Horsehead Nebula - Herschel

United Nations / Italy Workshop on the Open Universe Initiative

Vienna, Austria, 20-22 November 2017

Organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and

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

Hosted by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

With the support of the European Space Agency


Report: A/AC.105/1175

Presentations of the Workshop


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. From its inception, BSSI has established ties with the Virtual Observatory community, as a way to promote access to space science and data. 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.

The Italian Space Agency (ASI) has a long-standing history of contribution to space science through national and international programmes. In line with the United Nations, ASI shares the vision of open data as a driver for knowledge and development. With its ASI Science Data Centre (ASDC), ASI has responded to the increasing demand for more open space science data providing services for several satellites, some of which are implementing a completely open data policy.

In recent years, various institutions and related initiatives have developed user-friendly platforms to provide access to products and services in astronomy (e.g., ESASky platform of the European Space Agency, Aladin Sky Atlas from the Strasbourg astronomical Data Center, ...). In order to provide a more comprehensive visibility of these services, improve transparency and facilitate the access to scientific data, ASI proposed the Open Universe Initiative, under the auspices of COPUOS in its 2016 session. The Initiative, 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, under the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. The Workshop follows a preparatory expert meeting held at the Italian Space Agency Headquarters in Rome, Italy, from 11 to 12 April 2017, where data providers, space agencies and other experts discussed the objectives of the Initiative. The participants of the workshop emphasized the importance of promoting the best practices and standards developed by the scientific community over the past decades, and highlighted the value of education in science as a prerequisite for the Initiative. The programme of this first meeting can be found below:

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 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 SDG4 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, can potentially support Thematic Priority 4: "International Framework on Space Weather Services", with possible projects such as citizen science distributed reporting on location and intensity of auroras.

Discussion groups will work towards the development and consolidation of a series of recommendations for UNISPACE+50, with contributions from data providers and end-users. The desired outcome of the workshop will be a series of observations, recommendations and a roadmap proposal for the Open Universe Initiative that will inform the preparation for UNISPACE+50 regarding transparency, availability, accessibility and use of space science data by the wider community of researchers, amateur and citizen scientists, and other end-users.


The November workshop 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 workshop openly invites participation from the world's providers of space science data and current and potential clients in education, commerce and other sectors, including the rapidly growing citizen science community.

The objectives of the United Nations/Italy Workshop are to:

  1. Review the status of current initiatives in space science with regards to data sharing including lessons learned from the past, and on-going activities.
  2. Promote the adoption of established best practices and standards in the field of astronomy and planetary science, and of FAIR principles in data sharing (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Re-usable).
  3. Discuss long-term sustainability of astronomy and space science data archives as an enabler for the robust provision and preservation of science-ready data and its links to the UNISPACE+50 thematic priority 7 on "Capacity Building for the 21 st Century" and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 9 on "Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation".
  4. Exchange views on the design of a strategy to satisfy in a timely fashion the various requirements of an ever more diverse clientele, and on any expansion plans for service provision needed.
  5. Examine the opportunities for education and capacity-building in the field of space-science data, linked to UNISPACE+50 Priority 7 "Capacity-building for the 21 st Century" and the Sustainable Development Goal number 4 on "Quality Education".
  6. Explore the potential to foster citizen innovation through the access to open source science-ready astronomical data.
  7. Discuss coordination of international efforts of providers of space science data according to a set of criteria on ease of access, quality, robustness, transparency, completeness and timeliness.
  8. Discuss the way forward and objectives of the Open Universe Initiative, as well as related 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:

  1. Current status and perspectives in space science data
  2. Beyond the current paradigm: new initiatives and services
  3. Social and economic benefits of universal open data: open access as an enabler of education, capacity building and knowledge-based economic development
  4. Astronomy and space science citizen-science projects
  5. International cooperation, policy and legal aspects
  6. Roadmap to future success

Kindly note that the Workshop organizers may modify the number and themes of sessions of the final programme. The morning plenary sessions will be dedicated to invited talks and presentations proposed by the participants or invited speakers. 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. The detailed Workshop programme will be made available on this website at a later stage.

In addition, a splinter session would allow various data centres and service providers to showcase and demonstrate tools and applications.

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.

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 and organizations promoting standards and data formats
  • Government and space agencies
  • National, regional and international organizations
  • Academic, educational and research institutions including astronomical observatories, planetariums and science museums
  • 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.

Completed applications must be received by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs no later than 31 July 2017.

Within the limited financial resources available, a small number of selected participants from developing and emerging countries will be offered financial support to attend the workshop. This may include the provision of a round-trip air ticket between the applicant's nearest international airport of departure and Vienna, and/or daily subsistence allowances to cover room and board for the duration of the workshop. En-route expenses or any changes made to the air ticket must be borne by the participants.

Participants will be selected on a competitive basis. Successful applicants requesting funding will be notified of the outcome within two weeks after the deadline. Due to the very limited availability of funding, applicants and their nominating organizations are strongly encouraged to find additional sources of sponsorship to allow them to attend the workshop.

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

Access and Logistics

United Nations Office at Vienna
Vienna International Centre - UNOOSA
1400 Vienna, Austria

Useful Links and Reference Materials

  • Expert Meeting Report:

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