Meeting of the workgroup “Public Awareness of Science”

Public Awareness of Science Workgroup: Freiburg 8 July, 2000

Present: Vsevolod Borissov (Russia), Graham Dane (Great Britain), Boris Engelson (Switzerland), Andriy Kyrylynk (Ukraine), Jochen Pade (Protocol, Germany), Paolo Ribeiro-Claro (Portugal), Barbara Stumpp (Germany), Carl Johan Sundberg (Chairman, Sweden), Ekkehard Winter (Germany)

The members discussed current and future activities of the working group. As important points they named inter alia:

  • setting up a website for the working group
  • maintaining an updated membership list
  • gathering information about funds, raising funds
  • organising some type of meeting (in a broad sense in the field of ‘Public Awareness’)
  • helping EuroScience to be more visible
  • finding way and means to organise dialogues with and/or between several target groups (the general public, science journalists, teachers, scientists, business people…) and to built up a network of information.

As for the jobs:
Barbara Stumpp agrees to be the working group’s webmaster (website, email newsletter); Graham Dane will look for the membership (email) list; Carl Sundberg and Ekkehard Winter will care about fund raising (on a national and an European level). In addition, Paolo Ribeiro-Claro will mail some suggestions about membership recruitment for EuroScience and in particular the working group; Boris Engelson will formulate some thoughts concerning question like ‘establishing priorities in science; significance of scientific results; scientific methodology’ in order to launch a broader discussion about these topics..

As for the meeting:
As a major task which includes several above mentioned activities it is proposed to organise a great pan-European meeting on science and technology 2004 in Stockholm, which should be similar in content, not in size, to the AAAS-meeting in USA (maybe with a slightly different profile), and with the intention to hold this pan-European meeting in the future in other European cities every other year, 2006, 2008, etc. The meeting 2004 may be held end of August or in October directly after the announcement of the Nobel prizes.

The meeting should be open for scientists from all fields, teachers, media, policy makers, business as well as the public. The aim is to bring together people from all over Europe in order that inter- and transdiciplinary interactions can take place, that communications on the trends of sciences with the media and the public are made easy, and that a broad discussion on and about sciences can be held. The above addressed dialogue(s) with and between several target groups (especially involving the general public) should be an important part of the meeting. The possible themes across the disciplines for the meeting are many, e.g:

  • Patenting genes and living organisms – necessary and/or bad
  • the role of the university during the 21st century
  • how to handle with fraud and unethical behaviour in science
  • the role of science centres
  • responsibility of science and scientists
  • science journalists – interpreting science, representing the general public’s interest or what else
  • interdependencies between society and science
  • the role of schools for science understanding and interest among children
  • new ways of research-funding, e.g. ‘science angels’
  • the role of media and the public opinion
  • enlightenment and science – still together today?

The formats of the meetings may be interactive discussions, plenary and tutorial lectures, small seminars, poster presentations, specialised symposia, workshops (e.g. for scientists on how to communicate to the public). In addition, there may be an exhibition by money-making businesses, but there will be a strict separation between editorial content and public relations for industries.

Since this is a pan-European effort it will be a joint arrangement between EuroScience’s working group on Public Awareness of Science and the local group in the arranging country/City (already existing in Stockholm), other European organisations (like European Science Foundation, European Physical Society etc.) and the governmental institutions as well as local/national entities, e.g. universities, academies and research organisations or, in the case of Stockholm, the Nobel foundation. For the meeting 2004, high level contacts have been taken with the ‘Swedish Council for Planning and Coordination of Research (FRN)’; the reaction is very positive and they regard their involvement as a matter of course.

To be able to secure the continuing biennial arrangements (EuroScience should carry their organisation), the involvement of the other European bodies must be secured. The initial contacts with the European Commission are very positive in this regard. Also, a preliminary meeting has been held with representatives for the journal Nature. They expressed a clear interest in being involved in some capacity. In addition, certain institutions of the UNESCO are interested in the topic of pan-European meeting and should be addressed.

The members of the working group agree that such a meeting would be extremely important for European science and technology as well as for the public’s interest of the field. The members are convinced that the aim can be reached provided there will be an adequate personal and financial support by suitable institutions, be international or national (e.g. British council, Swedish Academy, Volkswagen-Stiftung).

For the time being it is most important to establish a local office in Stockholm so that a secretary can coordinate and advance the first organisation steps. For this purpose, funds are needed which should allow also for some further planning- and organisation-meetings of the working group on Public Awareness of Science in the coming year.

Jochen Pade July 16th, 2000