Brussels 7 March 2007
Europe's top science communicators honoured
The Descartes Prize for Science Communication is this year going to 5 shining examples of how to make science accessible and understandable. The winners are Dr Sheila Donegan and Eoin Gill for the Eureka weekly science magazine aimed specifically at children; the documentary series "Europe, A Natural History" co-produced by ÖRF, BBC and ZDF; Prof Vittore Silverstrini for his Città della Scienza (City of Science) in Naples, a centre which unites an interactive science and technology museum with a business innovation centre; Dr Odd Askel Bergstad and other scientists of the MAR-ECO network for their work on involving the general public in the project's census of marine life; and Wendy Sadler for her "Science Made Simple" project , which gets teenagers excited about science. The awards were given at a ceremony in Brussels, attended by the German Federal Minister for Education and Research, Dr Annette Schavan and European Science and Research Commissioner, Dr Janez Potočnik. The ceremony coincides with celebrations of the contribution of research to the European Union over the last 50 years.
Eoin Gill and Sheila Donegan are directors of Ireland's CALMAST (Centre for the Advancement of learning of Maths, Science and Technology). They have both been involved in many activities to highlight the importance and relevance of science in everyday life, including Eureka, a weekly science magazine for primary school pupils aged 10-13. It features science stories, puzzles, facts, quizzes and cartoons along with fun activities for young readers.
The documentary "Europe, a Natural History" is an ÖRF/BBC/ZDF coproduction which portrays the genesis of Europe and how its landscapes and wildlife were created. Dinosaurs, the creation of mountains, the birth of the Mediterranean and many other spectacular phenomenon are included.
Città della Scienza (City of Science) is the first science centre founded in Italy, comprising a scientific and technological museum as well as a business innovation centre. Vittorio Sivestrini is a distinguished physicist who had the idea to imagine and implement a new and alternative development model, based on the region's resources: its territory and natural environment, its culture, and its workforce.
The MAR-ECO network of scientists and students, led by Norway and including people from 16 other countries, seeks to popularise international scientific investigation at sea, in museums and laboratories, and to involve the wider public in the process. The project is part of the major global research programme Census of Marine Life that aims to promote scientific understanding of many unknown animal communities and ecosystems by using modern technology and network cooperation.
Science Made Simple is an all-women team of young scientists led by Wendy Sadler, tackling the problem of science apathy among 11 to 18 year olds in the UK and overseas. They have developed an exciting range of creative science performances which travel to schools, festivals and events, reaching around 30,000 students a year.
The winners were chosen from 33 nominees by a high level expert panel of leading scientists and media professionals, chaired by Suzanne de Cheveigné of French research institute CNRS. The €275,000 prize is open to individuals and organisations that have achieved outstanding results in science communication, and have won prizes from European and/or national organisations.
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Descartes Prize for Science Communication
Winner: 'Città della Scienza': Italy's first science centre
Prof. Giuseppe Vittorio Silverstrin
Città della Scienza (City of Science) is the first science centre founded in Italy, comprising a scientific and technological museum as well as a business innovation centre. Vittorio Sivestrini is a distinguished physicist who was born in the North in 1935 but moved to Naples in the early 1970s and joined its academic, social and political life. Silvestrini is convinced that after the demise of heavy industry, the future of Naples lies with a steady location, a science museum and park, in which to show the ideas of the Southern model. Together with other scientists he created the group that will launch Futuro Remoto and later the IDIS Foundation and the City of Science. The City of Science is a young community that lives and works in an old chemical factory in Bagnoli, on the Gulf of Naples. The story of the City of Science starts in 1987. Silvestrinis idea is simple. If Naples and the South want to survive the demise of their industrial system, they must imagine and implement a new and alternative development model. This must be based on its resources, which are: its territory and natural environment, its culture, and its workforce. In May 1992 the first building of the Bagnoli Scientific and Technological Park, vanguard of the City of Science, is inaugurated. In 1996 the park grows with the addition of another area, an old glassworks from the 19th century. The reclaimed 7 hectares grounds with numerous buildings are part of the history of Naples, and the restructuring is carried out by an association of architects, city planners and engineers. In 2003 the finishing touch was made with the inauguration of the Business Innovation Centre (BIC). This department, recognised by the European Commission, fosters the creation and development of new enterprises. It features an Incubator of Enterprises: 4,000 sq.m. of space dedicated to the birth of innovative enterprises.
