Monday, November 22, 2010


The State Department has published a brief statement titled "U.S. Multilateral Engagement: Benefits to American Citizens". I quote the section relating to UNESCO:
The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) helps to protect our cultural and natural property and landmarks, strives to keep sports doping-free, and promotes educational exchanges around the world. UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention attracts international visitors to our national parks and monuments, and helps ensure that those sites are protected for future generations. The International Convention Against Doping in Sport helps keep performance enhancing drugs out of sports, and ensure that only participants can bid to host the Olympic Games. The UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network, which includes more than 8,500 educational institutions in 180 countries, provides U.S. schools with opportunities to engage with their peers all over the world, including through programs on international understanding, intercultural dialogue, human rights education, and sustainable development.
The State Department limited its statement to four pages, and thus its discussion of UNESCO to one paragraph. Let me add a second paragraph to that statement.

UNESCO seeks to promote peace by building the defenses of peace in the minds of men and thus protects American security, it does this through its worldwide education programs and by its support for a culture of peace. It plays a key role in improving education worldwide, providing American firms with educated foreign consumers and all our citizens with educated foreign partners in solving a host of global problems. UNESCO helps Americans to express their generosity helping the poorest people and the poorest nations in the world.  It helps Americans promote democracy abroad by standing as a firm defender of freedom of the press. Not only does UNESCO help "to protect our cultural and natural property and landmarks," it helps to assure that those things are protected everywhere so that we Americans can see them when we travel and so that we can rest assured that those foreign sites will be there for our children and their children to know and enjoy. UNESCO has certified  a global system of university chairs and networks which helps to enrich higher education worldwide, linking American universities with those in other continents. UNESCO helps American scientists to network with their colleagues worldwide, providing benefits from better prediction of tsunamis and earthquakes that might endanger our citizens, to developing a global network of bioreserves to help understand how to protect against environmental threats.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy World Television Day

The United Nations has proclaim 21 November World Television Day, commemorating the date on which the first World Television Forum was held. More....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

UNESCO To Consider International Engineering Program

At its recent meeting, UNESCO's Executive Board directed the Secretariat to propose a new International Engineering Program in conjunction with its draft Program and Budget for the period 2012-2013. The program should "strengthen research, education and capacity-building in the field of engineering." The Board had considered a report by the Director General on the feasibility of creating such a program.

At one time UNESCO had a significant program in the Engineering Sciences but that program had been reduced in scope and impact due to reductions in its resources. The new International Engineering Program would presumably restore resources devoted to engineering.

UNESCO recently published its World Engineering Report.

Engineers play a vital role in developing and managing the infrastructure of modern life, including:
  • roads, railroads, airports and ports
  • potable water and sanitation systems
  • dams, canals, and irrigation systems
  • electric power systems
  • computer and information systems
Industrial engineers play a key role in planning and managing factory work. Biomedical engineers develop and maintain the complex equipment on which modern medicine depends. Aeronautical engineers design and maintain our fleets of aircraft. Mechanical and electrical engineers design the machines on which our modern society depends.

There is an acute need for more and better engineers in developing nations. Indeed, there is a major need for research and development of new engineering technologies to meet the needs of poor people, many of whom live in regions for which engineering solutions developed in rich nations in temperate climatic zones serve only poorly. Building engineering capacity will involve not only training new engineers and continuing education for all engineers and research and development, but also support for the the profession such as strengthening professional engineering societies and improving the dissemination of engineering professional information and tools.

In the United States, according to the most recent information from the National Science Foundation, there were some 1.5 million engineers employed in the country, compared to 2.9 million in computer and mathematical sciences, 258 thousand employed in the life sciences, 267 thousand in the physical sciences, and 291 thousand in the social sciences. While the U.S. practice is not representative of the global proportion of professionals in science and engineering fields, it does indicate that the engineering professions play a huge role in modern society.

It should be noted that other organizations in the United Nations system are concerned with specific fields of engineering. For example, WHO is concerned with biomedical engineering, FAO with agricultural engineering, and UNIDO with industrial engineering and other engineering professions concerned with industrial design and industrial equipment. Indeed, in its programs focusing on water, UNESCO already has programmatic activities dealing with engineering in water systems. However, there is no UN agency other than UNESCO with the charter to deal with engineering education and the general support for the engineering profession.

I would therefore suggest that UNESCO recognize that the importance of engineering is at least comparable to that of the natural sciences and the social and human sciences and draft a new International Engineering Program consonant with that responsibility. It is hard to see how that could be accomplished without either significant cuts in the resources devoted to other programs or an increase in the UNESCO resources.

One might expect that a program for the next biennium might be conceptualized as a modest step toward building a major program and as a step by which UNESCO could demonstrate its competence in building engineering capacity.

