Open Letter: Thirty Meter Telescope Project
I have been watching with great concern the on-going conflict around the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Maunakea in Hawaii. This conflict has garnered significant global attention from scholars, policy makers and communities.
As a member of the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), Western has affirmed its interest in supporting the cutting-edge astronomy research that will be enabled by TMT. As a result, the research community at Western has been in dialogue around the choice of Maunakea as the site to build TMT, and the implications of colonization on the inherent rights of those Native Hawaiian people who oppose this choice. Western colleagues are in consensus that the TMT project has a long and complex history. Our community members hold diverse positions and perspectives on aspects of the TMT project.
At Western, it is clear that the situation in Hawaii offers opportunities to more deeply reflect on and discuss the role of ethics in research, especially in relation to working with Indigenous peoples in settler colonial contexts.
Western is committed to strengthening relationships with Indigenous peoples and nurturing an environment of respect, reconciliation and collaboration in our research, education and campus life. These principles guide us in our work here at home, and in our relationships abroad.
While the potential for scientific advancement offered by the TMT is immeasurable, we also recognize that research should not be pursued at the expense of Indigenous community engagement and recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights. Moreover, Western does not condone the use of military force or violent action in response to these types of disputes.
As the situation in Hawaii unfolds, we are taking the necessary time and steps to create ethical spaces in our academic community, where diverse peoples and ways of thinking can come together in pursuit of a way forward.
Dr. Sarah Prichard
Acting Vice-President (Research)
Frequently Asked Questions
Western also holds one of three Canadian positions on the 18-member Science Advisory Committee to the TMT International Observatory.
Several Western astronomers are members of TMT International Science Development Teams. There are nine teams organized by science goal, and membership is open to qualified researchers from TMT partners and the wider astronomy community.
Western does not receive or expend any research funding for the TMT project. Canada’s NRC provides funding for the TMT project.