Winner: "Eureka" weekly science magazine for children
Dr Sheila Donegan, Eoin Gill
Eoin Gill and Sheila Donegan are directors of CALMAST (Centre for the Advancement of learning of Maths, Science and Technology), the leading centre of its kind in Ireland. In its three-year existence, CALMAST has attracted over 30,000 young people to free events that popularise science and tens of thousands more have seen CALMAST displays and shows at major exhibitions in Ireland and overseas. Eoin and Sheila have written many articles for national and local newspapers to highlight the importance and relevance of science in everyday life. One of their many activities was the development, research and writing of Eureka, a weekly science magazine for children. The success of Eureka was recognised by winning a World Association of Newspapers (WAN) Young Reader Award in 2005. Eureka was a weekly four page full colour glossy science magazine for primary school pupils aged 10-13. In its first year, it had a circulation of 25,000, with an estimated readership of 35,000. Eureka used science stories, puzzles, facts, quizzes and cartoons along with fun activities for young readers. The success of Eureka lay in the themed approach developed by Gill and Donegan. This allowed several areas of science to be explored within a single issue avoiding the traditional divisions of science into physics, chemistry and biology.
Topical content was prioritised. For instance, after the tsunami disaster in Asia during December 2004, Eureka featured the science of tsunamis. This was singled out by many teachers and parents as a most important issue as it enabled children to engage with and understand an event that had dominated their imaginations and had a terrifying impact on them. Special calendar events were used as hooks. For example, for St Valentines Day, Eureka featured the science of the heart, healthy eating, how to write your secret Valentines Day message and how to crack codes. For St. Patricks Day (Irelands national holiday), the science behind many of the legends of St. Patrick was featured. The history of science was also included, allowing science to be seen as an integral part of life. Eureka was designed to be attractive and interesting for all children, not just those with a special interest in science. Science is all around us and should be for all.
Winner: "Europe, a Natural History"
Klaus Feichtenberger, Director
Country: Austria, UK, Germany
The documentary series "Europe a Natural History" is a TV coproduction (ORF, BBC, ZDF) about natural history which portrays the genesis of Europe and how its landscapes and wildlife were created. Dinosaurs, the creation of mountains, the birth of the Mediterranean and many other spectacular phenomenon are included this movie. The filmmakers used specific techniques including high tech visual effects. The approach taken by the filmmakers was to explain science in an interesting and simple way while, at the same time, maintaining the necessary thoroughness when explaining scientific facts. The series won the 2005 Telenatura award for best film (International Television Festival for Popularisation and Conservation of nature and the Environment). Telenatura is now on its sixth production. In the past, approximately one hundred productions from 20 to 25 countries have entered the competition every year.
Winner: Exploring the secrets of the depths (MAR-ECO)
Dr Odd Askel Bergstad
The project is based on the comprehensive efforts made by the MAR-ECO network of scientists, students and dissemination associates to popularise international scientific investigation at sea, in museums and laboratories, and to involve the wider public in the process. The project is part of the major global research programme Census of Marine Life that aims to promote scientific understanding of many unknown animal communities and ecosystems by using modern technology and network cooperation. MAR-ECO is led from Norway, but there are scientists and students participating from 16 countries, most of them in the EU/EEA area. The MAR-ECO project runs from 2001 until 2010. During its first field phase in 2003-2005, several research vessel operations were conducted. The principal two-vessel expedition took place over two months in 2004, during which RV G.O. Sars carried out a vast study on its voyage from Iceland to Azores. The MAR-ECO team has communicated the visions, activities and results of the project to a global audience via a wide range of channels. Since 2004, media coverage has appeared in 32 countries and 14 languages. From the start, the project has focused on communication tasks and consciously adopted a dissemination strategy that uses several popularisation measures. Project manager Dr. Odd Aksel Bergstad received the 2004 Award for Excellence in Communication in Science from the Research Council of Norway.
Winner: "Science Made Simple"
Ms Wendy Sadler
Country: United Kingdom
Science Made Simple are an award-winning and innovative team of young science graduates led by Wendy Sadler who are tackling the problem of science apathy at the secondary school level (11-18 year olds) in the United Kingdom and overseas. They have developed an exciting range of creative science performances which travel to schools, festivals and events, reaching around 30,000 students a year. They offer shows for all ages but are specialists in promoting physics and engineering to the challenging teenage market, and around three-quarters of the presentations are given to this age group. Using subjects that teenagers are interested in (such as Music, Sport and Gadgets) they have adopted a science by stealth approach - blending the science in around the subjects that are already on the agenda for the teenage age group. As an all-female group they are passionate about promoting science and engineering to girls and women, and have developed special presentations that showcase female scientists at work. The drop-off of interest in science at the high school level (and the lack of women in science and engineering) is decreasing the total pool of future scientists. The science made simple team are hoping that by engaging with teenagers this trend can be reversed. Their newest project seeks to push the boundaries of science communication and to bridge the divide between arts and sciences. Visualise the beauty of science aims to tap into the emotions of the audience by setting live science demonstrations to music and film so that people can make their own connections and have their curiosity sparked all without the traditional lecturing approach. Less explanation, and more exploration. In addition to their live performances, they have also written 19 childrens books and presented on numerous TV programmes. They regularly use their enthusiasm and experience to train academic scientists on how to communicate their research to the wider public. Their shows have been seen in Germany, Spain, South Africa, Namibia and Thailand.
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