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Special Edition
November 2001

  RTD info
    News in Brief, Publications, New on the Web
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and young people

The tribulations of science

If science continues to fascinate young people, why is it that they are so reluctant to study it? If medical and scientific professions are still considered to be the most noble by the majority of Europeans, why are fewer and fewer young people entering them? There are clearly many facets to the problem which reflect weaknesses in the teaching, the narrow scope of the careers and the way science is perceived by the general public and young people in particular.

However, it must also be acknowledged that sciences - in the plural - bear a share of the responsibility for their declining popularity. Broken down into ever-increasing sub-divisions, they are 'indigestible' to the general public for whom many research themes seem incomprehensible, if not futile. Parallel to this fragmentation of categories is an overlapping of tasks: the university researcher must also keep an eye on funding, while the private sector researcher ignores commercial considerations and technical applications at his peril. There is the ambiguity of sciences as a source of progress but also one of fear, and of scientists driven both by the desire to share their knowledge and to wield power and to dominate.

To a degree, the sciences are isolated, removed from culture, excluded from debates, marginalised in the media. At a time when their influence has never been so great, there is an urgent need to work together to reintegrate sciences in society and kick-start the dialogue between scientists and citizens.

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  Graphic element INTERVIEW
Improving science's image
Are younger generations becoming increasingly disinterested in science? If so, what can be done to reverse the trend? European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin gives his views.
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  Graphic element TEACHING
A different way of learning
Making holograms, learning about physics by playing with tin cans and balls, experimenting with the 'life' of liquids, studying sounds to understand mathematics, measuring molecules… At schools and science centres, experimentation, play, learning in real-life situations, curiosity and confidence in the abilities of children are giving a new impetus to science education.
  Graphic element Testing time for science
Are young people shunning sciences due to the quality of the teaching? Or is it because of the apparently growing gap between science and society? Whatever the case, teachers and education experts are certainly asking a lot of questions about the methods and aims of a field of knowledge which is apparently difficult to communicate.
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  Graphic element INDICATORS
How good is European education?
A study based on 16 carefully selected quality indicators provides a very comprehensive comparative assessment - ranging from pupil skills to the use of new technologies, teacher training and education expenditure - of the quality of education in 26 European countries.
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November meetings
Full details on projects presented in November 2001.
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  Graphic element SCIENCE AND THE PUBLIC
En route to the museum of the 21st century
A visit to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, one of Europe's giants in its field. This science and technology museum is firmly focused on innovation and diversity, regarding visitors as active 'users' and making science attractive without any 'dumbing down'.
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  Graphic element MEETING
Multiplicity of cultures, universality of science
Last summer in Grenoble, Expo-Sciences 2001 attracted more than 1500 young people from every continent. RTD info reports from an event dominated by a shared quest for knowledge.
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  Graphic element PORTRAIT
On-line from a silent world
From an oceanographic boat, researchers are breaking their silence by reporting on their scientific and other adventures on the Net to pupils seeking to discover the mysteries of the deep. Jean-François Rees, who heads the team, recounts his experiences.
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The new generation
Bergen, in September, in the presence of five Nobel prizewinners, the 13th European Union Contest for Young Scientists awarded inventors aged between 15 and 20. Who said young people are no longer interested in science and research?
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