The EuroScience Open Forum in Trieste relaunches with a new format and an updated programme

The EuroScience Open Forum – ESOF2020 Trieste will take place from 2 to 6 September with a renewed mission. Whereas, prior to the pandemic, the event represented one of the main fora for multidisciplinary discussion at a European level on changes in science and technology and their role in society, these last few months of generalised anxiety and uncertainty have added even more profound motivations for exchange and debate.

“There will necessarily be fewer speakers physically present in the Old Port of Trieste, but many will connect online,” indicates Stefano Fantoni, Champion of the initiative, “but more than the organisational difficulties, the challenge was the urgency to address everything that has happened over the last few months. More than ever before,” Fantoni continues “the global scientific community has had to demonstrate that it is up to the challenges that await us, including new ways to continue circulating ideas. The pandemic has blatently revealed the importance of sound ethical behaviour in disseminating research results and of the amount of work needed to improve dialogue between science and policy, and between experts and the media. ESOF is an event that has been conceived from its inception to foster this kind of debate.”

“Holding ESOF2020 immediately following Europe’s post-Covid reopening is essential for timely debate on the role of scientific research, expertise and communication in this unprecedented context.” says Michael Matlosz, President of EuroScience. “The new hybrid format adopted for ESOF2020 offers the opportunity for all scientific professionals and societal stakeholders to participate actively in the discussions, whether in person or via virtual connection.”


Covid-19 takes the stage at ESOF2020 with a series of meetings between the scientific community and policy-makers on the implications of the Coronavirus on public health, economics and communication.

For example Thomas Hartung, the world-famous toxicologist from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will discuss the impact of the Sars-CoV-2 infection on our brain. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, will explain why the global response to Covid-19 has been so bad.

The interweaving of the production of knowledge and public information, which has been put to the test by the pandemic, will be debated by a panel of experts specialised in communication and publishing, including Sudip Parikh, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The spotlight will then focus on the dire economic consequences of the global spread of the disease.

The general presentation of ESOF remains divided into three main topical domains: the Science Programme dedicated to frontier research and its implications for society; the Science to Business Programme focusing on the relationship between science and the business world; and the Science to Careers Programme covering job and career opportunities for the future.

At the centre of the Forum’s agenda are some of today’s most urgent societal topics, including climate change and the transition to a green economy as renewable energy replaces fossil. The climatologist Filippo Giorgi, one of the authors of the first five reports on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC, is expected to attend. Other panels will focus on the impact of supercomputers and artificial intelligence on frontier pharmacological research using active principles from natural products, and on the importance of a European hub dedicated to the life sciences. There will also be sessions on pollution, technology transfer, science diplomacy and the crucial role in promoting peaceful coexistence among peoples and nations played by large-scale infrastructures such as CERN in Geneva, the SESAME particle accelerator in Jordan, or SEEIIST – the South East European Institute for Sustainable Technologies, which has recently focused on support for the treatmment of tumours based on subatomic particles.

On the subject of human capital and mobility, Brain drain, brain circulation is the title of a session on the mobility of researchers and of knowledge organised by some of the most prestigious international scientific institutes, including the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and our own Accademia dei Lincei. There will also be room to discuss how the human factor impacts the development of industry 4.0 and how to promote female entrepreneurship. A significant part of ESOF will be dedicated to startups, to technology transfer and to the next European research framework programme, Horizon Europe.

Several sessions, in collaboration with partners such as Fincantieri, will be dedicated to the blue economy, to safeguarding the sea as a resource and to sustainable maritime transport, thanks to technologies tied to the use of hydrogen.

Numerous prestigious guests and speakers have been invited. Amongst those who have confirmed is the mathematician Alessio Figalli, winner of the Fields Medal 2018. In addition to assuring us of his participation at ESOF in September, he will make an additional contribution through an online scientific seminar on 2 July 2020 organised by SISSA – Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati and the “Abdus Salam” International Centre for Theoretical Physics – ICTP in Trieste.

