How can science tap into cultural dynamics, such as art, to find greater resonance with society? How can the traditions and customs of a culture draw on science to make sure the needs of society are being met? The Science in Society (SIS) Programme believes there is a need to better understand the reciprocal influence of science and culture in order to restore science's position within a cultural context, and to highlight the significance of adopting a more cultural approach to research policymaking.
The concept of science and culture covers many dimensions. In addition to those highlighted above, it can include inspiring more creative relationships with science and scientists or creating a scientific culture at the level of the citizen. For example, under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the SIS Programme funded the PLACES (Platform of Local Authorities and Cities Engaged in Science) project to pursue the development of Cities of Scientific Culture, where cultural, government and science partners collaborate to form new communities of professionals engaged in SIS activities.
Although we may not realise it, the arts and sciences have a long, rich history of collaboration. Both represent fundamental human needs to explore, create and improve. Indeed, we often lose sight of the fact that science is a deeply creative process; one that develops through inspiration, learns through trial and error, and finds structure through progress. Often, innovation in one area will stimulate new avenues of exploration in another.
The SIS Programme recognises that exploring scientific themes through the arts (e.g. visual arts, literature, music, new media, theatre, dance) is more than just a communication activity but one that contributes more generally to the cultural development of our societies. Under FP7, for example, the SIS Programme provided support to the HULDA (Hulda Festival, a Journey into Art and Science) project, where the innovative artworks of Ilhan Koman, a Turkish sculptor and educator, were used to explain concepts of mathematics and physics onboard a ship that set sail to 10 European cities.