In this commentary, we collected three essays from authors coming from different perspectives. They analyse the problem of power, participation and cooperation in projects of production of scientific knowledge held by users or peers: persons who do not belong to the institutionalised scientific community. These contributions are intended to give a more political and critical point of view on the themes developed and analysed in the research articles of this JCOM special issue on Peer-to-peer and user-led science. Michel Bauwens, Christopher Kelty and Mathieu O'Neil write about different aspects of P2P science. Nevertheless, the three worlds they delve into share the "aggressively active" attitude of the citizens who inhabit them. Those citizens claim to be part of the scientific process, and they use practices as heterogeneous as online peer-production of scientific knowledge, garage biology practiced with a hacker twist, or the crowdsourced creation of an encyclopedia page. All these claims and practices point to a problem in the current distribution of power. The relations between experts and non-experts are challenged by the rise of peer-to-peer science. Furthermore, the horizontal communities which live inside and outside the Net are not frictionless. Within peer-production mechanisms, the balance of power is an important issue which has to be carefully taken into account.


Research systems are increasingly required to be more practically oriented and to address issues which appear more promising in economic and social results, with special reference to trans-disciplinary research fields, such as nanotechnology or ICTs; policy makers show a sharp tendency to establish research priorities and to drive research systems; universities and research institutions are asked to be more transparent and open to dialogue with social actors on contents, impacts, ethical implications and practical applications of scientific and technological research. These transformations affecting both the ways in which science and technology are produced and their relationships with society pose new challenges to European research. All the aspects of research activities are concerned, including the life of the research groups, the approaches to scientific evaluation, the development of European research policies and the interaction between researchers with their social environment. Continuing a reflection started in the last issue of JCOM, Luisa Prista, Evanthia Kalpazidou-Schmidt, Brigida Blasi, Sandra Romagnosi and Miguel Martínez López offered their contribution in identifying some of the key implications and risks which these changes are bringing about, mainly in the perspective of the construction of the European Research Area.


In the last decades, production of science and technology as well as science-society relationships started changing rapidly. Research is asked to be more effective, fast, accountable, trans-disciplinary, result-oriented, policy-driven and able to generate benefits for people and firms in the short and middle run. While a strong intensification of science-society relationships is occurring, an increasing number of actors and stakeholders are involved in research production. At the same time, pervasiveness of technology is rendering users an active part in technological development; economic and social interests on science and technology are growing on a global scale; new democratic and ethical issues emerge. Despite the European institutions’ efforts, all those trends and phenomena are occurring in an extremely fragmented way. In this scenario, a fairly balanced and consistent co-evolution between science and society can no longer be taken for granted. This is just the starting point of the following comment section that, through the  Luciano d’Andrea, Sally Wyatt, Erik Aarden, Jos Lejten and Peter Sekloča’s writings, aims to analyse the different aspects and questions around the socialisation of science and technology’s matter.


In present times it would not be appropriate to say art made a “debut” in science centres, as it has been a feature since the beginning of their history, and it appeared precisely in the ‘parent’ science centre, the Exploratorium. However, now it is time to check the progress. There is unrest for this issue, as in history-making times, and it is worthwhile to follow the new developments and hear the words of the coordinators of the artistic activities in science centres and, more in general, in science museums, and also of the artists involved in the process. The goal is to promote a debate on the final results of this phenomenon and on what will happen next. Also, emphasis should be put on the importance for each museum to define right from the start an ‘art policy’, even a complex one, but somehow structured, that may be employed at many levels according to the needs of the museum itself.


Science, politics, industry, media, state-run and private organisations, private citizens: everyone has their own demands, their own heritage of knowledge, thoughts, opinions, aspirations, needs. Different worlds that interact, question one another, discuss; in one word: they communicate. It is a complicated process that requires professionals «who clearly understand the key aspects of the transmission of scientific knowledge to society through the different essential communication channels for multiple organizations». The purpose of this commentary is to cast some light upon the goals, the philosophy and the organisation behind some European and extra-European Master’s degrees in science communication. We have asked the directors of each of them to describe their founding elements, their origins, their specific features, their structure, their goals, the reasons why they were established and the evolution they have seen over their history.


The initiatives focusing the professional development of explainers are multiplying around the world, building an informal network of researchers, museums managers and directors, explainers, and regional/continental networks, as THE group, the Thematic Human Interface and Explainers group of Ecsite.The Workshop Sul-Americano de Mediação em Museus e Centros de Ciência e Escola de Mediação em Museus e Centros de Ciência, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in September 2008, was a further important step along this path. We believe it is worthwhile to offer to Jcom readers some of the workshop contributions concerning the training of explainers, to which we added an overview of the general problem presented by Lynn Uyen Tran (Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley).


The world, all at once, has become a small world. Not only owing to TV, satellites and the Internet that allow us to jump from side to side of our planet in a click. But also owing to a phenomenon that evokes dry lands, devastating rains, tsunamis and hurricanes, torrid summers and melting glaciers: global warming. In the heated argument on this issue with so many people talking, in the past few years also artists have made their rising voice be heard. Artists-popularisers, aware of their role and of the considerable communication potential of the art medium. Because “One salient image, sculpture or event can speak louder than volumes of scientific data”.


“Web 2.0” is the mantra enthusiastically repeated in the past few years on anything concerning the production of culture, dialogue and online communication. Even science is changing, along with the processes involving the communication, collaboration and cooperation created through the web, yet rooted in some of its historical features of openness. For this issue, JCOM has asked some experts on the most recent changes in science to analyse the potential and the contradictions lying in online collaborative science. The new open science feeds on the opportunity to freely contribute to knowledge production, sharing not only data, but also software and hardware. But it is open also to the outside, where citizens use Web 2.0 instruments to discuss about science in a horizontal way.


“Dialogue” is the trendy word of the moment. The word “dialogue” can be found in the call to access European funding, in the works of Science Communication scholars, in presentations of science education projects, in the mission of new science centres. “Dialogue” is also a word reported by mass media regarding politicians' and scientists' speeches on general issues as well as on local or specific problems such as environment, health, energy, etc... This new magic word is frequently repeated and opens many doors (or perhaps it simply helps to make a good impression). However, there is the risk of ignoring the real meaning and functioning of the word. JCOM is therefore asking a number of experts involved in “dialogue” the following questions: what does it really mean? What are the theoretical principles, the practical opportunities, but also the risks and limits of “dialogue”?


In 2007, global investments in R&D have increased by 7% on the previous year and have reached an absolute historical peak, exceeding for the first time the threshold of 1,100 billion dollars (calculated in the hypothesis of a purchasing power parity between the currencies). The world invests in scientific research and technological development 2.1% of the wealth it produces. At the same time, there has been an increase in the exchange of high added-knowledge value goods and high tech represents now the most dynamic sector of the world economy.


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