2015 is coming to an end, and with it, the International Year of Light 2015 with numerous closing ceremonies around the world, after a very successful and colorful year launched last January in Paris. ‘Our life depends on Light’ stated Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, in her introductory message to the delegates at the opening ceremony. The magic of light and the success of thousands of specific events have demonstrated the enthusiasm generated worldwide by this initiative. With over 100 partners in more than 85 countries, the IYL 2015 has been a global cross-disciplinary, educational and outreach enterprise, also celebrating a broad cultural heritage. It is well recognised that the science and applications of light will continue to generate many new technologies in health, communication, economy, environment and social areas, with a direct impact on the quality of our lives. I cannot avoid mentioning here the last issue of EPN, devoted to the science of light, as a tribute to IYL 2015, and this thanks to the dedication of Luc Bergé, chair of the Quantum Electronics and Optics Division.
For EPS, 2015 was also the opportunity to recognise several new historic sites, bringing the total to 25 sites in 15 countries. Among them, Einstein’s House in Bern was the first joint EPS –APS historic site whereas the last celebrated site of this year is the Hotel Metropole in Brussels, which hosted the first Solvay conference on physics in 1911. Another enjoyable development is the steady growth of our Young Minds Project, which has expanded to around 35 sections in 25 countries. Globally EPS has experienced a good year with many new projects, workshops and publications, all of them well and quickly reported on our home page and in our e-EPS newsletter. Our presence in Brussels is under construction with more interaction with the EU institutions, as exemplified with a successful meeting of the presidents of some 25 of our 42 member societies last October in our office at the rue du Trône. Opportunity was given to interact with representatives of the European Research Council [ERC], of the Unit for Science and Technology Options Assessment [STOA] and of the Swiss contact office for European Research Innovation and Education. EPS has also been successful in collecting nominations of candidates for the high level advisory group of the Scientific Advisory Mechanism [SAM] recently launched by the EU commission. We are very pleased that Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN, was chosen as one of the 7 new members. Another expression of the steady commitment of EPS to address important issues is the successful INARIE workshop on ‘Integrating access to Pan-European Research Infrastructures in Central and Eastern Europe’, which took place in Debrecen this month and ended with an official declaration.
But as we all know, where light shines, there is also shadow. This brings me to say that it would have been nice to celebrate Light and Life on this planet without restriction, without a bitter taste of sadness and disillusion. Unfortunately every day keeps bringing its integral load of bad news and catastrophes, reminding us of the spiral of violence spreading around our world – war, terrorism, discrimination, fratricidal combats – and forcing millions of people flee, to find refuge in other countries. Besides meeting refugees’ most urgent needs such as accommodation and food, there is a real need to help improve their long-term situation either back home or abroad. Among all the goodwill and relief initiatives it is good to read that the European Commission has launched the Science4Refugees program to help refugee scientists and researchers finding suitable jobs. The goal is to improve not only their own situation but to put their skills and experience to good use in Europe’s research system. I believe that EPS with its member- and collaborating societies could also participate in one way or the other to this effort. Suggestions are welcome.
This is an example of what scientists can contribute to lead this world to more peace, tolerance and respect. Our engagement in science and technology via international collaborations and networks, our efforts towards a sustainable development respectful of nature and human beings should remain the cornerstone of our community. Let’s hope also at this time of the year that scientists, politicians and all stakeholders involved in the climate issues can tune their voices and lead the UN Conference on Climate Change – COP21/CMP11 to a positive outcome.
As initiated by the IYL 2015, let’s grab any opportunity to inspire, educate, and connect all citizens of this world for the positive development of their lives into a better future and this on a safer and smarter planet.
With this in mind I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.