Science Engagement Astronomer at National Research Foundation

  • Permanent Senior EE position

  • Cape Town, Western Cape

  • Market Related salary

  • Job 2201965 | Ref 2862

  • Posted 09 Apr 2018

About the Position

Science Engagement Astronomer

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO is seeking qualified candidates for the position of Science Engagement Astronomer.

The SAAO is the National Facility for Optical and Infrared Astronomy of the National Research Foundation (NRF). Its headquarters are in picturesque Cape Town with a Mediterranean climate, while its telescopes are at Sutherland in the semi-arid Northern Cape. Distributed between the two sites, SAAO employs about 130 people, many of them scientists and engineers, and is contracted to operate the 10-m Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), on behalf of the international SALT Foundation. SAAO is the premier optical/infrared research facility on the African continent, with global research and outreach collaborations, contributing to SET human capital development for South Africa. Research focus areas include extragalactic astronomy, time domain astrophysics, planetary astronomy and instrumentation development.

The main responsibility of the Science Engagement Astronomer is to promote SAAO and SALT to the broader community and drive their international exposure strategically. The position will report to the Head of Astronomy at SAAO, but will also work closely together with, and support, the Science Engagement department (outreach and education), as well as the SALT Astronomy Operations team. The candidate is also expected to carry out research in their field up to 20% of time.

Specific Responsibilities:

  • Developing and executing a Science Engagement Strategy for SAAO/SALT together with the Science Engagement department.
  • Ensuring SAAO/SALT participation in relevant local, provincial, national and international science festivals and exhibits of science conferences.
  • Coordinating science outreach activities around the SAAO sites and engaging with other National Facilities.
  • Public Liaison and interaction with the media (radio, newspaper, television, social media), giving interviews and preparation of Press Releases. Managing all forms of public enquiries.
  • Planning and overseeing of events
  • Engagement with SAAO scientists and assisting with publicizing science results
  • Legal or high-level queries that require input from an astronomer
  • Scientific vetting (and some preparation) of astronomy education and outreach resources, planning of promotional material, coordinating SAAO/SALT Annual Review publications
  • Conceptual development of astronomy exhibits at the Visitor Centre in Sutherland and developing one in Cape Town.
  • Developing and updating info geared towards national and international public and scientists on the SAAO and SALT websites.
  • Supporting teacher training programs run by the Outreach and Education units, and supporting and enhancing the quality of open nights.
  • Develop and manage budgets for the relevant programmes, project management.

Minimum requirements:

  • PhD in Astronomy.
  • Demonstrated ability and interest to carry out own astronomical research.

Desirable Work Experience

  • 2-3 years postdoctoral experience, preferably in science engagement.
  • Interest in PR and outreach, using social media or otherwise, is an asset.
  • Project management skills or training.

This is a permanent position in the SAAO structure. The salary package will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

The filling of this position will be in line with the NRF's Employment Equity Policy and Plan.

The ideal candidate will have the following competencies:


  • communicate at all levels
  • develop marketing plans
  • generate ideas
  • translate complex technical information for the general public
  • conceptualise and prepare documents for different audiences
  • stay abreast of trends in various research areas
  • Research Outputs, eg presentations at international conference etc


  • project management
  • science journalism/ research communication /public outreach /science engagement


  • national system of innovation

About The Employer

National Research Foundation (NRF) supports and promotes research and human capital development though funding, the provision of National Research Facilities and science outreach platforms and programmes to the broader community in all fields of science and technology, including natural science, engineering, social science and humanities.

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