Other partipicipants will include the lifetime senator Elena Cattaneo, known for her research on the Huntington disease and on stem cells, the director general of CERN in Geneva Fabiola Gianotti, the director of the Human Technopole in Milano Iain Mattaj, the immunologist and most cited researcher in the international scientific literature Alberto Mantovani, the German climatologist Gerald Haug, the physicist and founder of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa Roberto Cingolani, the Harvard professor and one of the world’s leading authorities on the relationship between science and democracy Sheila Jasanoff, the Financial Times science editor Clive Cookson, and the French mathematician and former president of the European Research Council Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. Yet to announce confirmation of their attendance are the American economist and expert in sustainable development and public health policy and management Jeffrey Sachs, the 2001 Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the virologist Ilaria Capua and the Dutch architect and urbanist Rem Koolhass.

Three testimonials for ESOF2020 will also be presented by the astrophysicist Marica Branchesi, the author Paolo Giordano and the architect Massimiliano Fuksas.

The opening ceremony will be attended by the European Commissioner for Research Mariya Gabriel, the Italian Minister for University and Research Affairs Gaetano Manfredi and his counterparts from Montenegro, Sanja Damjanovic, and South Africa, Emmanuel Nzimand. Other institutional participants include the Governor of the Bank of Italy Ignazio Visco.

The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will take part in the closing ceremony on 6 September.


The event has been redesigned to allow physical and virtual spaces to work together. The Forum will be held in the Old Port of Trieste, and in particular in Warehouses 27 and 28, the heart of the new Trieste Convention Center – TCC, a multifunctional congress centre which will be inaugurated specifically for ESOF2020.

Of the over 150 events scheduled from 2 September onwards, approximately 70 will be held in virtual format, another 70 in hybrid format and roughly a dozen events exclusively with physical attendance. Plenary conferences, addresses by major speakers, workshops, and special events will be made available by streaming, and most will also be recorded and subsequently made available on demand.

The online platform provided by ESOF2020 will host almost all of the hybrid and online sessions and be available to all registered participants, reaching an overall potential audience of more than five thousand online. This significant extension to the audience for the event, made possible by digital technology, together with the possibility of hosting promotional videos of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and the city of Trieste on ESOF’s web site, will contribute to attracting future visitors who cannot discover the region and the city due to travel restrictions still likely to be in place in September.

The opening and closing ceremonies, as well as other meetings, will be held in the presence of physical attendees in the Trieste Convention Centre. In particular, the most important events will be held in the congress centre auditorium, a new building known as “28 bis”, with a capacity of 1850 and laid out in conformity with the safety standards of the anti-Covid regulations. Warehouse 28 will have an area dedicated to the local and regional technical-scientific infrastructures, with particular reference to the Trieste System, the collection of scientific institutions in the capital of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region and its provinces.

Online presence as well as virtual stands are available for sponsors. Registration is reopening for online and physical participants via the ESOF website at Fees have been discounted for registrations made by 16 July 2020. Reduced rates are available for students, teachers under 35 years of age, and participants from Central and Eastern Europe whose presence at this edition of the Forum is particularly encouraged. Registration will be free for journalists for whom there will also be dedicated events and special activities.


ESOF2020 has received financing in the context of the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020. The Forum has been made possible thanks to the contribution and support of the Ministery for University and Research Affairs – MUR, the Autonomous Region Friuli Venezia Giulia, the Municipality of Trieste, and all its Principal Partners.

“Trieste European City of Science 2020,” says the governor of the Region Massimiliano Fedriga, “is the symbol of Friuli-Venezia Giulia reacting and, starting right from its links with the territory and the substantial scientific community it hosts, seeking to make maximum use of new opportunities.”

“Since the beginning of this challenge, the Municipality of Trieste is among the greatest and most convinced supporters of ESOF2020 an event that brings Trieste at the centre of the international scientific debate”, says the Mayor of Trieste Roberto Dipiazza. “Our city, that I’m honoured to administrate, represents a national heritage for its scientific system. The title of European City of Science gives to Trieste the responsibility for indicating the guidelines for the future, especially in response to the Covid-19 emergency. The Municipality of Trieste has lent the concession of the Porto Vecchio spaces and supported financially the construction of the Trieste Convention Center which will host ESOF2020.”

Furthermore, the event is being held in collaboration with the Main Partners Fincantieri, illycaffè, TriesteTrasporti and with the institutional partners Fondazione CRTrieste, Confindustria FVG and its national head office, and the Bank of Italy. Other partners are in the process of joining. ESOF2020 will also be a Zero Impact Event by AcegasApsAmga (Main Partner) which will stimulate and maximalise sustainable behaviour.

