The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) was proclaimed at the United Nations General Assembly in December 2013. Under the leadership of UNESCO, IYL 2015 brought together hundreds of national and international partners to raise awareness of the importance of light science and technology in areas such as sustainable development, energy, education, climate-change, and health.
IYL 2015 saw over 13,000 events take place with an impact that reached 147 countries. The diversity of events was remarkable. The Opening Ceremony in Paris in January 2015 set the scene, and throughout the year we saw activities including: education and outreach for students and the public; specialist workshops in science and industry; forums on the historical development of science; conferences on sustainable development; public light festivals and displays; works of art, music, and literature. Events were targeted at all levels—from preschool children learning science for the first time, to politicians, diplomats, and even royalty convening high-level meetings discussing the importance of technology for the future.
When discussions of IYL 2015 first began in 2009 within the scientific community, I don’t think that anyone could have foreseen the extent of the worldwide enthusiasm around the theme of light, and neither did we anticipate the many new linkages that would appear between science and art and culture. I feel personally that a major contributor to the success of IYL 2015 has been the fact that the IYL 2015 partners reached out beyond their traditional memberships and audiences to engage more broadly and to make new connections. I would like to thank UNESCO and all our partners and supporters worldwide for their commitment and efforts. And a special word of thanks is due to all our student volunteers who brought their passion and energy to the IYL 2015 organisation.
This report aims to give a synthetic account of IYL 2015, first describing its origins and goals, and then providing a summary of the many events and activities that took place worldwide. The report also contains information on organisation and communications, and it is hoped that these details may provide guidance for others who may wish to organize a similar global outreach initiative in the future.
I believe that everyone involved in IYL 2015 can feel immensely proud of what has been achieved. We can also feel confident that many of the partnerships established during IYL 2015 will continue. It is sometimes difficult to see how we as individuals can contribute to solving issues of global importance, but I believe that the International Year of Light has provided a timely reminder that through our commitment to education and outreach, we can really make a difference.
It is now up to us to build on what we have learned and what we have accomplished during 2015 to continue to work together for the betterment of all.
John Dudley, Chair of the IYL 2015 Steering Committee