And briefly…

Play and decide

GMOs, nuclear energy, avian flu… How can we form an opinion on these topics? By basing our opinions on information. How do we assess this information? By discussing it with others. That, in a nutshell, is what the Decide project is all about. The original version of this debate game is virtual: you enter the site, read the rules, choose a topic, download the information packs, form a group to discuss the subject on the basis of the information provided, and go back to the site to send in your conclusions. This "mini citizens’ forum” game is played by groups of 4 to 8 people (children are allowed), lasts 80 minutes and requires a moderator. The six subjects include leading-edge research, new technologies and social issues like HIV AIDS, nanotechnology, neuroscience, PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis), stem cells and xenotransplantation (animal to human transplants). For each topic, there are cards with reference material, including a scientific explanation (with a scientist’s face for added authority) and arguments on the subject from holders of different ethical / social / political / economic positions. There is no black and white here, only a shade of opinion. At the end of the game, the players upload the results of their debate. To find out what other people think, you can return to the site to view and compare the opinions of different groups of players in Europe. For a few years now, five countries (NL, EE, PL, AT, PT) have been moving the game onto a different plane, organising ‘Playdecide’ sessions in science museums. A dozen other countries have since followed suit.

"Imagine all the people…"

European students and research scientists, projects established in developing countries. European students and research scientists, projects established in developing countries.

Not just two birds killed with one stone, but three! The school competition ‘Imagine Life Sciences’ is based on a three-sided approach: involving scientists in educational and social projects, trying to interest students in the realisation of such projects, and bringing new technologies to developing countries. How is this done? Researchers in the life sciences are invited to present affordable technological projects designed for developing countries. Teams of 2 to 5 students (16 to18 years old) choose a project and have to devise a business plan to implement it. The school teams work with the scientists and development experts to study the feasibility of their project before presenting it to a jury. The winners will see it put into effect, and will visit the country in question. Three years down the road, Imagine has implemented a number of projects taking research from the lab to the field. Examples of projects are the creation of biofuel from algae in Mozambique, and the production of new products, especially oil, from avocados in the Dominican Republic. This latter idea, which came from the Netherlands, has proved extremely successful and has been adopted by several European countries.

Portugal – the impact of Ciência Viva

Ciência Viva was launched in 1996 by José Mariano Gago, formerly of CERN, now Portuguese Minister for Science and Education. In its ten years of existence, the initiative has supported more than 4 000 education projects affecting over 600 000 children and 7 000 teachers, as well as events intended for the general public: exhibitions, activities, astronomical observation, geology walks, not to mention a project focusing on lighthouses, which throws light on an important cultural aspect of a country whose face has always been turned towards the ocean. For Rosalia Vargas, director of Ciência Viva, one of the most important lessons of these programmes is the closer communication between the scientists and the general public, who increasingly want to be able to discuss the repercussions of science on daily life, be it in the fields of health, the environment or the economy.’

The Wonders Carousel

EUSCEA (European Science Events Association) organised the first European Science Festival in 2006. Known as WONDERS (Welcome to Observations, News & Demonstrations of European Research and Science), this event takes place in 20 European cities plus Jerusalem. In each country, thanks to a system of exchanges called the ‘Carousel of Science’, the organisations involved send three activities to other partners, while receiving others in return. Picking any point on the network will thus turn up a variety of activities with intriguing titles, such as A Murder at the Museum, Octopus or Dr Molecule.