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), Chemistry (2011), Water Cooperation (2013) and Crystallography (2014). The next International Year in which UNESCO will play a major role will be on Light (2015).
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. Stories cover the full spectrum of UNESCO’s science programmes, including biodiversity and land management, Earth sciences, freshwater, oceans, research for health, natural disasters, astronomy, physics and chemistry.
The following are some examples of stories from A World of Science:
- how the discovery of the double helix led to the birth of genomics (EN)
- the risks of using synthetic biology to design entirely new organisms (EN)
- On the megacities of tomorrow (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU)
- On the secrets that lie far beneath our feet in terra incognita (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU)
- tracing 3.8 billion years of life on Earth (Part I: EN, ES, FR, MLY, RU), Part II: , EN, ES, FR, MLY, RU)
- how rocks tell the history of the Earth by revealing the drift of the continents, changes in climate and early forms of life (EN)
- the impact of climate change and natural disasters on civilizations around the Mediterrean Basin over the past 30,000 years EN, ES, FR)
- Charles Darwin’s historic journey on the Beagle, which laid the foundations for his theory On the Origin of Species (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU)
- the history of optics, which began in Persia 1000 years ago (EN, FR)
- preparing for a hypothetical mission to Mars in 2030 (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU)
- recent discoveries about the Universe we call home (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU)
- the ominpresence of chemistry in our daily lives (EN, ES, FR, RU) and moves to develop green chemistry (EN, ES, FR, RU)
- why we should be worried about levels of chemicals in what we eat and drink (EN, ES, FR, RU)
- on crime scene investigations in the emerging field of environmental forensics (EN, ES, FR, RU)
- why modern agriculture must change (AR, EN, ES, FR, MLY, RU)
- on the threat that climate change poses to biodiversity (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU)
- all you ever wanted to know about biodiversity … but were afraid to ask (EN, ES, FR, RU)
- protecting shipwrecks and sunken cities from modern-day cowboys (AR, EN, ES, FR, RU)
- the threats facing the oceans and paths for greening the blue economy (EN, ES)
- the need to manage food, water and energy as interrelated sectors (EN, ES, FR)
- conflict and cooperation in managing freshwater (EN, ES, FR)
- how simple technologies helped Maasai villagers improve their homes and stimulate the local economy (EN)
- what is all the fuss about 3D printing? (EN)
- how mobile phones are remodelling development approaches in Uganda (EN)
- what future for nuclear power? (EN, ES, FR, RU)
This open access journal was originally published in English and French, before Russian and Spanish editions were added in 2006. A World of Science was also published in Arabic in 2008−2010. In October 2013, the journal was suspended for financial reasons.
All the journals published since 2002 may be downloaded and reproduced. For easy reference, articles and interviews are also organized by theme and by region.
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).