Jodrell Bank gains UNESCO World Heritage status

Jodrell Bank Observatory has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

It has been at the forefront of astronomical research since its inception in 1945 and tracked US and Russian craft during the space race.

The site in Cheshire is part of the University of Manchester. It is dominated by the landmark Lovell Telescope.

It joins the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon and other locations that have been added to the prestigious list.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Soviet cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky (left), who went on three space flights, met Jodrell Bank founder Sir Bernard Lovell in 1967

The UN World Heritage Committee is meeting in Azerbaijan until 10 July to decide on the latest sites to be given the honour – awarded to areas considered to be important for the whole of humanity, which will be protected by international treaties.

Scientific research began at Jodrell Bank Observatory in 1945 when the physicist Sir Bernard Lovell came to the University of Manchester.

The site pioneered the then new science of radio astronomy, which used radio waves instead of visible light to understand the universe.

Jodrell Bank Observatory

Image copyright Anthony Holloway
Image caption The Lovell Telescope was almost not completed as its construction ran over budget
  • The Lovell Telescope, which was the world’s largest telescope when it was completed in 1957, is now the third largest
  • Jodrell Bank was on standby as the UK’s early warning system against any potential nuclear attack during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
  • The Lovell Telescope tracked the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon in 1966, printing the first picture from the lunar surface
  • It is so sensitive that mobile phone use on the site is normally forbidden and the staff microwave oven is shielded by a metal box to prevent interference
  • The site featured in BBC’s Stargazing Live series, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who

The site’s new accolade marks the end of a decade-long bid to gain World Heritage status, following a 2010 application to be included on the UK’s nominations shortlist.

Professor Teresa Anderson, director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, said: “This is wonderful news and a great day in the history of Jodrell Bank.

“It honours the pioneering work of Sir Bernard Lovell and the early scientists here, together with the world-leading research that continues to this day.”

A University of Manchester spokeswoman said the observatory fulfilled the judges’ criteria, which included being “a masterpiece of human creative genius”, due to its scientific achievements.

Image copyright University of Manchester
Image caption Sir Bernard Lovell (centre) and his researchers were among the pioneers of radio astronomy

Jodrell Bank also hosts the headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array, an international project to create the world’s largest radio telescope by linking thousands of dishes and receivers across Africa and Australia.

The observatory is among 32 sites in the UK – including Stonehenge and the Giant’s Causeway – to receive World Heritage status and joins a list of 1,100 sites worldwide.

More than 185,000 people visit Jodrell Bank annually.

In 2018, the University of Manchester was granted ÂŁ12.1m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and ÂŁ4m from the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport for a new discovery centre at the observatory.

Heritage Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The research completed here has transformed our understanding of the universe and it is right that this is recognised.

“Today’s announcement will make sure that this remarkable site will continue to inspire young scientists and astronomers all over the world.”

This City Really Exists Where People Live Without Politics, No Religion, And No Money!

What do you think the biggest issues the world faces today are? Most people would say matters of bias and privilege, right? Well what if you could go somewhere where those weren’t problems?

The truth is, you can. This utopia has existed for 50 years, even; it’s called Auroville, and is located in Southern India.

The brainchild of Mirra Alfansa, Auroville is a universally welcoming place, regardless of nationality, culture, religion, or language.

Instead, it celebrates what we all are: Citizens of earth.

Alfansa created a charter by which the city runs, and no nation can claim property of the place. Instead, it belongs to the world.
There is no authority, legal or political, nor a person of power, that the inhabitants need to respect. There are no written laws either.
Instead, there is only one supreme universal truth by which the city runs; citizens work toward harmony, love, and acceptance, and prioritize education and research.
As a result, the functioning of the town is organized in a very modern and environmental friendly way. They have implemented systems of wastewater treatment, as well as systems of ground water depletion.
Auroville uses eco-friendly methods for production of organic food, as well as technologically advanced methods for making the poor soil fertile. With the time, the town has become self-sufficient when it comes to food production and drinking water.
Starting from the seventies, they have started a process of forestation, and today the city is settled within a belt of forests and fields, making it one of the cleanest places on earth.
Even crazier, Aurovillians use no money – they have a whole economy functioning on principles of sharing, giving, and exchanging.
There is a distribution center in the city where both citizens and strangers can get a meal, but mainly, people produce what they need and exchange items with neighbors, without any aspirations of earning from the barter economy.
As a result of the cosmopolitan spirit embedded in the city, today it is inhabited with representatives from more than 50 nations.
It is protected under the authority of UNESCO, which in a way secures its future existence.  The town has no restrictions – everyone is welcomes to come and to find his own peace.
We just might have to consider moving!

Will more science expertise fix the sustainability crisis?


Constant calls for evidence-based policy miss the underlying politics of knowledge, argues analyst Peter Bille Larsen.

