With just seven months to go till the start of the International Year of Light, I am sure that people all over the world have already begun the countdown to January 2015.
In the UK, we are forming a national committee with a series of different working groups to bring together all the different organisations who want to celebrate IYL2015. They represent a very wide spectrum of interests from astronomy, science and education to industry, healthcare, lighting, arts and entertainment. Apart from its wider objectives, the Year of Light will be a wonderful opportunity to break down some of the barriers between different branches of science and technology, and between science and the wider community of arts and culture.
Of course, one challenge with such a diverse group is to agree exactly what we want to achieve during the course of the Year – what would we like to have changed in the UK by the time we reach 1st January 2016?
Currently, these are the goals we have defined for the UK:
- To increase public awareness of the role light plays in daily life around the world
- To promote awareness of the capacity of light-related technologies to improve quality of life to audiences including policy and decision makers
- To make light visible by exploring links between light, nature, science, culture & arts
- To energise existing public engagement networks, events and initiatives and encourage cross-discipline collaboration that will thrive after IYL2015.
To achieve these aims we are hoping to have a co-ordinated programme of events run throughout 2015 at different locations across the UK, and to make sure we reach the widest possible audience through traditional and social media.
We will also be aiming to develop resources for schools, and for use in public engagement activities. I am sure that other national committees are working on similar lines. Any opportunities to share ideas and resources would be really welcome.
Speaking personally, the aspect of IYL2015 which I find most inspirational is the “Study after Sunset” programme, with the aim of bringing solar lighting to some of the hundreds of millions of homes in Africa where life stops at 6 every evening, or depends on kerosene lights which are dirty, dangerous and expensive. We will help as much as we can from the UK, but clearly this is a programme that needs to be carried out as an international initiative. With support from IYL’s generous sponsors, I am hopeful that we can really make a difference to many people’s lives.
Prior to her involvement with IYL2015, Dr. Beth Taylor was Director of Communications and International Relations at the Institute of Physics (IOP), responsible for media relations, public affairs and science outreach activities and for the Institute’s international activities, including physics for development programmes to support education and training in the developing world.
Following a research degree in earth sciences at Cambridge University, Beth joined the UK Department of Energy, first working on energy conservation and the “Save It” campaign, and then on secondment to the British National Oil Corporation. She spent three years in the USA, teaching at the University of New Mexico, and working as an energy policy consultant for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Returning to the UK, she joined the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) as an energy analyst, modelling alternative strategies for meeting national energy demand projections and reducing environmental impacts. She was part of the corporate strategy team which worked on the privatisation of AEA Technology and refocused UKAEA on decommissioning and waste management. She became head of the UKAEA’s corporate communications in 1998, responsible for media and community relations at its nuclear sites.
Beth is a vice chair and director of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, with particular responsibility for the natural sciences portfolio.