Science uses a precise, highly mathematical language, often with
a specialised vocabulary. When researchers communicate between themselves,
it can take a form which would defy even the most committed 'amateur'.
The job of the mediators (journalists, teachers, etc.) is to make
this knowledge accessible to the general public. But how? The Internet
is full of websites explaining how to write a clear and understandable
article. The Research Directorate-General has compiled a directory
of many of them, including journalists' associations and scientific
institutions. These tools seem to be aimed primarily at scientists
themselves who are aware of the difficulty of explaining their work
- something they are being called upon increasingly to do by the
bodies which employ them. Some of the sites are designed more specifically
for journalists and report on scientific progress in a given field.
The Royal Society, founded in 1660, now operates an Internet site
with a genuine scientific 'monitoring' role, casting its net far
wider than events in the United Kingdom alone. Features include
a diary of events, a booking service for conference seats, reports
on the latest debates between science and society, and details on
scientific prizes and research grants. The Royal Society also organises
seminars and debates at which reputable researchers are invited
to explain their work, especially in controversial fields such as
The science help line
Launched in 1994, Science Net in the UK is a freephone service answering
callers' questions on science matters (+44 (0) 808 800 4000). It
is now available on the Internet and includes a directory of scientific
sites and contacts with specialists.
Located on the campus of the US National Institutes of Health, in
Bethesda (Maryland), the National Library of Medicine is the world's
biggest medical library. Its on-line service Pubmed provides access
to the Medline database containing over 11 million documents. Visitors
to the site can find all a researcher's published works or all the
fundamental articles on a given subject, whether medicine, biology
or the life sciences in general. Each result includes the full article
reference and summary, sometimes even the full text - depending
on the agreement Pubmed has reached with the publisher - and a link
to the publisher's site for the full article, either at a price
or free of charge depending on the publisher's policy. Pubmed/Medline
has become a daily working tool not only for researchers but for
all journalists covering biology, medicine or related subjects.
Private sites propose special search engines for the Medline base
in line with specialised interests, such as Medscape for doctors.
Science fairs and competitions
What better way of learning about sciences than choosing a technical,
environmental or scientific question, trying to find the answer
with your classmates and then presenting your findings in public
at a science fair? That is the principle, coupled with the inevitable
competitive dimension, of the many science fairs being held in schools
throughout the US. By using the Internet, whether when making their
investigations or presenting their results, co-operation is also
possible with classes on the other side of the country.
Rather than presenting a technical project - by solving a problem,
building a device, or preparing an exhibition - participants can
also create an educational Internet site. That is the goal of Think
Quest, an association which works mainly but not exclusively with
schools. It currently has links worldwide with scientific library
sites created by pupils in Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden
Internet science and technology fair
Guide pratique de l’IPL
Who are we?
This educational and interactive space, taking the ‘Internaut’
on a trip through time to the origins of man, is the work of the
Institute of Human Origin. It boasts an educational document, a
dictionary of scientific terms, teaching tools and an impressive
array of links on the subject of prehistory - from palaeolithic
art to methods of scientific investigation.
Spotlight on radioactivity
It was for Monsieur Tout-le-monde ('The man in the street'), as
its home page states, that researchers at the CNRS decided to create
a website on radioactivity. Why? Because radioactivity is natural,
is part of our everyday lives, gives rise to some little-known applications
(in health care for example) and is the subject of rational and
irrational fears. This is a good example of scientists who have
decided to shed light, in simple terms, on the kind of questions
many people have about a field which causes them some concern.