Knowledge and science for sustainable development are intimately interlinked. Not only did the very notion of sustainability emerge from the scientific community, a constant flow of scientific reports on burning topics ranging fromclimate change to biodiversity loss also suggests the central role of scientific observation.

But as the sustainability crisis grows, the recent history and practice of this science-policyinterface suggests a difficulty in bridging the two. The question is, what can we learn from this?

Milestone for science input

Forty-five years ago, a pioneering UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) meeting on ‘The scientific basis for the rational use and conservation of the resources of the biosphere’ was a milestone global event bringing more than 300 scientists and policymakers together. It spearheaded the role of science in recommending action to resolve environmental problems.

A quarter of a century later, at the 1992 Rio summit, the Agenda 21 action plan (a non-binding plan for sustainable development) encouraged scientific research that integrates concerns over global population, environment and development with disciplines such as meteorology, hydrology, forestry and soil and plant sciences.

Chapter 31 of the Agenda specifically sought to enable the scientific community “to make a more open and effective contribution to the decision-making processes concerning environment and development”. [1] And it called for greater use of science and independent research.

Since then, international conferences and sustainable policy-oriented research have mushroomed. Scientists are regular authors of policy papers, are members of scientific committees and engage in expert dialogues with policymakers.

This new stage of science-policy mechanisms is here to stay. But, in the meantime, sustainability problems have also expanded and deepened. How are we to make sense of this paradox?

Evidence sidelined 

The outcome document to last year’s Rio+20 conference reiterated the need to “strengthen the science-policy interface”, emphasising “inclusive, evidence-based and transparent scientific assessments”. [2]

This is, perhaps, a polite way of recognising the limited influence that ‘interface outputs’ such as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports have had on the outcomes of global policy debates.

Despite constant calls for evidence-based analysis, it is not the lack of evidence or transparent assessments that is behind the indecision of global sustainability politics.

Thoroughly researched reports speak in plain language, yet are often present by name only in final decisions. Technical reports and scientific reviews — from World Heritage evaluations and Red Book data on species loss to climate change scenarios — may cause a stir, but are frequently rejected or simply ignored.

Some might ask what the point is of producing more and better science and technical assessments if they remain stuck in the policy pipelines. It matters, of course — but the path from knowledge to policy action is treacherous.

Constraints on debate 

To get past this problem, researchers need to show, and question, more explicitly the politics of knowledge that frame the interface between science and policy. 

While often presented as neutral platforms for initiating debate, science-policy interfaces are commonly constrained in many ways. They are fundamentally social fields framed by intergovernmental politics.

Consider, for example, the first report from the recently established Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services. [3] Readers will perhaps be surprised to find little substantial text on sustainability science, biodiversity and ecosystem services. They will instead encounter agreements about rules of procedure and working methods along with bracketed text where agreement was not reached. 

Up for negotiation are nominations of experts to join the platform, a decision on who may observe proceedings and the next steps for the initial work programme. State membership and agreed-upon working processes secure political buy-in, but they also reflect a process of ‘intergovernmentalisation’ that enables and constrains the future nature of the debate.

Consider, too, climate sceptics’ virulent attacks against the validity of IPCC reports. One effect of these assaults may have been a tendency, in the public debate, to pigeonhole the science-policy interface as only relating to questions of procedure and data quality.

Questioning methods or the validity of conclusions is, of course, at the heart of scientific debate. But there is much more to the politics of knowledge, ranging from what disciplines and paradigms are considered ‘policy relevant’ to the types and forms of knowledge considered valid inputs.

Changing tactics

Given the string of failures of intergovernmental forums to take science on board, how do we ensure that new interfaces succeed where existing ones have failed?

There is a need to broaden what is considered relevant research, as well as levelling the playing field in terms of who contributes their knowledge. Given the sheer diversity of sustainability challenges, we need to recognise that much relevant knowledge production is found among organisations and communities in forms that may never translate into high-impact peer-reviewed articles.

Transdisciplinary knowledge production, hybrid knowledge products resulting from partnerships between scientists and indigenous knowledge holders, and hands-on research by NGOs are just three examples of thinking outside the box to address contemporary challenges.

Given the scale and complexity of sustainability problems, the development community needs to think creatively and expand the boundaries of the science-policy interface. Inter-governmental platforms are starting points, not ends in themselves.

It is perhaps time to stop merely seeing global sustainability policy negotiations as a string of failures in need of yet another conventional knowledge fix. Bridging the knowledge gap is not merely about debating peer-reviewed science, but also about mobilising research and science more broadly to engage with the deepening challenges of our times.


[1] United Nations Agenda 21 (United Nations, 1992)
[2] United Nations The future we want (United Nations, 2012)
[3] UNEP Report of the first session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (UNEP, 2013)

Source: SciVx