Several departments of RAI Italian Radio and Television are media partners of ESOF2020. The Regional head office is collaborating on producing a television programme, part of which has already been broadcast, and podcasts on the history and current role of Trieste European City of Science.

The Forum is also accompanied by a series of satellite events which have been confirmed for 2020. The EuroDIG – European dialogue on Internet governance has already taken place in June in a totally digital format. A similar format will be used for the next UNESCO meeting on 6 July on the free circulation of knowledge entitled Towards a Global Consensus on Open Science. The opening of ESOF is preceeded on 1 and 2 September by the European Conference of Science Journalism and a symposium of leading international scholars on the relationship between science and society, with the aim to define a new lexicon to communicate the science of the future. Parallel to the event, on 5 and 6 September, Trieste will host the related Science & Law: International Law Answers to Scientists’ Current Challenges. This will be followed in the autumn by a meeting, once again in Trieste, on mental health Minds for Freedom, Freedom for Minds. In December, Ljubljana (Slovenia) will host the ARK2020 symposium on robotics kinematics. Other events have been postponed to 2021 due to the restrictions and risks caused by the pandemic.


The EuroScience Open Forum is traditionally accompanied by one of the largest science festivals in Europe. Conceived as a bridge between ESOF and European citizens, dozens of Italian and foreign researchers will meet citizens to respond to their curiosity and their desire for knowledge and to discuss the perspectives for sustainable development. The festival involves citizens and the economic and political world, as well as artists, poets, science communicators and teachers in an exceptional direct dialogue. As the title Collisions suggests, the festival’s objective is to encourage a creative and surprising exchange of ideas, projects, knowledge and points of view: “Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, participation by people from the city and the region has been considerable and surpassed expectations, and we are very grateful for that,” says Paola Rodari, the Festival Programme Manager. “Hundreds of associations, scientific and university institutes, theatre groups, artists and professionals, cultural centres and individuals will animate the city of Trieste, the region and also the virtual spaces. This participation, supported generously by the public administration, first and foremost by the Municipality of Trieste and the Autonomous Region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, will allow for mutual awareness of local excellence of all kinds, which, hopefully, will continue with further collaboration in the future.”

From 5 July onwards, the Science in the City Festival will energise the regional capital and the its provinces with 26 exhibitions and over 180 shows, guided visits, conferences, informal meetings and science cafés hosted in the most beautiful parts of the city and the region, as well as virtually.

Worthy of note are two large exhibitions: Cyborn, the birth of the human machine at the Salone degli Incanti exhibition hall (co-organised by the Municipality of Trieste, Fondazione Internazionale Trieste, the National Institute for Nuclear Physics and the Italian Institute of Technology); and XTREME, the exploration of extreme environments at Magazzino delle Idee – the warehouse of ideas (co-organised by the Regional Institute for Cultural Heritage of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the National Institute for Astrophysics INAF – the Astronomical Observatory of Trieste , the Regional Federation of Speleology of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and the National Antartic Museum “Felice Ippolito”, with the support of INAF – Astronomical Observatory of Padua, the University of Padua and the University of Tuscia, and under the patronage of the Italian Society of Astrobiology).

Outreach exhibitions curated by regional research, art and science institutes will be set up in the exhibition areas of the Trieste Convention Centre, where researchers and citizens can meet and exchange directly. The exhibitions include Both Ways, which is both live and digital and which will allow visitors to discover artistic installations on show simultaneously in Rijeka (Croatia), Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Bucarest (Romania), Timisoara (Romania), Belgrade (Serbia) and Budapest (Hungary), as well as the International Robotics Festival.

There will be other events in other parts of the region as well, such as an event on 1 September in Udine, where the neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti, who discovered mirror neurons, and the Artistic Director of Mittelfest Haris Pašović will debate the topic of empathy in science and art.


The EuroScience Open Forum is the largest pan-European event focusing on debate at the interface of science, technology, society and politics. Created in 2004 by the non-profit association EuroScience, the biennial forum provides a unique opportunity for interaction and discussion among scientists, innovators, politicians, entrepreneurs, communicators and citizens. Trieste has been nominated European City of Science 2020 and will host the ninth edition of ESOF.

More information is available at:  |

ESOF2020 video

ESOF2020 Masterplan (Warehouses 27-28)

Press contacts

Leo Brattoli
Cell. +39 3351236284
Marina D’Alessandro
Cell. +39 3492885935

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