CASE STUDY: Prioritising the ‘S’ in UNESCO

UNESCO’s scientific mandate and global reach is impressive, but with a severely constrained budget, to what extent does UNESCO have the capacity to deliver its full scientific programme and have maximum impact?

In order to support this thinking at UNESCO, the UKNC wanted to present UNESCO with a UK view of UNESCO’s science priorities. To start to formulate this view, the UKNC organised a town hall meeting for interested members of the UK’s science and engineering community, held in the Royal Society in London on 13 May 2014.

UNESCO’s interim Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences Sector, Dr Wendy Watson-Wright, gave a presentation on UNESCO’s science programmes and priorities. The meeting also heard a personal view on the importance of international collaboration in science from the Royal Society’s Foreign Secretary and Vice-President, Professor Martyn Poliakoff. In breakout discussion groups, participants were asked to review the scope and coverage of UNESCO’s Main Lines of Action (MLAs) in science, evaluate their relevance to current international scientific issues and identify any other areas where they would like to see UNESCO play a more active role.

There was a clear consensus from UK scientists on where they would like to see UNESCO focus its attention in the global science agenda – namely, providing the frameworks and setting the standards for those involved with the whole science ecosystem to take forward. UNESCO welcomed the comprehensive response to its budgetary challenge, informed by scientists from the public, private and third sector across the UK.

The policy brief’s recommendations were presented to UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Assistant Director General by the UKNC’s Natural Sciences Non-Executive Director.