IUGG and ICTP agreed to promote education in geophysics and geodesy
The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics and the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) have taken steps to enhance geophysical and geodetic education and science collaboration.
On 6 October 2011, ICTP Director Fernando Quevedo and IUGG Secretary General Alik Ismail-Zadeh signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote educational programs related to geodesy and geophysics for the next quadrennium (2012-2015). Among other points, the agreement encourages collaboration in organization of advanced schools/workshops in geodesy and geophysics in ICTP or in economically less developed countries; in development of diploma courses related to Earth and space sciences; and in dissemination of information on educational and scientific meetings.
ICTP Director F. Quevedo (right) and IUGG Secretary General A. Ismail-Zadeh
Founded in 1964 by the late Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam, ICTP seeks to accomplish its mandate by providing scientists from developing countries with the continuing education and skills that they need to enjoy long and productive careers. ICTP has been a major force in stemming the scientific brain drain from the developing world. The impact of ICTP extends well beyond the Centre's facilities to virtually every corner of the Earth. The Earth System Physics (ESP) Section of ICTP studies a wide spectrum of the Earth system, from its fluid components (oceans and the atmosphere) to the planet's interior.
ACTIVITIES AND EXPERIENCES IN SCIENCE EDUCATION
What is the importance of Science Education to IUGG?
One of the primary objectives of IUGG is to promote the study of the shape of the Earth, its gravitational and magnetic fields, the dynamics of the Earth as a whole and of its component parts, the Earth's internal structure, composition and tectonics, the generation of magmas, volcanism and rock formation, the hydrological cycle including snow and ice, all aspects of the oceans, the atmosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere and solar-terrestrial relations, and analogous problems associated with the Moon and other planets. Such an objective necessarily includes activities related to Science Education, although the form of those activities varies widely. The important educational activities are capacity building and research meetings (e.g., workshops, schools, symposia and assembles). Within the IUGG components, dozens of scientific workshops and assemblies are held annually in countries distributed over the globe. These meetings have a strong educational aspect because young and otherwise financially-disadvantaged scientists, who cannot usually travel to international meetings, have the opportunity to gain exposure and present papers in professional forum. In addition, all of the Union's eight Associations maintain Internet web sites that enable public access to general and specific information about their activities.
What has IUGG done in Science Education that has been particularly effective?
Because each of the IUGG disciplines requires careful observations made in standardized ways, a common educational strategy is that of training. The IUGG International Scientific Associations plan and fund “schools” in which students, young professionals, and technicians learn the tools and techniques needed to acquire accurate data. The venues for these schools change and are typically held in developing countries where opportunities for training are scarce. The examples of such schools are numerous.
The most recent and particularly effective ongoing activity in Science Education is the IUGG project “Electronic Geophysical Year in Africa (eGY-Africa)” sponsored by IUGG in the framework of the Union Program “Geoscience for Africa”. The eGY-Africa project brings together IUGG scientists and their African colleagues with the aim to reduce the digital divide and seeks to achieve better Internet and Grid access for scientists (and others) in universities and similar research and education institutions in Africa, so they can participate on equal terms with the rest of the world as we move into the information era. The Internet Science Education becomes an important component in science education. The belief is that strengthening the tertiary education and research sector in this way is a necessary step towards making African communities wealthier, safer, and more sustainable.
Why is the particular project so successful? There are several reasons for that. Among them, the IUGG-sponsored Electronic Geophysical Year attracted considerable attention worldwide to the problems of digital divide. The project is supported by a great enthusiasm of IUGG scientists and ability to promote the major idea of the project.
What are IUGG’s major current activities in Science Education?
See above. Also IUGG together with the number of ICSU Unions and UNESCO will conduct symposia and workshops on natural hazards and disaster risk reduction in South America, Africa and Asia/Australia in 2010-2011 with one of the aims as science education in the relevant fields. The list of scientific meetings recently awarded by IUGG can be found at http://www.iugg.org/meetings/sponsored.php. Moreover, each IUGG Association conducts workshops or schools in the field of their competence worldwide.
What are IUGG’s major challenges regarding Science Education?
- To involve scientists, especially early career scientists, from economically less-developed countries, into the international geophysical community and to promote through the scientists education in their countries.
- To transfer technical and theoretical skill from economically developed to less-developed countries.
See also the report to ICSU (January 2000)