An unmistakable sign of the approaching New Year’s Eve are the annual end-of-year reviews. The oversupply of shows and articles may have already spoiled the mood for another review. Nevertheless, it is worth looking back on 2011 from the perspective of chemistry this time, as 2011 was the International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011). Under the theme “Chemistry – our life, our future” the UNESCO and IUPAC coordinated worldwide events to celebrate the achievements of chemistry and to indicate the importance for future development.
The global campaign aimed at not only rectify the – due to accidents like Seveso or Bhopal – tarnished image of chemistry and show that chemical research is crucial for future technologies and sustainable development, but also encourage interest in chemistry among young people. Finally, the best car paint is useless, if the engine does not run. To promote science, education in the STEM fields should be strengthened, e.g., by means of simple experiments for kindergarten children and elementary school pupils. In this sense, various competitions and events were organized for all ages during the IYC. One major activity was certainly the Global Water Experiment that offered students the possibility to participate in what was probably the biggest chemistry experiment ever. Also addressed to young people, but to all others as well, is a touring exhibition dedicated to sustainable chemistry, which was opened in Bremen, Germany. Interactive exhibits about important issues like climate change and water recycling allow a playful approach to chemistry beyond the IYC.
And what about the success of the IYC? How sustainable is the effect on the image and the promotion of young talents in chemistry? As yet, no final conclusion has been drawn and whether the image has been permanently improved can only be evaluated in a few years. But people are definitively interested in chemistry. One of the IYC´s highlights in Germany was certainly the open house with, according to the VCI (German chemical industry association), more people visiting the participating chemical companies and academic institutions than attending the eight soccer matches of the first and second German Soccer Leagues on the same day. Without doubt, this is a respectable achievement in a soccer-loving country like Germany.
Finally, a glance into the future shows that in 2012 we can expect many highlights as well. First of all – in the case of chemical engineering – the ACHEMA in Frankfurt, Germany, deserves a special mention where the issues of energy and resource changes will be represented in special shows.
We will be curious to see what else is to come.
Dr. Sabine Wiederhold is Associate Editor of Chemie Ingenieur Technik. This text is based on her Editorial: