Astronomy and Artificial Intelligence Summer School with Public Engagement

Over the past few years, there has been a rise in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning, both generally and within astronomy. As new, more complex models are developed and utilised in increasingly varied areas of the field, schools, university students and early career researchers can easily become overwhelmed with possibilities and not know where to begin.

Meanwhile those who are already specialised might not be aware of the developments being made in research disciplines outside of astronomy.

The Epistemic Insight ‘Astronomy and AI summer school’ provides expert talks on the use of AI in astronomy, together with multidisciplinary conversations about the value of bringing together knowledge and researchers from different fields.

Check out this video of the first summer school from 2023!

We learn about Generative AI together – and we collaborate on new ways to use it. There is also the opportunity for attendees to participate in outreach training and a public engagement activity.

This year’s five-day programme took place in early July 2024 and produced a suite of recorded talks and PowerPoints available now – see the programme below for links to these materials and more information.

The summer school built on the experience and success of the course ran in 2023. Here is the 2023 programme:

Inspiration

Inspiration for the summer school came from our event at the Royal Society of Chemistry where experts in Astronomy, Oceanography and AI engaged in conversations about the Future of Knowledge.

We wanted to know: can bringing researchers together from different fields produce new solutions to opportunities and problems that are visible now and some we haven’t yet foreseen? Professor Berry Billingsley suggested:

Imagine a Sub – on a mission in the deepest parts of the ocean that seems to make its own decisions about where to explore and what images to record and what data to send back to the research team on shore. Or an apparently autonomous Space Probe on a mission to address humanity’s biggest mysteries – who are we, what is our purpose, are there more like us beyond our own planet? Want to see what the future might hold – these experts can help to take you there!

The Programme

Our first day of talks consisted of specialist seminars and panel discussions about the future of astronomy.

The next set of seminars explored multidisciplinary perspectives, uses of digital technology, and outreach. This was followed by an opportunity to help with a public engagement day for schools.

Participants explored and gained insights in three key areas:

  • What are the roles of AI in astronomy and in the sciences more broadly?
  • What do curiosity and knowledge creation look like in a world of AI?
  • Public engagement and working with AI to engage new audiences in astronomy.

The course supported face-to-face, hybrid and online engagement. Those eligible to register were STFC-funded astronomy PhD students, as well as final year undergraduate and master’s students in physics or computer science. Female students were especially encouraged to apply. Students with an interest in AI were encouraged to apply, whether they were just beginning their explorations into AI or already using AI in their research.

Here is the schedule for 2024:

Organisers

Berry Billingsley specialises in Science Education and leads the LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) Research Centre at Canterbury Christ Church University. Berry’s interests include Epistemic Insight, young people’s engagement in science, artificial intelligence, Big Questions bridging science, religion and the wider humanities and also the communication of science and technology news in the media. Berry’s first career was with the BBC where she produced and presented television and radio programmes including BBC World Service’s ‘Science in Action’, BBC TV’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and BBC Education’s ‘Search out Science’.

James Pearson is an early career researcher at the Open University with a background in astronomy that includes developing deep learning methods (e.g. Bayesian convolutional neural networks) for classifying and modelling strong gravitational lenses. He is now working on developing and supporting citizen science projects, both inside and outside of astronomy, using the popular Zooniverse citizen science platform. He has been leading the work on one such project, Galaxy Zoo Cosmic Dawn, which is creating crowdsourced classifications of galaxies in images from the 8.2-metre Subaru telescope. To aid researchers in managing their own Zooniverse projects, James has also created tutorials documenting advanced project building techniques, including integrating citizen science with deep learning frameworks such as setting up an active learning cycle.

Location

About Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church is a modern multi-campus university with around 15,000 students and 1,800 staff.

Our Canterbury Campus

Situated on a World Heritage Site, our Canterbury campus offers great facilities, you can step out into a vibrant and world-famous cathedral city while benefitting from excellent learning and teaching resources, music venues, a super sports centre, a well-stocked bookshop and plenty of coffee bars and places to eat.

Our multi-million-pound investment over the last decade on new and renovated buildings is part of our commitment to providing a first-class student experience. Developments started with the creation of a stunning creative arts building, followed by a major facility for science, technology, health, engineering and medicine.

Links

Maps and directions