Heriot-Watt professor to help steer UN International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development




A Heriot-Watt University professor has been appointed to the steering group of the United Nations' International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development 2022-23.

Professor Martin McCoustra from Heriot-Watt University's Institute of Chemical Sciences sits on the steering group as a representative of the International Union for Vacuum Science, Technique, and Applications; one of the international scientific bodies behind the declaration.

The UN chose to celebrate basic sciences for their important contribution to the implementation of its Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, which aims to ensure a balanced, sustainable and inclusive development of the planet.

Professor McCoustra believes Heriot-Watt and the UK and global science community has a key role to play in the promotion of basic sciences.

McCoustra said: “Basic science is not technology. It's about making new findings that might not be directly applicable to anything right now, but might be entirely relevant in 5-50 years.

“The basic science behind magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was done in the 1940s and 1950s. But the development of this key medical technology did not happen until the 1970s and 1980s.”

“The James Webb telescope, launched on Christmas Eve 2021, was conceived just after the Hubble telescope was launched and it took nearly 30 years to get it into space. It promises to revolutionise our understanding of how the universe works. It is another example of how basic science can lead to breakthroughs decades later.

“Recently, COP 26 brought people from around the world to Glasgow to discuss how we can mitigate climate change. Basic science will play a fundamental role in how we will do this and how we will tackle other sustainability challenges facing our planet.”

“To solve the problems facing our planet and its population, it's essential that we take a long-term view and have a foundation of basic science to build our future technologies on. We must also ensure that science, and education in science, is open and available to all.”

McCoustra wants institutions and companies across Scotland and the UK to get involved and to support the goals of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development.

“Heriot-Watt and other institutions in Scotland conduct world-leading basic science and provide world-class science education. We need to work with the government and private sector to ensure we continue to support science education, and continue to enable basic science through improved research infrastructure.”

Organisations that want to be part of the UK side of the UN International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development should contact the Steering Group for IYBSSD2022 via the link https://www.iybssd2022.org/en/your-proposal-for-the-program/


Sarah McDaid