Science policy, scientific networking and research infrastructures

UNESCO advises its Member States on the formulation of a needs-based science policy and helps set up a central research infrastructure – because science is an important driver for all countries to reduce poverty, create jobs and promote sustainable development.

World Science Forum and other global fora

At international level, UNESCO creates innovative forms of cooperation and exchange of experience among its Member States. Since 2003, UNESCO organizes the World Science Forum every two years. High-profile politicians, Nobel laureates and representatives of science organizations attend this event on 10 November, World Science Day. Germany is participating intensively in the World Science Forum.

The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) was an advisory body to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon between 2013 and 2017. It was composed of 26 leading scientists from all over the world. The SAB advised the United Nations, in order to improve the effective contribution of science to the 2030 Agenda. UNESCO provided the secretariat for the SAB. The inaugural meeting of the SAB was held at the invitation of the German Federal Government on 30/31 January 2014 in Berlin, organized by the German Commission for UNESCO.

UNESCO science reporting

Every five years, the extensive UNESCO science report examines current global and country-specific trends and developments in higher education and research and innovation (STI). The latest issue was published in 2015, the German Commission for UNESCO has published a German-language abstract.

Together with the World Science Council, UNESCO publishes the World Report on Social Sciences every three years, most recently in 2016. In 2017, UNESCO published the first Global Ocean Science Report.

Advice on national science policy

Science Policy (STI Policy) needs identification of national strengths and weaknesses, reform of laws and funding instruments, creation of research institutions and universities, and international networking. UNESCO proposes to its Member States new ways of science policy and accompanies them in their implementation. It initiates reforms and promotes international cooperation. The Global Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Instruments or GO-SPIN is a structured approach by UNESCO to provide targeted support to states in such reforms. UNESCO also supports states by specifically training ministry officials. It strengthens key players, such as parliamentary science committees, national science academies or umbrella organizations. Especially in Africa, UNESCO has made great efforts in recent years to strengthen science policy. The German Commission for UNESCO seeks synergies of German stakeholders with this workline of UNESCO.

International Cooperation in the Geosciences and in Basic Sciences

The International Geosciences Program (IGCP) of UNESCO, jointly supported with the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) has been organizing more than 500 multinational research projects since 1972, strengthening innovative research approaches for social benefits and supporting developing countries. The German research institute GFZ Potsdam organizes an annual UNESCO course on seismology and earthquake hazards.

Germany is one of the most active participating states of the IGCP. German geoscientists are involved as individual researchers, research groups or project leaders in about half of the projects. The German participation in the IGCP has been coordinated since 1972 by the IGCP National Committee which meets once a year jointly with other international geoscientific national committees.

Similarly, the International Basic Sciences Program (IBSP) supports global collaboration in basic science and science education. The aim is to build sound scientific structures and skills in all Member States.

Large-scale research infrastructures

UNESCO was the midwife of the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN, founded in 1954 in Geneva. Germany is the largest contributor to CERN.

Since 2000, UNESCO has applied the successful concept of CERN to the Middle East, and assisted in founding the synchrotron laboratory SESAME (Center for Synchrotron Light and Experimental Sciences and Applications in the Middle East). SESAME was built until its completion in 2017 at the Al-Balqa University of Applied Sciences in Jordan. The founding of SESAME has been supported by Germany by providing the "storage ring" BESSY I from Berlin-Wilmersdorf in 2002, as the core technological facility of SESAM. Germany is also currently one of the ten SESAME observer states; since 2017 the former CERN director and German Prof Rolf-Dieter Heuer chairs the SESAME Council.

Another key UNESCO research institute is the ICTP or Abdus Salam Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. More than 100,000 scientists worked there, 20 percent from Africa, 35 percent from Asia, 15 percent from Latin America and 20 percent from Europe.