The Science in Society (SIS) Programme supports a range of initiatives that pursue greater participation by young people in science, and encourage long-term scientific careers. These projects include both formal settings of science education (e.g. schools) and non-formal, out-of-school teaching settings (e.g. science parks, science museums and science events).
The European Commission also recognises that science events that inspire and mobilise young people are more important than ever. The annual European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS), part of the SIS Programme, is one of Europe's premier events for showcasing young scientific talent. It brings together winners of national competitions (young people between 14 and 21 years of age) to compete with their European counterparts.
But science education is not just for young people. The SIS Programme supports initiatives that aim to bring S&T closer to everyone with some curiosity about innovation and progress.
In 2006, Michel Rocard (former French Prime Minister, and Member of the European Parliament) was invited to chair a group of experts to see what action could be taken in terms of Europe's need for more scientists, and the need to ensure that all young people develop key analytical skills at school that would prepare them for the future.
The experts' findings were subsequently released in June 2007 under the report, Science Education Now: A Renewed Pedagogy for the Future of Europe . Among their recommendations, they recognise that a change in school science teaching from mainly deductive to inquiry-based science education (IBSE) is necessary. IBSE affords more time to observation and experimentation, and pupils (under their teacher's guidance) are encouraged to construct their own knowledge.
The report was widely disseminated and stimulated considerable debate, and has since become a key policy document in the revival of science teaching in Europe.
Prior to the Rocard Report, in 2004 another landmark study identified the issues with regard to Europe's S&T workforce. Titled Increasing Human Resources for Science and Technology in Europe , the report presents a clear understanding of the state of play in this area, and provides tangible action for future R&D policy in Europe.
Under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the SIS Programme supported two studies on best practice, which were launched through a tender process and undertaken on behalf of the European Commission.
The main objective of the study undertaken by Technopolis (Belgium) was to identify and disseminate best practice in science mentoring and science ambassador initiatives across 33 countries in Europe. The team analysed the various forms of science mentoring implemented across Europe through case studies of schemes selected for their exemplary value, drew lessons, and proposed guidelines for possible future developments.
The main objective of the study undertaken by Scienter (Italy) was to identify and disseminate best practices within Europe in the context of science teaching that places S&T into meaningful learning contexts. The team focused their work on both formal and informal teaching settings, and collated information on effective techniques and experiences for demonstrating the relevance of science and innovation in daily life.
Knowledge generated in the area of science education can take on the form of practical experience, know-how and techniques rather than research results. This body of information, however, often resides with those directly concerned by the specific projects (such as those funded under the European Commission's Framework Programmes, as well as other programmes and initiatives) and often does not get the kind of broad exposure that would prove fruitful to other stakeholders, in particular once the related financial support ends.
In January 2009, the Science in Society (SIS) Programme published a tender asking for interested parties to develop a user-friendly, Internet-based information platform on science education. The outcome was SCIENTIX , a portal established in 2010. Teaching materials from hundreds of European projects is collected and (upon request) made available for teachers in any of the 23 EU languages. The portal structure and most of the related content is available in six languages: English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish.