The importance of technological development and scientific research has never been felt more than now, as the pandemic takes over the globe. It is only because of technology, that we have been able to conduct daily affairs, produce vaccines, work, study or even socialise. The communication systems backed by technology has allowed for seamless collaboration, thus aiding in effective tackling of the pandemic. In the absence of scientific development and technological support, the world would have been at a standstill at the time, and the damage caused by COVID-19 would have been much greater than it is today.
Against this backdrop, the United Nations (UN) has declared that the year 2022 will be dedicated to basic sciences, with a focus on how scientific research can propel sustainable development and improve the quality of life across the world.
International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD)
The UN General Assembly has accepted by consensus a resolution proclaiming 2022 as the “International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development.” The resolution was presented by Honduras and co-sponsored by 36 countries, including Brazil, India, Israel, Japan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam.
IYBSSD 2022 will, therefore, be inaugurated on 1 July 2022 with an opening conference at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris, France. The year will conclude in June 2023.
On the IYBSSD 2022 website, the UN has noted: “The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder (so stark and brutal that we would prefer to have been spared) of our dependence on basic science to ensure balanced, sustainable, and inclusive development of the planet.”
Designating 2022 as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, it adds, “will put the spotlight on the links between the basic sciences and the Sustainable Development Goals” and “will be a key moment of mobilization to convince” global leaders and the general public of the importance of fundamental science.
The need to spotlight basic sciences stems from the fact that while the fruits of technological progress are apparent, the profound results of fundamental science are harder to notice and, therefore, underappreciated.
“Every day, we use very basic sciences results, without even knowing it. Your smartphone alone contains a battery, that wouldn’t exist without a basic understanding of electrochemistry; a touchscreen and a lot of transistors that rely on our understanding of the moves of electrons in solid materials; applications that are powered by mathematical algorithms, etc. And where clean water is guaranteed at the tap, you can thank chemists and microbiologists,” said Luc Allemand, IYBSSD general secretary, to the science journal História, Ciências, Saúde–Manguinhos .
Currently, 50 science academies and networks have expressed their support for the initiative, including 28 Nobel laureates and Fields Medalists.
Basic Science and UN SDGs
For advances in areas like medicine, agriculture, water resources, energy, and the environment, basic science research is essential. These same areas cover the spectrum of the UN sustainable development goals as well. While all the goals require scientific inputs to varying degrees, some goals, such as health and well-being, affordable and clean energy, and climate action, are directly linked to scientific advances.
Support for IYBSSD in India
The Indian supporters of IYBSSD 2022 are the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata; and the Gujarat Council on Science and Technology, Government of Gujarat. UNESCO will be the lead agency. It will collaborate with partner organisations to put together activities, using voluntary contributions, throughout the year with the intention to raise awareness about the importance of basic sciences. This will also help facilitate engagement between scientists and various stakeholders, such as politicians, diplomats, policymakers, groups and associations, and individuals.