Euroscience daysHold the front page
He believes that the onus is on scientists to be proactive and imaginative in the way they publicise their research, given that the media can reach millions of people with just a few powerful words or pictures. “This can be either an advantage or a disadvantage for any subject, including science.” One of Moore’s aims is to explain to researchers the mechanisms of a profession that may seem to be the very antithesis of their own, so that they can understand and use it to better effect.
Science and fiction
“Societies tend to regard science as a source of economic wealth when, in fact, it is a source of cultural richness,” he explains. He also stresses that scientists wrongly view themselves as outside of culture at a time when contemporary science seems “close to answering many questions that traditionally lie in the realms of myth, poetry and philosophy”.
The Munich meeting also brought together a range of European artists, including writers and filmmakers with the aim of creating a network to give impetus to this cultural dimension of science, in particular through debates on science, society and culture. Among the participants was Carl Djerassi, the ‘father’ of the contraceptive pill who decided to turn to literature in middle age. Djerassi has a passion for the theatre for which he has been writing ‘scientific plays’ since 1997 (An immaculate misconception, translated into 11 languages, has been performed on nearly every continent). His first essay on the subject, Sex in an age of mechanical reproduction, also published in French, German, Chinese and Italian, ensured the success of the formula. Other renowned figures also attended the event, such as the mathematicians John L. Casti and Tor Nørretranders.
Health – knowing where to click
In addition to its interest for the general public, the site also seeks to be a valuable tool for scientists, health professionals and politicians interested in progress in research and seeking reliable links to specialist sites.
Health-EU is available in all the official languages of the EU.
The Wikipedia story
It has, of course, been difficult to rule out the occasional aberration. The most famous example was perhaps the ‘John Seigenthaler affair’ concerning this American journalist who one day discovered that he had apparently lived in exile in the USSR for 13 years because he was suspected of being involved in the Kennedy assassination. The joker was soon discovered, the truth restored and Wales decided to tighten things up a bit. Today, any new pages or changes are placed in quarantine and checked by the New Pages Patrols before being released on the World Wide Web. A classification into three categories was also introduced recently: the traditional ‘free entry’ texts that anyone can edit, the ‘semi-protected’ articles that registered members can change, and the ‘protected’ items that cannot be changed.
At first, the encyclopaedia was financed by Jimmy Wales himself, thanks to his skill at playing the stock markets. But he later set up a foundation, fuelled by donations, which operates with a budget of €800 000. For all his achievements, Wales made it into Time Magazine’s top 100 people of the year but in the scientists and thinkers category.
Results and how to use themResearchers are under pressure to communicate and reveal their research results. But they must also know how to choose ‘the right moment’ and not reveal too soon elements that will not be properly understood and that could risk arousing false hopes. A report published by the Royal Society (the UK’s academy of sciences) analyses the effective strategies and the potential implications of an untimely communication.
Exhibition – Biometrics or the body as identity
The exhibition aims to answer four key questions: Why biometrics? For who? Is it an innovation? Does it provide absolute security? It does so by providing examples of biometric techniques in practice, such as the identification of bodies after the December 2004 tsunami in South-East Asia, checks on the distribution of methadone doses in Australia, the issuing of pensions in rural areas of South Africa, home care for the elderly in Kyoto, and monitoring international migration using the EU’s centralised Eurodac file that contains the fingerprints of all asylum-seekers in Europe.
The Biometrics organisers also see the exhibition as a contribution to the public debate on a technology that both reassures and raises fears. “The fear of society becoming a police state and fear of huge databases is coupled with a certain enthusiasm for a technology destined to protect citizens and facilitate their everyday life.”