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Nara, Japan, Boy bangs a gong.

International Year of Sound: 2020 – 2021

Status: Completed
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"Importance of sound in today’s world – Promoting best practices"


The scientific discipline devoted to sound is called acoustics, perhaps the most interdisciplinary and encompassing of all fields of research. At meetings of acoustical societies around the world, one encounters physicists, mathematicians, and engineers; architects and musicians; audiologists and linguists; seismologists and oceanographers; physiologists and psychologists; and relevant to our health and well-being, biomedical acousticians- all striving to improve the use of sound in our lives. The pervasiveness of sound in our lives may be why it is often taken for granted, and even overlooked as a scientific discipline in its own right.

Mark Hamilton – President of the International Commission for Acoustics (ICA)

The main goal of any international year is to promote international collaboration and to raise awareness on how science contributes to innovation for the benefit for all society. In a similar vein, the theme of this international year was the Importance of Sound for Society and the World and was underscored by the UNESCO Charter of Sound and resolution 39C/49 on the ‘’Importance of sound in today’s world – Promoting best practices’’.

Key partners

The International Year of Sound is a project that the International Commission for Acoustics (ICA), an ISC Member, had been preparing for many years. Other partners for the international year included “La Semaine du Son” (LSdS), the International Science Council and its members the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (IUTAM).

Covid-19 disruptions

The originally proclaimed 2020 as the year of sound got extended to 2021 due to the pandemic.

Soon after the opening in Paris at the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne on 31 January 2020, it became clear that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic would curtail the outreach events that had been planned throughout the year and around the globe.

As expected, very few of the activities planned for 2020 were held with physical presence of the participants. Some, including major international conferences, were held online with considerable success, with the international year encouraged by new online technologies.

Activities and impact

Despite the challenges of 2020, the acoustic community has shown resilience and innovation in the efforts to achieve the goals of the international year to enhance the understanding in the broad community of the importance of sound in today’s world. While the concept was initiated by the member organizations of the ICA, the establishment of the International Year of Sound has also encouraged collaboration and communication with other international institutions and smaller groups dealing with sound that eventually will strengthen the acoustics community into the future.

The activities, organized by member societies and affiliates of the ISC, included scientific conferences and workshops, exhibitions, and presentations explaining the importance of sound to a general public in collaboration with museums, universities, schools, research centres and cultural organizations, as well as postings in social media, podcasts and concerts.

To ensure the inclusivity of the International Year of Sound, UKAN SIGVA have funded a video from the Acoustics Research Unit at the University of Liverpool who provided vibrotactile equipment to the Royal School for the Deaf Derby to aid music education. More information can be found on the official website

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