About Telescope Workforce Development


The Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators (ISEE) has partnered with telescopes for nearly 20 years to develop and offer programs that build a diverse and productive workforce. This site highlights ISEE’s programs, activities, and outcomes focused on science, technology, workforce development for ground-based telescopes and remote sensing facilities.

  • What the Telescope Workforce Is

    Telescopes need a workforce that includes a wide range of scientific and technical fields. During design and construction, many different kinds of engineers are involved, and scientists establish and update the science case throughout this phase. When telescopes move into operations the majority of STEM personnel are engineers, technicians, computer programmers and information technologists, as well as support astronomers. Telescopes use specialized instruments that are built by teams of engineers, working in collaboration with scientists who define the scientific need. Scientific discoveries are made by astronomers and physicists who typically hold academic positions at universities, and though are not employed by telescopes, can be considered part of the telescopes workforce. Scientific users need be prepared to maximize the scientific output of telescopes using the suite of instruments that give telescopes their capabilities, and need access to observing time which is precious and defined by partnerships, making it more difficult for some segments of the astronomy community than other.

  • Challenges to Telescope Workforce Development

    Telescopes have a range of workforce development challenges, some overlapping with national challenges in STEM workforce development, and some more unique to telescopes. Throughout the U.S. STEM fields do not tap into the full diversity of the population and have many barriers to overcome to make STEM more inclusive. The fields that make up the telescope workforce have made little progress in broadening participation to underrepresented groups. Ground-based telescopes face an additional challenge in developing a local workforce for telescope operations. Telescopes are located in remote locations within small communities. Finally, today’s telescopes need large, international partnerships, requiring collaboration across cultures and large geographic distances.

ISEE has programs span the college to professional levels and focus on increasing the diversity of the telescope community. For many years ISEE has in Hawaii, through the Akamai Workforce Initiative, and now has expanded into international workforce development for the Thirty Meter Telescope International (TMT) Observatory, through the TMT Early-Career Initiative.