» Global experiment aims to break record for International Year of Chemistry (2011)
18.01.2011 - UNESCOPRESS

Global experiment aims to break record for International Year of Chemistry (2011)

© Joe Sullivan/Wikimedia Commons

Primary and secondary school pupils are invited to take part in an attempt to break the record for the biggest scientific experiment ever conducted, as part of the celebration of the International Year of Chemistry (IYC) 2011. The Year will be officially launched by UNESCO and its partner, the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), at a conference on 27 and 28 January at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters.

The Global Chemistry Experiment, entitled “Water: A chemical solution”, asks primary and secondary school pupils to carry out experiments on water quality (testing its salinity and acidity, learning how to filter and distil it) so that children of all ages learn to appreciate the need to treat this vital resource. Once the tests have been completed, the children will be able to enter the results onto an interactive map on a specially created website. The experiment could become the largest chemistry experiment ever undertaken.

 The second initiative, the Visualisation of Climate Change Project, is aimed at high school and college students throughout the world. Through 13 interactive lessons, young people will be encouraged to gain a better understanding of the scientific phenomena underlying climate change and their effects on the environment and to evaluate the human contribution to this phenomenon. A website with videos and the results of practical experiments will gather together the various resources for this initiative.

 “The responsible development and use of chemistry provides answers to some of the core questions we face today: to feed people, to improve their health and to sustain development. The International Year of Chemistry is a time for us to give deep thought to these subjects,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO. “We must connect again with the power of chemistry to sustain and change life for the common good.”

 The launch conference, which will be opened by the Director-General and Nicole Moreau, President of IUPAC, will bring together internationally renowned figures from the world of chemistry, including several Nobel Prize laureates. On 27 January, the topics of discussion will be the contribution of chemistry to modern life, the place of women in chemistry and the links between chemistry and sustainable development. The second day, 28 January, will be devoted to an examination of the relationship of chemistry to a range of subjects, such as health, energy, materials, nutrition and economic and social issues.

Participants in the conference will include Professor Hélène Langevin-Joliot (France), Research Director at the French national scientific research centre (CNRS) and grand-daughter of Marie Sklodowska Curie; Professor Jean-Marie Lehn (France), Nobel laureate in chemistry in 1987; Ada Yonath (Israel), winner of the 2008 L’Oréal-UNESCO award for women in science and Nobel laureate in chemistry in 2009, and Professor Yuan Lee (Taiwan, China), Nobel laureate in chemistry in 1986.

It was in 2008, at its 63rd session, that the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2011 International Year of Chemistry. It gave UNESCO and IUPAC responsibility for organizing the Year. With its slogan of “Chemistry – our life, our future”, IYC is particularly aimed at raising public awareness of the major role played by chemistry and to highlight the value of the solutions it offers to contemporary challenges. Given the lack of interest in the sciences, and particularly chemistry, among many students, the IYC aims to attract more young people to this discipline. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of women to chemistry, on the centenary of the award of the Nobel Prize in chemistry to Marie Sklodowska Curie.

“Since Marie Sklodowska Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 100 years ago, only three women have been honoured in this way. The world needs more women laureates,” concluded Ms Bokova.


A special issue of the UNESCO Courier, Chemistry and Life, will be available from 27 January.


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