Olivier Las Vergnas

Olivier Las Vergnas

Hall of Fame Class of 2018

Olivier Las Vergnas is known internationally as a key reference in continuing education, making extensive contributions to self-directed science learning and public understanding of science, particularly in astronomy, as well as in lifelong learning counseling and career guidance.

Before becoming a professor leading the educational sciences and adult training department at the University of Lille in 2014, and after spending 10 years in science popularization NGOs, Las Vergnas worked for 30 years in the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie in Paris, in the domain of occupational integration. In this capacity, he acquired an international reputation in the area of career counseling, introducing a new guidance concept that facilitates access of information and career counseling to adults. The concept, Cité des Métiers, aims to provide people throughout their career path with the necessary tools to gain autonomy in their personal and professional lives. Cités des Métiers was founded in the spirit of continuing education and éducation permanente (“community education”), a tradition in adult education that seeks to empower men and women by uniting the efforts of nonprofit organizations and public agencies and by blurring the divide between work and leisure. Since its inception, the multi-partner, innovative lifelong counseling and guidance center has become a reference model for an international network of 40 centers in 10 countries. Additionally, Las Vergnas’ contributions included facilitating adults’ access to digital equipment and publishing social science fiction novels.

In the framework of his activities at the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, he also proposed and led the implementation of the Cité de la santé (health) by fostering learning processes by the adults themselves in fields related to health, prevention and patient advocacy.

After launching the annual “Nuit des étoiles” (Stars night) French national event in the early 1990s, Las Vergnas served as president of the “Association Française d’Astronomie,” the leading French organization for astronomy and space sciences popularization, and the publisher of “Ciel & Espace,” the first French-speaking astronomy magazine in the world. As a scholar, he has focused on lifelong learning and self-directed science learning. He leads research on the secondary-school social divide between so-called scientist and nonscientist, and the a posteriori effect of school prophecy of science ability or inability regarding scientific and technological knowledge and skill. 

Although Las Vergnas is not a policymaker, he serves as the president of Association Française d’astronomie and “President d’honneur” of the international Cités des Métiers network as a way to influence policy change, and his actions against light pollution have had a decisive effect on the national regulation of night lights. He has led many pluri-annual transnational projects about lifelong learning, and he has been involved in several TV programs, either to promote self-directed astronomy learning or to promote lifelong learning in general. In 2012, he was honored by the French government as a “Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur” for his action in this field.