Dialogue with citizens
The acquisition of a basic grounding in science and
technology by the European public and a regular flow
of information to the public from experts are not
in themselves enough to enable people to form an opinion.
A true dialogue must therefore be instituted between
science and society. There have been a great many
initiatives in this area over the last few years:
consensus conferences (1), citizens'
juries (2), national and regional
consultations, on-line forums, participative foresight
programmes, etc. have emerged to satisfy this need
for mutual understanding. Member States and the Commission
must foster this type of dialogue at all levels: European,
national, regional and local.
Towards the establishment of a dialogue at European
Establishing a dialogue at the European level involves
close cooperation between a wide range of stakeholders
from research organisations, public authorities, media,
citizens, civil society, enterprises, etc. The scientific
and technological community will play an essential
role by presenting issues of interest to the public
at large, and by contributing to the debate.
The Commission will examine, with representatives
of the European scientific community interested in
the promotion of science, the feasibility of holding
regular events of high visibility and quality ("A
European Convention for Science"). The Commission
would assist in holding a major inaugural event in
2004 involving the widest possible range of stakeholders
interested in science and technology (3)
at European level.
Local and regional dialogues on "Science and Society"
The local and regional levels are well suited to
the "science and society" dialogue when the issues
raised are of direct interest to citizens (environment,
sustainable development, health, safety, urban transport,
etc.). It would be desirable to promote participation
by scientists in forums and hearings organised at
local, regional and inter-regional (particularly cross-border)
level, where the issues are also of pan-European interest.
The organisation of local and regional "science
and society" forums will be encouraged, inter alia
through the development of a database listing scientists
with communication skills.
Developing the European network of Science Shops
There are in Europe various types of Science Shops
close to the citizen in which science is placed at
the service of local communities and non-profitmaking
associations (the SCIPAS project, financed under the
5th Framework Programme, enabled an open European
network of Science Shops to be established). Hosted
by universities or independent, their common feature
is that they answer questions from the public, citizens'
associations or NGOs on a wide variety of scientific
issues. The first Science Shops were opened in the
Netherlands in the 1970s and the idea was then taken
up by about 10 other countries throughout the world.
There are now over 60 Science Shops in Europe, mainly
in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom
The diversity and scope of questions is such that
the most successful centres are having difficulty
in satisfying demand. The Science Shops would gain
from getting together, with the aid of the Commission,
to pool their resources, their work and their experience.
The networking of Science Shops in the regions
of the Union and the candidate countries will be encouraged
in particular through the creation of a permanent
inventory and of a structure for the dissemination
of work carried out on behalf of citizens and associations
(e.g. database), and by the development of promotional
Consensus conferences, contrary to the name, usually
spark a debate between experts and citizens on new subjects
where regulation does not,as yet, exist.
Citizens' juries usually seek to guide the decision-making
process for which the form of "end solution" has already
been defined (e.g. locationof waste disposal site)
(3) The convention could be inspired
by the long-established and well-renowned yearly events
of the American Association for the Advancementof
(4) The English term is used