The Pilina and Kōkua Initiative

The privilege of conducting science on Maunakea in Hawaiʻi extends beyond the opportunity to seek knowledge from this special place; it invites us to also learn from and share knowledge with the local community. 

With sincere intentions of fostering a genuine understanding and respect for the land and its people, the Directors at University of California Observatories (UCO), Caltech Optical Observatories (COO), and W. M. Keck Observatory (WMKO) are committed to cultivating connections between astronomers and members of the Hawaiʻi community, including WMKO staff. Among the ways to do so is by providing our observing community the opportunity to learn values unique to Hawaiʻi, get to know the history of this storied place, immerse in meaningful acts of service, and contribute to the well-being of the local community. In doing so, we can come into long-lasting reciprocal relationships built on trust and mutuality. 

Through a deeper connection to Hawaiʻi,observers will broaden their perspective; gathering data from Maunakea will take on a more personal, holistic meaning that can help astronomers be better scientists in how one views, approaches, and shares one’s work.  New perspectives could also lead to new, unexplored avenues of scientific inquiry.

Based on this framework, the UCO, COO, and WMKO Directors are jointly initiating a pilot project to facilitate observers from our constituencies to travel to Hawaiʻi, observe at WMKO headquarters, meet and perhaps give informal talks to WMKO staff about science and their scientific program, and most importantly participate in Hawaiʻi community activities. The Pilina (relationship to people and place) and Kōkua (to help in ways that are called for) Initiative will provide travel support for observers for the period of their observations in addition to two extra days to provide time for connection and service to people and place. Participants will spend at least one full day devoted to community engagement programs while at WMKO.

This is aligned with – and in support of – the Astro2020 State of the Profession, which calls for a community astronomy model that consists of the following principles:

  • Listen and empower
  • Aim to do good for all
  • Invest in the future together

Proposers should indicate in the proposal template (section 3.5) their willingness to participate in the initiative. Based on the response, and the observation scheduling, COO will coordinate with WMKO to accommodate approximately six observers per year, three per semester, for Pilina and Kōkua Initiative participation from within the Caltech constituency. UCO will do likewise from among the UC constituency. Expressions of interest in this initiative will not impact TAC grades or time allocations.

  1. Eligibility and Requirements
  • The participant must be affiliated with UCO at the time of the observing run, and designated as a representative of the observing team by the program Principal Investigator.
  • The observing must be in support of an approved UC TAC project; that is, in observing time allocated by the UCO Deputy Director.
  • Participating individuals (no more than three selected per semester) will be selected by the UCO Deputy Director and notified of the selection as a part of the standard program notification process.
  • Support will be provided for only one selected participant/trip per observing program and semester.
  • Participants shall commit a minimum of one working day to support community engagement objectives working in coordination/conjunction with a designated WMKO Pilina and Kōkua Initiative coordinator.
  1. Travel Support

Supported travel elements are limited to:

  • Standard round trip airfare from a California airport to Hawaiʻi
  • Lodging at WMKO Visiting Scientist Quarters (for supported duration)
  • Rental car (for licensed drivers and supported duration)
  • Per diem allowance (for supported duration)

Support Duration: participant travel expenses shall be supported for the associated contiguous observing run duration plus three (3) days up to a maximum of seven (7) total days. Personal travel may be combined with Pilina and Kōkua Initiative participation, but will not be reimbursed by UCO.

  1. Participation Requests

Requests to participate in the initiative are submitted as a part of the general proposal solicitation cycle for UC Keck time (see proposal section 3.5).