There is pure excitement among Spaniards as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development is celebrated, says Manuel de León, member of the Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of Spain.
In 2015, the United Nations approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, identifying 17 goals, ranging from eradicating poverty to combating climate change, education, women’s equality, environmental protection and the design of our cities. The 2030 Agenda is indeed an opportunity for countries and their societies to radically change their behavior in order to achieve the sustainability of our planet, threatened by pollution, the depletion of natural resources or the decline of biodiversity.
The recent pandemic has shown how decisive basic science research has been in the development of vaccines that have saved millions of lives.
The question many of us have been asking ourselves in recent years is how to make the contribution of basic science to achieving the SDGs visible. The recent pandemic showed how basic science research was instrumental in developing vaccines that saved millions of lives. Once again, basic science is there so that the knowledge it generates can be used when needed. This has been the case throughout human history.
A decisive date: December 2, 2021
A decisive event took place at the end of last year. The 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed December 2, 2021, as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD). The UN notes that “applications of basic sciences are essential to advances in medicine, industry, agriculture, water resources, energy planning, the environment, communications and culture, and that advanced technologies in the basic sciences meet the needs of humanity by providing access to information and increasing social welfare, and promoting peace through improved collaboration to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
The official launch of the IYBSSD, which will run until June 30, 2023, took place on July 8 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. This is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the key role of the basic sciences: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology… Many activities are already planned around the world, and Spain will not be left out. The Fundación para el Conocimiento madrimasd is launching some of them, trying to give visibility to this important call in celebrations such as the European Researchers’ Night in Madrid, the Madrid Science and Innovation Week or the International Day for Girls and Women in Science.
Reaching out in all directions
These activities should aim to have an impact in several directions. One that would reach out to the general public, to society, so that they are not only aware of the importance of basic science, but also so that they can participate in its achievements, in what we have come to call citizen science. And it must also mobilize the entire educational system; education is based on these sciences (remember that mathematics alone is one of the two pillars of education along with language), and this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to our students in this way, so that they improve their performance and are encouraged to pursue careers in science. And, of course, we must insist that central, regional and local governments make basic science an essential ingredient of their programs; this is more urgent in Spain than in other countries.
Let’s hope that in a year’s time we can congratulate ourselves on the success of this international year!