The popularization of science is one of UNESCO’s oldest programmes, with the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2012. UNESCO awards a number of other prizes to reward excellence in a specific scientific domain.
World Science Day for Peace and Development
Established by UNESCO in 2001, World Science Day for Peace and Development is celebrated worldwide on 10 November each year.
At a time when so many decisions are being made on the basis of science, it is becoming increasingly important to inform the public about the issues at stake. Within the United Nations, UNESCO has taken the lead for a number of International Years in order to alert the public to key issues, such as sustainable water and land management or the need to embrace ‘green chemistry’.
Examples of recent International Years are those on Freshwater (2003), Physics (2005), Deserts and Desertification (2006), Planet Earth: Earth Sciences for Society (2007), Astronomy (2009), Biodiversity (2010) and Chemistry (2011). The next International Years in which UNESCO will play a key role will be those on Crystallography (2014) and Light (2015).
Popularizing science via a journal
In October 2002, UNESCO launched a quarterly journal, A World of Science, to popularize issues relevant to the Organization’s work and draw attention to the themes of International Years. Published in Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish, the journal fêted its 10th anniversary in 2012.
Quality communication of science to the public demands rigorous reporting by science journalists. Since 2004, UNESCO’s Communication Sector has teamed up with various partners to organize training workshops for media professionals to improve reporting on HIV/AIDS. See for example the training workshop for journalists in Central Asia in 2008. UNESCO has also set up a Global Network of Television Producers; the African branch of this network produced short documntaries on HIV and AIDS in 2005. Five years later, a series of eight films (DVD) on HIV and AIDS, entitled Positive Life, were produced in Asia by UNESCO’s Network of Young TV Producers on HIV and AIDS, in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development.
Since 2000, UNESCO’s Apia office (Samoa) has run a series of workshops for journalists in the Pacific region to develop their science reporting skills, in tandem with the Centre for Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University.
On 19 April 2012, UNESCO’s Venice office (Italy) ran a session for journalists from Southeast Europe in Florence during the XIIth Conference on the Public Communication of Science and Technology. The office provided eight talented science journalists from Southeast Europe with travel grants to enable them to attend the conference and listen to some of the leading lights in science communication. During the UNESCO session devoted to Southeast Europe, the journalists described the situation in their respective countries, which they generally deemed to be poor.
The conference drew 670 participants from five continents and benefited from the patronage of UNESCO. Participants made more than 450 presentations on trends in science communication today, such as how to explain chemistry to a public audience in an entertaining way via a demonstration of ‘molecular cuisine’, or how to counter the phenomena of pseudoscience and antiscience.
UNESCO provides technical assistance for the development of science centres and museums. Since 2004, UNESCO has been actively involved in setting up centres in Bahrain, East Jerusalem, Malaysia, Morocco and Yemen, among others.
Periodically, UNESCO contributes to international exhibitions designed to build public awareness of science and technology. Examples of travelling exhibitions are Experiencing Mathematics (2004, EN, FR) and the Biodiversity Exhibition (2010).