I discuss the second IAU Strategic Plan for the decade 2020–30 in the context of the overall evolution of the IAU in recent past decades. This article shows how the IAU has evolved dramatically since WW2. It is hardly recognizable in terms of its original organization and goals of a century ago. What was once an inward-looking body engaged purely with the procedures of astronomical research is now a dynamic and outward-looking organization, interacting with people, especially students and the public.
A large part of this success must be attributed to the IAU’s unique body of individual members, whose number has grown strongly in recent decades. It is the individual members, especially through the Commissions and Working Groups, who have promoted these enormous changes in the outlook of the Union. This is a model for other scientific unions to follow, and especially for the work to promote the careers of women in science, for promoting the careers of young astronomers, for bringing students into astronomy or into science in general, for helping people with disabilities to have careers in astronomy, for engaging with the public, and for helping to develop astronomy and science in developing countries.
Looking to the future, the IAU’s new Strategic Plan for the years 2020 to 2030 has five major goals for the coming decade: 1. The IAU leads the worldwide coordination of astronomy and the fostering of communication and dissemination of astronomical knowledge among professional astronomers. 2. The IAU promotes the inclusive advancement of the field of astronomy in every country. 3. The IAU promotes the use of astronomy as a tool for development in every country. 4. The IAU engages the public in astronomy through access to astronomical information and communication of the science of astronomy. 5. The IAU stimulates the use of astronomy for teaching and education at school level.
Future developments will also be engaging with the large number of amateur astronomers and helping to promote astro-tourism, which is perhaps the new frontier now growing rapidly around the world. The Strategic Plan is a blueprint for forging a social revolution in astronomy and for using astronomy as a tool for building a progressive society.