• Ahn, Sang-Hyeon
  • Received : 2019.05.02
  • Accepted : 2019.07.23
  • Published : 2019.10.31


It is known that the number of astronomers of a country registered to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is correlated with that country's gross domestic product (GDP). However, the robustness of this relationship could be doubted, as the fraction of astronomers joining the IAU differs from country to country. Here we revisit this correlation by using more recent data, updated as of 2017. We find a similar correlation by using the total number of astronomers and astrophysicists with PhD degrees that are working in each country, instead of adopting the number of IAU members. We confirm the existence of the correlation. We also confirm the existence of two subgroups within this correlation. One group consists of advanced European countries having a long history of modern astronomy, while the other group consists of countries having experienced recent rapid economic development. In order to determine the cause for the correlation, we obtained the long-term variations of the number of astronomers, population, and the GDP for a number of countries. We find that the number of astronomers per capita for recently developing countries has increased more rapidly as GDP per capita increased, than that for fully developed countries. We collected demographic data of the Korean astronomical community and find that it has experienced recent rapid growth. From these findings we estimate the proper size of the Korean astronomical community by considering Korea economic power and population. The current number of PhD astronomers working in Korea is approximately 310, but it should be 550 in order for it to be comparable and competitive to the sizes of the Spanish, Canadian, and Japanese astronomical communities. If current trends continue, this number will be reached by 2030. In order to be comparable to the German, French, and Italian communities, there should be 800 PhD astronomers in Korea. We discuss ways to overcome the vulnerability of the Korean astronomical community, based on the statistics of national R&D expenditure structure in comparison with that of other major advanced countries.


sociology of astronomy;methods: data analysis;methods: statistical