Editorial

21/12/2006

One can no longer rely on the presumption that scientists comply with the Mertonian value of disinterest and assume that they always tell the truth when spreading the results of their research projects. This can be rightly considered as the gist of the four-page report submitted to the board of the American journal Science by the committee chaired by the chemist John Brauman, from the Stanford University, and comprising three members from the Senior Editorial Board of the same journal, two eminent biologists specialised in stem cell research and a top editor from the other major general press medium of the Republic of Science, the British journal Nature.

21/09/2006

The Royal Society published in late June a report entitled «Science Communication. Survey of factors affecting science communication by scientists and engineers». It is an in-depth survey on the communication addressed to non-specialist audiences that was carried out interviewing a wide and representative sample of UK scientists and engineers.

21/06/2006

The American particle physics community is in jeopardy and may end up drowning in a boundless sea trying to grasp at non-existing funds, dragging US physics and science as a whole to the bottom. This is a price the most powerful and high-tech country of the world cannot afford, as warned by the editors of a report published in late April by the National Academy of Sciences1. Behind so much alarm is the International Linear Collider (ILC) – a large particle accelerator facility which, according to the report, should be built on American territory, if research on the elementary constituents of nature is to survive in the United States. The ILC will probably cost a total of five hundred million dollars in the first five years, whereas billions will have to be invested in the subsequent seven years. Hardly impressive, however, if compared with the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), the biggest and costliest machine ever conceived in the history of science. Devised to describe the first instants of the universe, as many will recall, the SSC project was severely hampered by political and bureaucratic plots in 1993, when the Clinton administration decided to halt work on the accelerator, after ten years and approximately two billion dollars already spent.

21/03/2006

The scandal of the “biotechnology evangelist” erupted in Korea at the beginning of the new year: a commission from Seoul National University announced that it had proof that Dr Woo Suk Hwang, considered one of the world’s foremost experts on cloning by nucleus transfer, had manipulated the data concerning experiments in human cell cloning and the creation of eleven lines of stem cells from human embryos published in two different articles in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005.

21/12/2005

The tsunami that took place on 26th December 2004 in the Indian Ocean and hurricane Katrina, that last August struck the Mexican Gulf, are two recent natural events that turned into catastrophes for mankind, causing several thousands victims. One of the reasons behind this can be traced back to the fact that useful information in the hands of scientists and experts did not reach the right people within the right time. A crushing defeat for risk communication was witnessed in these two recent events. All the more paradoxical since we live in what we like to name “the era of communication and information”.

21/09/2005

The historian Marshall Berman wrote that living in modern times means "to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation [...] and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know".

21/06/2005

The death of Pope John Paul II, the "Polish pope", in Rome and the subsequent election of Benedict XVI, the "German pope", have been two great events gaining world-wide media coverage and affecting the whole world. This was due to Karol Wojtyla's ability to reach everyone's heart ­ thus once dubbed the "Great Communicator" ­ and to the Vatican's spiritual, cultural, and political influence all over the world. The death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI also concern science and science communication issues.

21/03/2005

Many lives could have been saved on 26 December 2004, when the tsunami unleashed by an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 off the coast of the Indonesian island Sumatra struck a dozen coastal villages along the Indian Ocean. Those lives could have been saved if, on that day, science communication had not resulted in a complete failure to communicate scientific information adequately in many cases, in different places and at different levels. A long time passed between the violent shock and the devastation caused by the tsunami waves ­ in most cases, many hours.

21/12/2004

The question was raised in the 4th November copy of The New York Times when it entitled the editorial of Garry Wills (political and cultural historian), regarding the re-election of George W. Bush, "The Day the Enlightenment Went Out". Wills' theory, with which the directors of the newspaper palpably concur, is that Bush was re-elected because "many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution".

21/09/2004

In the name of God is the heading chosen by some researchers from a Middle Eastern country for their posters in an international conference on chemistry which has recently been held in Paris. This powerful message preceded the results of the researchers' work on the morphology, molecular structure, as well as the physical, chemical and mechanical properties of advanced polymeric materials. It was an unexpected statement, an unusual message, though certainly not an unprecedented one. It had nonetheless a striking effect in the context of a scientific conference attended by thousands of people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds.

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