“Cities of scientific culture” are the topic of the EU-funded project “Open Places“, constisting of no less than 69 partnerships from 27 European countries, every one a joint initiative of science communication institutions and local policymakers.
The project partners mainly want to mutually learn from each other’s experiences, which is exactly what happened at the international project conference in Paris, a few days ago, where I had the honour to share a few ideas about new approaches (s. photo, here with Jean-Pierre Alix, president of the European Science Foundation, ESF). On the panel we also discussed ten key issues of the conference which you find summarised below (click “mehr“). Please feel invited to make comments and suggestions, since this is all work-in-progess.
- Science communication must involve all relevant public and private actors and the citizens in general in a spirit of co-creation and co-ownership with involvement and investment. Science communication needs to move from public understanding to science to public engagement in science, technology and innovation including more openness and public involvement in decision making.
- Science communication policy is not an add on extra and should be seen as an integral part of both research and innovation strategies. These communication strategies should focus on two-way engagement and engage with policy makers and adapt more effectively to different target audiences.
- Science communication should also address the procedures of science by showing it as ongoing human activity seeking the truth but also discussing what we do not know. Science communication should emphasise the science of everyday life experiences and present scientists as ordinary people. Science communication needs responsible science broadcasting.
- Cities and regions should build on their historical, geographical and economic context. They should focus on their immediate challenges and exploit opportunities e.g. poor health in Glasgow stimulates health studies, Utrecht’s location below sea-level encourages research on adaptation to climate change while both Trento and Oldenburg seized real estate opportunities in their cities.
- Science communication policies have to combine long term science perspectives with a short term political priorities. A science Communication policy (e.G; science centre) requires a long-term strategic vision coupled to investment which requires strong local and regional leadership.
- EU competitiveness needs all cities and regions to move to a more knowledge intensive economy which must involve science communication strategies and policies. More collaboration is needed between regions and cities to differentiate strategies and also to collaborate across borders where necessary in a spirit of ‘co-opetition’.
- The Europe 2020 Strategy and the relevant flagships such as Innovation Union drive EU research and innovation policy. Science communication must understand and embed itself within these overarching strategies.
- Cities have developed different models of scientific culture often related to their economic and geographical context. We need to align how do we align the different stakeholders to create a community which is able to promote the importance of science communication policies and adequate funding from both the public and private sector.
- If science communication is an important tool for economic development then more sophisticated tools to measure benefit should be developed e.g. visitor spend, FDI and jobs created, etc. Where possible, impact assessment should also evaluate why people do not visit science centres and investigate market demand.
- The nine points outlined above are all areas where the PLACES project can play a key role over the next three years by developing a wide community of purpose involving science communicators and policy makers at the local and regional level, by spreading best practice, by actively building partnerships with more focused objectives via the ten thematic working groups. The activities and debates driven by the regional workshops, conferences and especially the Open-Places website will allow a stakeholder community to be developed which will be able to provide recommendations to the European Commission for future EU policy in this field.