John Daly
The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

World Philosophy Day 2010

Celebrated at UNESCO’s initiative every third Thursday of November since 2002, World Philosophy Day takes place this year on 18 November 2010.
The events organized by UNESCO, or by its partners, provide an opportunity to make philosophical reflection accessible to all (professors and students, scholars and the general public, the young and the less young), thereby enlarging the opportunities and spaces for the stimulation of critical thinking and debate.
This year the day contributes to to the celebration of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2010).

Simultaneous launching of the UNESCO Science Report 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Engineering: Issues and Challenges for Development

This is the first ever international report on engineering from UNESCO. It

  • Identifies issues and challenges facing engineering
  • Encourages better public understanding of engineering and its role in society, and
  • Highlights ways of making engineering and engineering education more attractive to young people, especially women
Engineers create knowledge, technology and infrastructure – our knowledge societies and economies were built by engineers and much of the history of civilisation is the history of engineering, which is perhaps the oldest profession.

Engineering is so successful and pervasive; however, that it can be taken for granted and is often overlooked by the public and policy makers. At the same time, less young people in many countries are going into engineering, and there are worldwide concerns about declining human capacity and the consequences for poverty reduction and sustainable development. Reports of shortages of engineers in key sectors are common. This is compounded by the brain-drain of engineers from developing countries and out of engineering. These issues are linked and provide an opportunity for change: the public perception of engineering reflects the changing needs for engineering, and need for engineering to change, and young people are concerned about global issues and attracted to engineering as a means to address them.

UNESCO Science Report 2010

Europe, Japan and the USA (the Triad) may still dominate research and development (R&D) but they are increasingly being challenged by the emerging economies and above all by China. This is just one of the findings of the UNESCO Science Report 2010.

Written by a team of independent experts who are each covering the country or region from which they hail, the UNESCO Science Report 2010 analyses the trends and developments that have shaped scientific research, innovation and higher education over the past five years, including the impact of the current global economic recession, which has hit the Triad harder than either Brazil, China or India. The report depicts an increasingly competitive environment, one in which the flow of information, knowledge, personnel and investment has become a two-way traffic. Both China and India, for instance, are using their newfound economic might to invest in high-tech companies in Europe and elsewhere to acquire technological expertise overnight. Other large emerging economies are also spending more on research and development than before, among them Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.

If more countries are participating in science, we are also seeing a shift in global influence. China is a hair’s breadth away from counting more researchers than either the USA or the European Union, for instance, and now publishes more scientific articles than Japan.

Even countries with a lesser scientific capacity are finding that they can acquire, adopt and sometimes even transform existing technology and thereby ‘leapfrog’ over certain costly investments, such as infrastructure like land lines for telephones. Technological progress is allowing these countries to produce more knowledge and participate more actively than before in international networks and research partnerships with countries in both North and South. This trend is fostering a democratization of science worldwide. In turn, science diplomacy is becoming a key instrument of peace-building and sustainable development in international relations.

Taking up from where its predecessor left off in 2005, the UNESCO Science Report 2010 proposes a world tour of the status of science today that should enable ‘science watchers’ everywhere to decipher the trends that are shaping our rapidly changing world.

Special thanks to Tom Ratchford and Bill Blanpied for again taking on the responsibility of writing the chapter on science in the United States.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A comment on the Obiang Prize controversy

I quote from Science magazine, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
A battle over a prize in the life sciences that honors Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president and longtime dictator of Equatorial Guinea, has ended with the effective cancellation of the award. The executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has adopted a diplomatic compromise that would require "consensus," thus putting the award on indefinite hold. In an interview, an Obiang representative said the decision sends "the wrong message."

Friday, November 05, 2010

New Issue: A World of Science

A World of Science in October

The growing role of knowledge in the global economy

From 1996 to 2007, the world experienced an unprecedented period of rapid economic growth. This ‘growth spurt’ was driven by the widespread diffusion of digital technologies and the emergence of Brazil, China, India and South Africa as economic powers, among other factors. In this excerpt from the introductory chapter to the UNESCO Science Report 2010, we examine the broad trends that have characterized the support system for science in recent years, including the impact of the global economic recession on investment in knowledge.

Indonesia has imposed a moratorium on logging

Jatna Supriatna explains what Indonesia is doing to safeguard its remarkable biodiversity, four months after the announcement of a moratorium on logging and the discovery of several new species in the Foja mountains of New Guinea.

The rise of innovation in India

In India, growth in knowledge-intensive production now surpasses that of the economy overall. In this excerpt from the chapter on India in the UNESCO Science Report 2010, we explore the rise of innovation in India.

The adventures of Patrimonito

In this cartoon for children based on a true story, UNESCO’s World Heritage guardian embarks on an adventure to save the birds and animals living in the sub-Antarctic Islands from a horde of little pigs that have overrun one of the islands.

Link towards the electronic version of A World of Science Vol 8 N° 4