Mathematicians and physicists get Alzheimer's

Research infrastructure and collaborations

In principle, UNESCO works in an interdisciplinary manner. However, in order to promote research infrastructure and global cooperation, it often works closely with individual disciplines.

"My vision is to be able to cure diseases like Alzheimer's"

Dr. Hyun Kate Lee, the first female scientist working in Germany to receive the L'Oréal / UNESCO “International Rising Talents” science grant, about her research work and how the award helps her to reconcile research and family.

Water and ocean research are particularly well-known examples of this. But cooperation in engineering, geology and the basic natural sciences, mathematics, physics and chemistry, and the life sciences are also disciplines that UNESCO has promoted since its foundation.

UNESCO was the midwife of the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN, which was founded in Geneva in 1954. UNESCO is also behind the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, which promotes training and research collaborations with developing countries. The International Basic Sciences Program (IBSP) promotes regional and supra-regional research networks.

Center for Synchrotron Light and Experimental Sciences and Applications in the Middle East - SESAME

Since 2000, UNESCO has transferred the successful concept of CERN to the Middle East and supported the establishment of the synchrotron laboratory SESAME (Center for Synchrotron Light and Experimental Sciences and Applications in the Middle East). SESAME was set up at the Al-Balqa University of Applied Sciences in Jordan until completion in 2017.

The founding of SESAME has a lot to do with Germany: In 1999 the “storage ring” BESSY I from Berlin-Wilmersdorf was to be retired in favor of a newer model. Herman Winick from Stanford, USA, and Gustaf-Adolf Voss from the German accelerator laboratory DESY had the idea to bring the device to the Middle East. Due to the commitment of the two physicists Sergio Fubini (Italy, died 2005) and Herwig Schopper (Germany), the German federal government decided to make the storage ring available as the basis for setting up SESAME. In 2002 the device was brought to Jordan.

A synchrotron accelerates electrically charged elementary particles or ions to very high speeds. In a vacuum, the particles are directed by magnets onto a ring path, and the changes in direction cause the particles to emit characteristic radiation. This is suitable for research in many scientific disciplines, but also for industrial and medical applications.

Together with delegates from the Middle East, UNESCO founded a body as the main decision-making body of SESAME. The first meeting took place in 2003. The council meets twice a year. Current councilors are Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine, Turkey and Cyprus. Germany is one of the ten countries currently with observation status (as well as France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Great Britain and the USA). The first chairman was Herwig Schopper until 2008, the third chairman since 2017 is again a German, Prof. Rolf-Dieter Heuter, President of the German Physical Society.


International Center for Theoretical Physics - ICTP

The ICTP or Abdus Salam Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, is one of the most important research institutes in physics in the world. UNESCO is the UN body responsible for managing the ICTP. Since it was founded in 1964 by the Pakistani Nobel Prize winner Abdus Salam, the ICTP has primarily supported researchers from developing countries. Over 100,000 scientists have worked there, 20 percent of them from Africa, 35 percent from Asia, 15 percent from Latin America and 20 percent from Europe.

Abdus Salam first presented the idea of ​​an International Physics Institute to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in September 1960. In the middle of the Cold War, a third of the researchers were to come from NATO countries, from Warsaw Pact countries and from developing countries. Alongside the Italian government and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UNESCO was the third founding partner of the ICTP in 1964 and financed guest stays for researchers from developing countries.

The research topics of the ICTP have become more diverse: Today the spectrum includes applied physics (medical physics, bio and neurophysics, environmental economics, fluid dynamics, optics and lasers), solid state physics and statistical mechanics, earth physics (atmospheric physics, weather and climate physics, non-linear dynamics of the Planets, soil physics), high energy physics, cosmology, astroparticle physics and mathematics.

Because of these changed research areas, UNESCO has been solely responsible for the management of the ICTP since 1996. It funds programs of the ICTP with approximately US $ 500,000 annually, the contribution of the Italian state is almost US $ 30 million. The ICTP is an integral part of UNESCO.

International Geoscience Program - IGCP

The International Geoscientific Program (IGCP) of UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) has organized over 500 research projects since 1972. The IGCP supports multinational research groups and involves scientists from developing and emerging countries. To reduce the effects of natural disasters, UNESCO is setting up early warning systems and promoting the cross-border exchange of seismological data. The GFZ Potsdam organizes an annual course with UNESCO on seismology and earthquake hazards.

Geological processes do not stop at national borders. Therefore, states have to work together in joint research projects and for worldwide observation networks. Developing and emerging countries need support for innovative research and permanent observation. The IGCP promotes cooperation between geoscientists from all countries, strengthens innovative research approaches and supports developing countries.

Specifically, up to 100 researchers from dozens of countries work together for five or six years in the currently around 30 IGCP projects. The final publications of many IGCP projects are groundbreaking reference documents. The basic financing of these projects is generally provided from national funds. The IGCP financially supports annual specialist conferences of the projects and corresponding field studies, above all to enable the participation of researchers from developing and emerging countries.

The IGCP highlights the benefits of geosciences for sustainable development, human health and safety, and reducing the effects of natural disasters. With researchers from around 150 countries, over 330 funded individual projects and more than 25,000 publications, the IGCP is one of the most successful international research programs in the geosciences.

Germany is one of the most active participating countries in the IGCP. German geoscientists are involved in around half of the projects as individual researchers, in research groups or in project management. German participation in the IGCP has been coordinated by the IGCP regional committee since 1972. The State Committee is an institution of the DFG Senate Commission for Geoscientific Community Research (Geo Commission). Traditionally, the chair is held by researchers from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Nature Museum.

The state committee meets once a year together with other international geoscientific national committees. It checks planned geoscientific research projects with German participation to determine to what extent they can be integrated into the IGCP. A letter of recommendation is a condition for all IGCP project applications with German co-project management. The annual reports of the ongoing IGCP projects with German co-project management are collected and presented to UNESCO as a German annual report. The state committee also advises German researchers on the preparation of IGCP projects and coordinates contacts with other stakeholders such as the IGCP Secretariat in Paris and the IGCP Board. This work is financed with funds from the Federal Foreign Office.

International Basic Sciences Program - IBSP

The International Basic Sciences Program (IBSP) supports global collaboration in basic science and science education. The aim is to build solid scientific structures and skills in all Member States. Depending on the needs of the individual world regions, either existing international networks between centers of excellence are strengthened or new networks are established. The IBSP only supports projects of cooperation with developing countries (north-south) and cooperation between developing countries (south-south).

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