Skip to main content

Astrophysics for All

Dr Olja Panic is helping to enrich British Sign Language (BSL) with new words related to modern astrophysics research advances. The brand-new set of signs will be designed to effectively communicate the key questions, methods and findings in her research.

The team hope this step of bringing research closer to the deaf community will light pathways to a more inclusive research and higher education environment, and spur discussion about ways to tackle this problem.

To learn more about this project, please get in touch with

This workshop is funded by the the Royal Society's Public Engagement Fund and led by the Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow Dr Olja Panić.  To learn more about Dr Panić's research, please visit our Astrophysics at Leeds web pages.

Banner image description: View of a 'protoplanetary disc' 350 lightyears from Earth, as captured by the ALMA Telescope in Chile. Modified from Miley et al. 2018.

Who are you working with to create these new words?

We are collaborating the Scottish Sensory Centre, which hosts the BSL Glossary List for science terms.

Dr Audrey Cameron, Associate Tutor in PGDE Secondary Education (Chemistry and General Science), PGDE Primary Education (science) and MSc Inclusive Education (deaf studies) at the University of Edinburgh. Dr Cameron manages the Scottish Sensory Centre's BSL Glossary project, which has nearly 1,500 signs for science and maths with BSL definitions and examples.  Dr Cameron will provide specialist advice and guidance on completing the project deliverables.

Mr Garry Quinn, Sign Language Tutor and Deaf linguist at Heriot-Watt University.  Mr Quinn will provide specialist knowledge for BSL linguistics and development of languages for this project.  He was a part of the winning team for the Guardian's Social and Community Impact Award in 2017 for being instrumental in legislation securing the future of Scotland’s signing community for improving accessibility for BSL users in Scotland.  He has worked with Dr Cameron on many science BSL development projects and has contributed extensively to the BSL Glossary project.

What new words will you be adding to the BSL?

Working with experts in developing signs for scientific terms, Dr Panić will develop 50 new signs for BSL, including terms like ‘protoplanetary disc’, ‘exo-Solar planetary system’ and ‘interferometric telescope’.

Why do we need new astrophysics BSL words?

Scientific discoveries are consolidated into knowledge and understanding through active communication. In the hearing community this is a given, but the deaf community is deprived of this possibility because signs for the vast majority of the new scientific concepts do not exist. This is a major barrier that the deaf community faces: the barrier to explore knowledge as deep as one's dedication and intellectual abilities allow. Language is a vessel for proliferation of knowledge and when language does not exist, knowledge is inaccessible.

Project Updates

Astrophysics for All has been funded!

We're excited to announce that our Astrophysics for All project has been awarded funding by the Royal Society through their Public Engagement Fund.   Check out...

View all Posts