Conversation about photonics sparked by IYL2015 must continue, if global needs are to be met

Ability to progress depends as much on government policy as scientific innovation, says SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs

03 October 2016

Eugene Arthurs at IYL2015 Final Report meeting

Eugene Arthurs at the IYL2015 Final Report presentation to UNESCO

PARIS, France -- Divisive communication and value gaps separating the spheres of science and politics must be overcome if global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations are to be met, Eugene Arthurs, CEO of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, said today at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

Arthurs was among partners joined by other supporters for delivery to UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Flavia Schlegel of the official final report [PDF 40 MB] on the UN's International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies in 2015 (IYL2015).

Schlegel said the IYL2015 report was "the best final report that I have seen so far ... many congratulations to the many consortia partners who made this year possible." She noted that the observance had included 13,168 events in 147 countries.

Photonics technologies have profound potential to help meet the UN's SDGs, Arthurs said. He cited applications such as solar and other renewable energy systems; water cleaning and desalination capabilities; energy-efficient LEDs for lighting in remote as well as developed areas and in enabling urban farming; fiber-optic communications networks and processors for wearables and the Internet of Things; remote sensing for monitoring climate, natural disasters, and agriculture; and a plethora of medical technologies for diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease.

The IYL2015 stimulated vital conversation among photonics scientists and engineers, social scientists, economists, politicians, students, educators, and people everywhere about what photonics enables today and its potential for new capabilities.

Continued conversation is imperative going forward, Arthurs stressed. Politicians need to understand the importance of light-based technologies to the safety and well-being of citizens, and the photonics community needs to keep sharing this message including updates as new capabilities are developed.

In her remarks, Ana María Cetto of the Instituto de Física, UNAM, and director of the Museum of Light, México, advocated for a designated Day of Light on 16 May, the anniversary of the first successful firing of a laser. During the IYL2015, she said, “many activities were established that should not stop.” Establishing a Day of Light could create new opportunities to continue to work together.

"The impact of photonic and other technologies depends at least as much on the actions of governments as on the innovation of engineers and the discoveries of scientists," Arthurs said.   "The IYL2015 has provided a timely reminder that through our commitment to education and outreach, we can really make a difference," said John Dudley, Chair of the IYL015 Steering Committee. "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."

Arthurs, Dudley, and Cetto were among speakers at the report presentation representing partners and sponsors of the IYL2015 observance.   SPIE was a Founding Partner of IYL2015 along with other scientific organizations.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2015, SPIE provided more than $5.2 million in support of education and outreach programs. www.spie.org


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