will include keynote addresses, plenary presentations, discussions and a poster session on the following topics:

  • Current status and perspectives in space science data
    • Current practice in provision of space science data
    • Current data consumer communities and their requirements
    • Hardware and software
    • Long-term conservation
    • Considerations on budget management
  • Beyond the current paradigm
    • Explore opportunities to expand categories of consumer, e.g. education, citizen scientists, common citizens
    • Development of a universal collective model of open data supply
    • Development of microscopic and macroscopic client-centred services
    • Budget implications
    • Role of the UN from BSSI to UNISPACE+50 and beyond
  • Social and economic benefits: open access as an enabler of education, capacity building and knowledge-based economic development
    • Sustainable social and economic benefits of universal open data
  • Roadmap to future success
    • Ensure global cooperation
    • Embrace new technologies
    • Expand pipeline design
    • Open-source dissemination of best practice
    • Timescales

The morning plenary sessions will be dedicated to invited talks and a few presentations proposed by the participants. The afternoon sessions will be organized as splinter meetings distributed in two or more rooms dealing with different topics with the presence of a moderator and a rapporteur. Kindly note that the Workshop organizers may modify the number and themes of sessions of the final programme. The detailed Workshop programme will be made available on this website at a later stage.

In addition, a first prototype of an Open Universe portal, developed at ASI will be available at the time of the workshop at

A final discussion and wrap-up session will concentrate on how efforts on open space data can contribute to the SDGs and the UNISPACE+50 thematic priorities. The outcome of the symposium will be a series of observations, recommendations and proposals that will inform the preparation for UNISPACE+50 regarding the availability, accessibility and use of space science data by the wider community of researchers, amateur and citizen scientists, and other end-users.

Participation Requirements and Qualifications

The Workshop is expected to bring together participants from national, regional, and international organizations such as:

  • Representatives of major space data providers
  • Government and space agencies,
  • National, regional and international organizations
  • Academic, educational and research institutions including astronomical observatories, planetariums and science museums, and the virtual observatory community,
  • Non-governmental organizations, private sector and industries, and open source data promoters,
  • The growing community of citizen scientists, with focus on astronomy or science related projects
  • Intellectual honest brokers, e.g. Philosophers, economists, statisticians, data theorists, etc.

Applicants must have a well-established academic or professional working experience in a field related to the topic of the Workshop. Applications from qualified female participants are particularly encouraged. Selected participants will be requested to prepare a presentation of approximately 10 to 20 minutes on topics relevant to the Workshop objectives. Presentations on actual on-going projects will be of particular interest. In addition, they are expected to contribute to the moderation of discussion sessions and reporting activities. Invited participants will receive a formal invitation letter.

Life and Health Insurance

Life/major health insurance for each of the selected participants is required and is the responsibility of the candidate or his/her institution or government. The organizers and co-sponsors will not assume any responsibility for life and major health insurance, nor for expenses related to medical treatment or accidental events.

The Venue

  • Vienna International Centre - UNOOSA
    1400 Vienna, Austria

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