Prof. Amri Wandel,
UEA board member responsible for scientific and specialist activities
In recent years it has become more and more apparent that Esperanto is making progress in the field of science and technology. The International Congress University (IKU) is very popular and its texts are available in book form and online. The International Academy of Sciences (AIS) is holding study sessions at new universities, and joint sessions with the IKU during the World Congresses. Scientific and technical articles in Esperanto are available in abundance on the Internet; the Esperanto Wikipedia is growing rapidly and already has more than forty thousand articles, and the Scientific and Technical Esperanto Library (STEB) of Eventoj is assembling a rapidly growing database of old and new articles and specialist terminological dictionaries. Let us harness this momentum to extend the role of Esperanto in the world of science and technology.
We often argue that Esperanto can deal with and express all aspects of human culture just as well as other languages. One of the areas in which the challenge is greatest is science and technology because this area is at the forefront of a rapidly growing specialist vocabulary and at the same time requires wide and rapid dissemination of new results. In the early days of Esperanto that task was undertaken by the International Esperantist Scientific Association (ISAE), which will soon be celebrating its hundredth anniversary. In its newsletter "Internacia Scienca Revuo" (now "Scienca Revuo") it published scientific articles originally written in Esperanto.
Let us not pretend that Esperanto is the international language of science, but try to demonstrate that all the achievements of scientific research and education can be reflected in Esperanto. This has become more difficult in the Internet era. It is however also a great opportunity for Esperanto because by using the Internet we can easily and professionally demonstrate to the world that Esperanto is seriously meeting that challenge.
Today's scientific world is making more and more use of English as a working language for international and sometimes national meetings. This can hinder the progress of science, which requires a free exchange of knowledge and experience on a personal level. Scientists from non-English-speaking countries often experience a language barrier when they try to report on their research in international forums. In contrast, university teaching usually takes place in the national language, so there is a language gap between the teaching level and the working or conference level. Esperanto can solve those problems as a language of international communication.
University-level Esperanto courses take place in more than a hundred universities and higher-education institutions throughout the world. However, when we speak of university-level teaching of science by means of Esperanto there are two institutions that stand out, emphasising the role of Esperanto in science and in university teaching: the International Academy of Sciences (AIS) and the International Congress University (IKU).
The International Academy of Sciences of San Marino (AIS, http://www.ais-sanmarino.org/) is a joint framework for outstanding scientists from all over the world (about 500 from some twenty countries) who aim to research and teach science, technology and art by means of Esperanto and by improving international communication and interdisciplinary cooperation. Recently AIS held study sessions in Sibiu (Romania), Karlovo (Bulgaria) and Komarno (Slovakia).
The International Congress University (IKU) is a series of specialist lectures which are given every year during the World Esperanto Congresses. It offers to an audience of hundreds about ten lectures by experts, professors or lecturers in their various fields on topics as diverse as linguistics, literature, ethnology, computer science, astronomy and economics. The IKU has been held every year since 1951 (initially under the title International Summer University, and starting with the World Congress in Brazil in 1981 with the current title).
In the 1990s, as part of the scientific and specialist activities of UEA, I initiated joint AIS and IKU sessions. The first such joint session took place in Tampere in 1995. Since then there has been a joint session under the name AIS-IKU almost every year. It consists of three courses, which are extensions of IKU lectures into AIS courses of 3-4 lessons. Such courses allow a topic to be explored in greater depth and give participants the opportunity of taking an exam and obtaining a certificate from AIS. In 2005 a new contract was signed between UEA and AIS concerning the organisation of AIS-IKU sessions during congresses.
In order to have a printed document I proposed publishing the lectures as a booklet before the congress. A booklet of the IKU texts appeared for the first time the World Congress (UK) in Adelaide (1997). Since then UEA has regularly published the IKU lectures in the form of a booklet during the UK, and the "IKU book" has become a bestseller at the Congress bookshop. Abstracts of the lectures in national languages allow the IKU book to be used for external relations during and after the Congress. Last year IKU documentation took a further step forward, when the 2005 IKU book was also published on the Internet. Later two earlier IKU books were added (from 1998 and 2002), which can now be seen at http://www.uea.org/dokumentoj/index.html. A further sign of the growing prestige and popularity of the IKU is the increase in lecture proposals: for the IKU in Lithuania there were eighteen proposals, and for the Florence IKU there were forty.
We can use this university-level activity to spread recognition of Esperanto in science-related international forums such as UNESCO and non-governmental organisations such as the International Association of Universities (IAU). In 2000, AIS was accepted as a member of the prestigious International Association of University Professors and Lecturers (IAUPL). Currently there is correspondence going on between UEA and IAU to recognise AIS and IKU as university meetings.
Another important area is the cultivation of specialist terminology. Due to the rapid progress of science and technology in recent years this is an even greater challenge for Esperanto. Within the Esperanto Academy there is a section working on specialist language. During the World Congress there is often a Terminology Forum. The Terminological Esperanto Centre (TEC), founded in 1981, now has its own web pages (http://esperanto.net/tec/). Dozens of specialist terminological dictionaries have appeared over the years and many of them are available online (for example in the web pages of STEB mentioned above). We must however maintain and update our terminology work and adapt it to modern standards. For example, one can cite to this end contacts and cooperation with INFOTERM, the international information centre for terminology.
One of the most important manifestations of Esperanto's potential is the writing and translation of scientific and technical articles in Esperanto. The Internet is a powerful tool for doing that. One channel that has been much used recently for that purpose is Wikipedia - a free online multilingual encyclopedia. The Esperanto Wikipedia (http://eo.wikipedia.org/wiki), which has existed since 2001, already contains more than 40,000 articles, with a number of scientific and technical articles. A very valuable initiative in the field of online articles is the Scientific and Technical Esperanto Library on the web site belonging to Eventoj (STEB, http://www.eventoj.hu/steb/). STEB endeavours to collect and make available again scientific and technical article in very diverse fields of natural sciences, law, medicine, economics and others. STEB provides a growing database of old and new articles and technical vocabularies and can serve as a kernel for scientific and technical publishing in Esperanto.
Looking to the future, Esperanto culture is also evolving in the field of science and technology, although perhaps less vigorously than in the literary field. To ensure that Esperanto does not stagnate in scientific and specialist circles we must continue to intensify the production of specialist literature in Esperanto, whether original or translated, and keep specialist language up to date. A very important task is to publicise these activities on the Internet, both for the benefit of the Esperanto community itself and for information to others. Within the Esperanto community we must continue to promote professional and popular-scientific lectures in our congresses and meetings. Beyond the Esperanto community we must try to inform and cooperate with non-Esperantist national and international organisations concerned with specialist and scientific activities and higher education.