Editorial International Year of Light 2015

By . Published on 24 January 2014 in:
Editorial, January 2014, , ,

It is an absolute pleasure to announce that the United Nations [UN] General Assembly formally proclaimed the year 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies [IYL2015] on 20 December 2013. You can read our official press release on the EPS website. This is the official green light that will allow the EPS and our many international partners to accelerate towards a fantastic year of activities throughout 2015.

The UN General Assembly declares only a very small number of International Years, and it does so to raise international awareness of issues that both resonate with the public and which are at the same time of critical importance for the future. What this means in practice is that the UN has entrusted to the EPS and our partners, with UNESCO as lead agency, the responsibility to implement a yearlong programme of activities to promote the importance of light science and technologies to the world.

IYL 2015

It is therefore absolutely essential for us all to realise that an International Year is not business as usual! It is not even “enhanced” business as usual!! In particular, 2015 is not just about planning activities and actions by physicists for physicists. And it is also not just about 2015. Rather, for the next two years and more as we plan, implement and follow up, we have an unprecedented opportunity to engage with new audiences and communities to explain why the science of light and its many applications is so important. Light and its applications span all areas of physics and science, and all of us can play a major role.

Of course there will be many exciting and high profile scientific seminars during 2015, but if all we do is plan and organise events amongst ourselves, we will miss the unique opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of fundamental science to the broader public, to policy makers and to research funders. We often complain that our science is not sufficiently supported, and we now have a chance to do something about it. We absolutely have to make the most of 2015, and this will require real commitment from us all.

But in a sense of course, we have already started. Indeed, having the IYL2015 resolution passed at the UN General Assembly is already a very significant achievement. The applications of optics and photonics as solutions to global problems were extensively debated in the various consultative phases at UNESCO and the UN General Assembly, and there are probably hundreds of diplomats and politicians worldwide who are now aware of the importance of these areas of science. Indeed, it is worth noting that it was at the consultative stage in New York where the Member States of the UN themselves modified the title of the International Year to explicitly stress the technological applications of science to meeting UN priorities.

Throughout the year, there will be regular monthly updates in a dedicated column in e-EPS, and we will be providing guidelines for national organisation and many ideas for activities. But while EPS and other societies will be coordinating international activities, the real strength of International Years lies in the local actions run by the local scientific community. And organizing locally is up to you! On the EPS website, there is a presentation and prospectus to download, so please begin now and plan some local meetings in the next few weeks in your own university and department to brainstorm immediately. And please let your national physical society know what you are doing, as national coordination will also be important.

Let’s not delay one minute longer. Start making plans, pick up the phone, send emails, tweet (@IYL2015) or post or whatever you like, just organize and get to work! We have an absolutely remarkable time ahead of us.

John Dudley
EPS President

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