During the 2022/23 period, AAL secured $66M in funding over the next five years. Delivered by the Department of Education’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program, this will allow AAL to maintain support of existing projects and operational activities until 2027.
AAL worked with the community and its committees for several months to secure this investment, with a focus placed on certain high-priority projects with gaps in their funding. AAL was successful in bridging those gaps, while noting upcoming opportunities for other projects to apply for funding associated with national digital research infrastructure, high powered computing, and research translation/commercialisation.
While a large amount of effort went into securing these NCRIS investments, AAL staff also continued to fully support the Department of Industry, Science and Resources (DISR) as it works toward full European Southern Observatory (ESO) membership for Australia. AAL has been consulting with the Australian astronomy community as it builds a science case for full membership, while also supporting astronomers applying for time on ESO telescopes under the current Strategic Partnership. A high priority for AAL staff has also been ensuring that all ESO-related activities are supported.
See the ESO project highlights page for information on these activities, including the visit to Australia by an official ESO delegation in December 2022.
Operationally, the 2022/23 period saw a return to normality for most in the Australian astronomy community. With COVID-19 lockdowns far behind us, more astronomers returned to their workplaces and travelled for in-person workshops and conferences – albeit with more flexibility to work from home or attend hybrid events online. Not everything has returned to post-COVID levels, however, with international enrolment levels still down on previous years (pre-COVID) and university budgets still feeling the pinch. Considering the enormous amount of change our members have endured in a relatively short period of time, AAL wishes to thank them again for their ongoing support.
At a project level, AAL has seen many success stories emerge from individual projects during the 2022/23 period. Click on an image below to see the full story. You can also find out more regarding AAL-supported projects by visiting the “What we do” section of this website.
Other AAL-supported projects with successes this past year include the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). The Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey (RACS) is the first large-area survey completed with ASKAP. The “RACS-mid” paper (second epoch of the RACS survey) was accepted for publication in addition to 11 refereed papers using ASKAP data that were published, making 31 papers for the 2022/23 period.
AAL’s industry engagement program focuses on assisting astronomy departments to prioritise their research translation activities, and to encourage a systematic approach to the commercialisation of astronomy intellectual property.
In the 2022/23 year, Dr Ilana Feain completed her work with a number of AAL members, advising them on next steps in their commercialisation journey. Her “Astronomy Commercialisation and Industry Engagement Report” summarised engagement with eight groups, including advice on next steps and more general recommendations for the sector. Dr Feain was then elected to the AAL Board in November.
AAL submitted two proposals for $6 million in in the 2023 NCRIS funding round for astronomy related commercialisation and industry engagement. Whilst not funded this time round they will be the starting point for a new submission to NCRIS for the 2024 funding round which will focus on Research Translation, Commercialisation and National Digital Research Infrastructure in 2024.
AAL is also in the process of organising its first commercialisation workshop, to take place in late 2023. Industry engagement champions from all member institutions have been invited to come together to prepare for this major new funding opportunity in 2024 and to promote greater collaboration between astronomy teams. At the same time, AAL is developing a new Industry Engagement Advisory Committee to advise the AAL Board on commercialisation matters. Members of the committee are being drawn from both the astronomy community and industry.
Additionally, AAL is showcasing new success stories on its industry engagement website, continuing to highlight the capabilities and commercialisation activities of Australian astronomers. Two new feature stories are listed below – please follow the links below, or see more in our Industry Engagement section of this annual report:
Once again, AAL staff performed their roles with their customary dedication and professionalism, splitting their time between working from home and the AAL offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.
AAL is proud that it has member representatives from all institutions in Australia with a significant astronomy research program. In the 2022/23 financial year there were 15 institutional members of AAL. Each member organisation has a nominated representative who attends the Annual General Meeting (AGM), where Board Directors are elected. Member representatives are also consulted throughout the year on key astronomy infrastructure and investment decisions. To see a list of AAL representatives, please visit the “Member Institutions” page of this website.
The independent, skills based AAL Board of Directors comprises seven individuals with expertise in astronomy, management and finance. The board is responsible for the overall governance and strategic direction of AAL. They make key decisions about projects based on the recommendations of advisory committees, their own considerable and diverse expertise, and with consideration of the priorities and recommendations in the Decadal Plan. To see current AAL Board members, please visit the “Board of Directors” page of this website. The names of the AAL Board members in office at any time during the 2022/23 period are listed below:
AAL’s two advisory committees – the Science Advisory Committee (ASAC) and Project Oversight Committee (APOC) – continue to play an important role in ensuring the relevance and quality of AAL’s programs. Committee members are appointed to provide the relevant breadth of expertise, and an appropriate mix of gender, seniority and institutional diversity. AAL’s advisory committees provide strategic advice to the AAL Board in implementing the infrastructure priorities of the Decadal Plan, and support AAL in oversight of, and promoting improved outcomes for, AAL-funded projects. AAL also maintains a number of resource allocation committees, and an Industry Engagement Working Group. For more information, please visit the “AAL Committees” page of this website.
As well as these internally managed groups, AAL appoints astronomers to external boards and committees. AAL then provides support to these appointees to represent the interests of Australian astronomers nationally and internationally. For more information, please visit the “External Representatives” page of this website.
AAL has a long-standing commitment to equity and diversity. AAL’s employment philosophy is open and flexible, with a mix of full and part-time positions. It matches work modes with situations and needs, aiming to combine the best of office-based and virtual work, and having regard to the work/life balance and individual needs of AAL’s staff. With a responsibility for determining representation on a variety of external bodies related to astronomy, as well as membership of its advisory committees, AAL has a selection process for all these positions that addresses principles of inclusion and gender balance.
AAL’s values statement reflects AAL’s desire to consider the environment in its everyday operations while maintaining our existing emphasis on upholding respectful interactions with all people.
AAL endeavours to be an environmentally sustainable organisation built upon equity, diversity and mutual respect for its staff and stakeholders.
For more information, please visit the “Environmental, Social and Governance” page of this website
Financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2023 were independently audited by E. Townsend & Co. Please see this link for the complete audited financial statements and auditor’s report.