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Brussels, October 27, 2000

European S&T Week 2000: Giving people a taste for science
6-11 November 2000

Keywords: scientific and technological literacy, public awareness, young people

This year’s European Science and Technology Week will take place in the week starting 6 November. Many thought-provoking events will be organised during this week across Europe to demonstrate the successes and importance of science in a manner accessible to the non-specialist. Philippe Busquin, Commissioner for Research, who will attend the “Physics on stage” event in Geneva, considers that these activities are “very important as the decline of interest of young people for science studies and careers, combined with current demographic trends in Europe, presents a major threat to our future socio-economic development.” On addition, on 8 November, the very first Descartes prize will be awarded to high level scientists having achieved outstanding achievements resulting from European collaborative research.

The European Science and Technology Week is part of a broader EU initiative to raise public awareness of research in general and in particular to encourage young people to take an interest in science – not only as potential future scientists, technologists and technicians, but also as better-informed citizens.

Following a call proposals published in 1999, 7 projects (see annex 1) have been selected and will organise events across Europe during the week beginning 6 November (see table on next page). Most of these projects have also designed entertaining web sites which are likely to attract lots of young web-surfers and provide useful information about the events and follow-on activities.

This year’s Science Week takes place at a time when policy makers across Europe are concerned with declining number of students choosing to enrol in science subjects (see data in annex 2).

The Descartes Prize will be awarded during a ceremony taking place in Brussels (Solvay Library) on 8 November, in the presence of the Grand Jury. Well over a hundred networks of European teams have been competing for the Prize, coming from all major areas of science and involving all European countries. Pre-selection panels have singled out eight exceptional projects, from which the Grand Jury will crown the primus inter pares.

Journalists wishing to attend one of these events should contact the organisers or the Commission contacts indicated below.

  Project Localisation of the events
1 Fly me to the sun NL + BE, DE, FR, IT
2 Genetics in Europe open days BE, DE, ES, IT, UK
3 Inspired by Nature BE +
4 Radioactivity: a facet of Nature DE, FR, IT
5 Physics on stage CH
6 Maths in action BE, DE, ES, FR, SF, LU, PO
7 Vision for the future UK
8 Descartes Prize BE

Contacts for the press:

Michel Claessens,  Communication unit, Research DG
Tel: +32-2-295.99.71, E-mail:

Piia Huusela, Communication unit, Research DG
Tel : +32-2-299.21.38; E-mail:

For additional information on the week:

Web site:

Stephen Parker, Improving human potential programme, Research DG
Tel : +, E-mail :

For additional information on the Descartes Prize:

Gregorio Medrano, Adviser, Research DG
Tel : +, E-mail :


European Science and Technology Week 2000, 7-11 November

Description of the projects selected

1. "Fly me to the sun"

Key words: astronomy, sun, exhibition

The project has realised a mock-up spaceship which will be used as a travelling exhibition with the general objective of making European citizens and youngsters in particular better informed about the solar mystery. Travelling with the module provides answers to sunny questions such as: what powers the sun? What happens if it burns out? Etc.
As modern aircraft are assembled from parts coming from different places in Europe, the exhibition is being built by teams of 5 youngsters in 5 different countries, through an intense collaboration between museums and the young participants. The various modules will be assembled for the final event, which will take place at the Noordwijk Space Expo (NL) on 8 and 9 November. Young people will have the opportunity to meet there top scientists and astronauts. After this event, the exhibition will be travelling at least for 2 years in 5 countries (NL, IT, DE, FR, BE).

More info

2. "Genetics in Europe Open Days"

Key words: genome, open forum

Through open discussions in 5 countries, the public will be able to meet scientists and journalists and discuss about the recent developments in genetics: what is the human genome? Why are scientists are mapping it? Etc.
For the first time in Europe, Craig Venter, the American scientist whose company, Celera Genomics, has finalised on 26 June a first draft of the human genome sequence (3.6 billion of nucleotides) will address these questions with the public during an open conference in Milano on 12 November. Debates will be web-casted live on the project’s web site.
The project will also award 3 prizes for journalism in genetics.

More info

3. "Inspired by Nature"

Key words: natural phenomena, video

The project produced a video, "Inspired by Nature", that demonstrates the links between the phenomena and the physical principles of the natural world and their application in products and processes from which we benefit in our daily lives. It is indeed not well known how much the man-made world has drawn its inspiration and knowledge base from natural phenomena. Did you know for example why fireflies inspire television designers? How do earthquakes lead us to oil? How do computers that mimic the brain help the handicapped? What do whales, monkeys, elephants and mobile phones have in common?
A presentation of the video will take place in Brussels on 7 November. Copies of the video will be distributed in 36 countries across Europe.

More info

4. "Radioactivity: a facet of Nature"  

Key words: radioactivity, exhibition

The project aims at showing to European citizens the benefits that the discovery of radioactivity and the subsequent development of nuclear sciences have been able to bring in their day to day lives.
An exhibition will be set up and displayed simultaneously in three prominent venues in Paris (Palais de la Découverte), Wiesbaden (Hessischen Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst) and Milan (Università di Milano-Biocca).
The exhibition presents objects of the daily life, instruments and relevant web sites, CD-Rom and videos. It shows that radioactivity is a facet of Nature. Discovered a century ago, it lent itself to many applications, mainly for good, sometimes risky or bad.
The event will be launched in Paris (Palais de la Découverte) on 6 November and an opening ceremony will take place in the two other places on the same day.

More info

5. "Physics on stage"

Key words: physics, education, physics literacy

From November 6 to 10, more than 400 physics educators from 22 countries all across Europe will gather in CERN (Geneva, CH) to show and invent new ways of teaching physics and make the subject more interesting for the schoolchildren and the general public. A press conference with Mr Philippe Busquin, Commissioner for research, Dr Luciano Maiani, Director general CERN and Dr Catherine Cesarsky, Director general ESO will be held on 9 November.
Four main activities will be running during the five days: fair, performances, presentations and workshops ("Mapping the crisis", "Physics in primary education", "Physics and toys", "New tools in the classroom", etc). Performances are spectacular shows with artists from different countries, each dealing with a different aspect of physics and literally bringing it on stage. In showing that physics is enjoyable, this genuine "festival" is undertaken on the background of a progressively deteriorating state of physics’ literacy among the European population at all levels.
An international consortium headed by CERN, ESA and ESO carries out the project.

More info

6. “Maths in action”

Key words: mathematics, posters, video, CD-Rom

Mathematics is not only key to all scientific disciplines, they also have a huge impact on everyday life.
The project aims at showing this facet of mathematics through production of posters for exhibiting in public transport systems, mobile displays and video clips. A very nice web site has also been designed.
The topics, all directly mathematical in nature, have been gathered all over Europe by a combined action of various groups, in the framework of the European Mathematical Society and of the UNESCO World Mathematical Year 2000. The displays are made available throughout Europe.
The following towns are participating to the project: Berlin, Brussels, Helsinki, Luxembourg, München, Óbidos, Paris.

More info

7. "Vision for the future"

 Key words: climate change, conference

This project will organise a conference aimed at youngsters to promote better understanding of the issues raised by climate change trough debates and interaction with scientists.
On 7 and 8 November, about 50 young people and 12 teachers from across Europe will gather to learn more about these issues and to discuss their implication on our daily lives. While youngsters will enrich their views through discussions with scientists and people from various EU countries, invited experts will also benefit from hearing first-hand youngsters views and concerns regarding climate change.
Following the conference, copies of a report entitled "Visions for the future of climate change" will be circulated to scientists, government representatives, media and educationalists.

More info

Current and future skills shortages in science and technology