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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 41 - May 2004   
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 TABLE OF CONTENTS
 EDITORIAL
 Europeans’ political blues?
 Doubling European research investment
 Showcasing science
 The allergy enigma
 de Gennes – in perpetual motion
 A parliament in search of voters 
 COMMUNICATING SCIENCE
 IN BRIEF
 OPINION
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The Genoa debates


European cultural capital in 2004, Genoa was also the capital of scientific culture for two days. On 22 and 23 March, scientists welcomed the opportunity to come face-to-face with philosophers, artists, journalists and members of the general public to discuss the impact of developments in modern biology on society and on the latter's most human dimension: culture (see “Biology and Humanity”). A few days previously, the Commission had co-organised a meeting in Paris between scientists and representatives of science museums to look at the various ways climate change is being communicated. Three strong messages emerged from these two almost simultaneous meetings. 

The first is an awareness that the development of scientific culture is not a matter of knowledge alone. It is also a question of dialogue. The Anglo-Saxon notion of the ‘public understanding of science’ is being replaced increasingly by that of ‘public engagement’. Writing recently in UK broadsheet The Guardian, Steven Rose invoked the ‘scientists’ understanding of the public’. The public is discovering to its pleasure that science can be interactive and central to the notion of citizenship.   Was Talking science not the title of a previous edition of RTD info? 

The second message is that the scientists involved in these events proved to be excellent 'players'. Contrary to the cliché of the scientist as the poor and reluctant communicator, the experience showed that, when the conditions are well defined, researchers are able to present their results in a very convivial fashion. But, of course, why wouldn't they be able to?  

Finally, the public expressed a keen interest in these initiatives – and want to see more of them. In Paris, for example, the representatives of museums expressed their satisfaction but also a certain frustration. The exhibitions on climate warming attracted a large number of visitors, many of them wanting to explore the subject further and with a lot of questions on their mind: 'What can we do?', 'What should we do?' In short, a motivated, active and responsible public.

Three messages then, which we are pleased to see, belie the usual stereotypes. 

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