UNESCO World Library of Science

New scientific library: a historic development in education

Roche donation supports launch of World Library of Science, a free online education resource for a global community of users, in partnership with UNESCO and Nature Education

Society needs cutting-edge science to address major challenges. Combating poverty, environmental degradation, climate change, existing and newly emerging diseases, natural disasters and other challenges requires people with quality science education. Unfortunately, the enrolment of young people, especially women, into science education is declining when scientists are needed most. The trend is especially worrying for developing countries.

To make science education accessible and appealing, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recently opened the UNESCO World Library of Science (WLoS) in partnership with Nature Education and Roche. The library gives students around the world online access to scientific information, with a particular view to make this information accessible to those students studying sciences in Africa.

The library is founded on the idea that educational content and scientific knowledge should be freely accessible to all. The ambitious project transforms science education globally with an open, online environment for peer-reviewed scientific research and ideas on how best to understand and teach even complex concepts. In addition, the WLoS will also function as a social science network, where science teachers and students will be able to exchange their views, information and knowledge with other students from all over the world.

Making science learning accessible

UNESCO sees the primary role of science to be that of improving living conditions, ensuring sustainable development and generally advancing civilization. The WLoS makes science learning accessible to students everywhere in the world, but especially in disadvantaged regions. It is open to all at no cost and provides students and teachers with access to high-quality educational material regardless of geography or economic circumstances.

To further support teachers and students worldwide, the library gives educators ideas for presenting complex scientific concepts. Students, meanwhile, have access to resources to stimulate and complement their learning. The library’s website provides a searchable database of peer-reviewed content.

Strengthening science education

The World Library of Science is more than just a traditional library. It is a dynamic resource that allows users to personalise their learning experience and to collaborate while exploring scientific concepts, including asking and answering questions.

“The world needs more science and more scientists to face today’s global challenges,” said UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova. “Achieving this requires better and more accessible science education. The UNESCO World Library of Science is a remarkable and exciting new tool that will help provide it, not only to students, but also to education planners and teachers, wherever they may be.”

Mariette DiChristina, the executive editor of the Nature Publishing Group and the editor-in-chief of Scientific American, added:

“Science is the engine of human prosperity that powers and enables a better future for us all. That is why it is so important to widen access to high-quality information about science and to science teaching, and why we are tremendously proud to be involved in this effort to open up high-quality content from Nature, the world’s leading science journal, and other quality sources. As we continue to add to the UNESCO World Library of Science over time, we will help share scientific knowledge and the wonder of discovery with students and teachers all over the world.”

Enabling sponsorship from Roche supports the library

By crossing frontiers in enhancing the teaching and learning of science, the library is closely aligned with Roche’s business model. Roche is the enabling sponsor for the library, having provided a donation to support its launch.

“As a research-focused company, we are firmly committed to promoting excellence in science across the world,” said Dr. John C. Reed, who heads Roche Pharma Research and Early Development. “The UNESCO World Library of Science is an excellent platform to enable future generations of scientists, particularly those in disadvantaged regions of the world, to have access to the latest science information and educational resources. This is why we proudly support the project.”

Inspiring learning and curiosity

UNESCO’s partnership between with Nature Education enables the library the library to offer quality science education content in short e-books and articles. All offerings are digital and readily available through online tools and networks. The content is meant to inspire learning and curiosity and to help train students and teachers alike, both in the concepts and the cultural impact of scientific discovery.

The library is stocked with over 300 top-quality articles, 25 e-books and over 70 videos from the publishers of Nature, the most cited scientific journal in the world. It is also a state-of-the-art digital platform that provides a community hub for learning. Users can join classes, build groups and connect with other learners.

Future plans involve expanding the library’s content of life science and physical science subjects. Also on the horizon is the translation of resources into multiple languages through direct community participation.

Launch coincides with World Science Day

The UNESCO World Library of Science was officially opened at a ceremony held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, on 10 November 2014. That date was chosen because is also marks the World Science Day for Peace and Development, which was established by UNESCO in 2001.

The theme of World Science Day 2014 is Quality science education—ensuring a sustainable future for all. The day, therefore, furnished an opportunity for participants to highlight the importance of science in society and to engage the public in debates on emerging scientific issues and the relevance of science in their daily lives.

“More than ever, in this new age of limited resources, we need to nurture the boundless energy and creativity of young women and men to tackle complex new challenges,” said Irina Bokova in her message for World Science Day. “Quality science education is a pillar for a more sustainable future – we must invest in it, to empower every woman and man to catalyse the innovation and creativity we need for the century ahead.”

Bokova stressed the need for concerted action to halt the declining enrolment of young people in science. It is not enough, she said, to put science in the school curriculum. “We must build a supportive environment by crafting educational policies that give equal access to girls and boys and by investing in laboratories and resources where they can take the lead.”

UNESCO’s work in science education employs every means possible to make a difference. The organisation pushes to update curricula where needed and offers hands-on workshops, free kits and guidebooks, and teacher training and student education programmes. It also helps its member countries ensure that a sound basis in science is not just for a privileged few in their societies.

Women and Africa are priority areas for UNESCO. The UNESCO World Library of Science and other of UNESCO’s programmes therefore aim not only to generate a more science-oriented youth worldwide. They emphasise in particular the education of girls globally and the provision of education in general within the nations of Africa. By influencing especially teachers and curriculum planners, UNESCO seeks to have a positive influence on worldwide economic and social development.

The world is increasingly shaped by science and technology. And UNESCO has made it its mission to spark an interest in and to educate people, wherever they may be, about the sciences. The UNESCO World Library of Science is a prominent and hopefully lasting feature of that intent.

Tags: Sustainability