IYL 2015 Final Report

UNESCO receives final report on IYL 2015.

01 October 2016

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) brought together hundreds of international partners to raise awareness of the importance of light science and technology in areas such as sustainable development, energy, education, climate change, and health.

In September, IYL Founding Partner SPIE and the IYL Steering Committee published The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 Final Report outlining the origins, goals, and objectives of IYL 2015 and summarizing many of the events and activities that took place worldwide. The report was presented to UNESCO leadership on 3 October in Paris with the goal of providing guidance for others who wish to organize similar global outreach initiatives in the future.


The final report features accounts from 134 countries that organized local campaigns, activities, and events. These activities include education and outreach for students and the general public; conferences on sustainable development; and works of art, music, and literature.

During IYL 2015, members of the optics and photonics community featured several educational kits in their activities, such as:

  • The Light Blox Kit: IYL 2015 edition, designed to introduce young people to the science of light.

Education outreach event using Light Blox kit.
Credit: OSA
  • The Photonics Explorer Kit, to equip teachers with a set of hands-on experiments with light.
  • The Galileoscope Educational Telescope Kit, originated during the International Year of Astronomy 2009 and optimized for IYL 2015 for both optics education and celestial observation.
  • The Quality Lighting Teaching Kit, designed to increase student and public awareness of light pollution issues and quality lighting solutions.

Several IYL projects aimed to engage people around the world in activities to raise awareness of the importance of light and light-based technologies in daily life:

  • iSPEX-EU, a Europe-wide citizen-science photonics experiment, let people measure air pollution using their smartphones. Around 5000 people used the iSPEX add-on and app to check the air quality in several European cities.

iSPEX-EU measurements in Milan, Italy.
Credit: ISPEX-EU
  • “Light: Beyond the Bulb” (LBTB), a free, open-access, international exhibition program, showcased materials from microbiology to astronomy and created connections with physics, optics, photonics, atmospheric and earth sciences, astrophysics, and more. LBTB was set in parks, airports, cafes, galleries, and other public spaces in 40 countries throughout 2015 and into 2016.

Light: Beyond the Bulb exhibit at Museo Laberinto de las Ciencias y las Artes, in San Luis Potosí, S.L.P. Mexico
  • The SPIE IYL 2015 Photo Contest drew in 800 submissions showing the importance of light in life. Winning entries received cash prizes and were featured on four different covers of SPIE Professional magazine.
  • “Skylight,” from Global Science Opera, was created by a network of schools, universities, and art institutions from over 30 countries who wrote and performed a series of short skits and presentations involving science.

According to the final report, IYL 2015 was one of the most successful and visible of UNESCO’s international observances, with 13,168 registered activities involving an estimated reach of more than 100 million people. IYL 2015 was visible in 147 countries worldwide.

An approximate regional breakdown of the events that took place during 2015 is: Africa (27 countries, 654 activities); the Americas (30 countries, 4,501 activities); Asia (39 countries, 2,000 activities); Europe (45 countries, 5,844 activities) and Oceania (2 countries, 169 activities).

“I believe that everyone involved in IYL 2015 can feel immensely proud of what has been achieved,” writes SPIE member John Dudley, IYL 2015 Steering Committee Chair, in the foreword to the final report. Dudley notes that IYL 2015 shows what can be accomplished through education and outreach.

“It is now up to us to build on what we have learned and what we have accomplished during 2015 to continue to work together for the betterment of all,” Dudley says.

Dudley was one of several speakers to discuss the successful community partnership during IYL 2015 at the UNESCO event 3 October.

Other speakers included:

  • SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs, who discussed photonics and the UN sustainable development goals
  • SPIE member Azzedine Boudrioua of Université Paris VII, who covered the Ibn Al-Haytham legacy of IYL 2015
  • SPIE member Ana Mariá Cetto, director of the Museum of Light, México and professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who discussed the legacy of IYL 2015 and a proposal for an International Day of Light

The IYL 2015 Final Report is available for download.

Read more about IYL 2015.

Karen Thomas is an SPIE editor.

Recent News
Sign in to read the full article
Create a free SPIE account to get access to
premium articles and original research
Forgot your username?