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The concept of a project often corresponds to its history. In particular, you can identify this when you reconstruct, through the memories of its main players, the history of the oldest and longest-running Italian training school of science communication – the Master’s Degree in Science Communication – which has been held for sixteen years now at the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA-ISAS) of Trieste.
Human health has currently to face a growing series of global issues. From the spread of HIV/AIDS to a fresh outbreak of tuberculosis, increasingly drug-resistant, the world is witnessing a return, mostly unexpected, of infectious diseases. At the same time, the economic growth in many regions of the globe is generating a sort of “epidemics of wellbeing diseases”: obesity, diabetes, heart disease.
Martin W. Bauer is right, two evolutionary processes are under way. These are quite significant and, in some way, they converge into public science communication: a deep evolution of discourse is unfolding, along with an even deeper change of the public understanding of science.
Those studying the public understanding of science and risk perception have held it clear for long: the relation between information and judgment elaboration is not a linear one at all. Among the reasons behind it, on the one hand, data never are totally “bare” and culturally neutral; on the other hand, in formulating a judgment having some value, the analytic component intertwines – sometimes unpredictably – with the cultural history and the personal elaboration of anyone of us.
The major Lisbon goal is to give Europe back the primacy as a society of knowledge. `Giving back' is a more appropriate term than `giving', as Europe long held that primacy in the past, and virtually as a monopoliser from the 17th century throughout the 19th. Then, Europe shared it with North America for a long portion of the 20th century.
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.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has bestowed the 2007 Nobel Peace Price equally upon the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore, former vice-President of the United States of America, with the same motivation: «for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change».
Probably among the first to deal with it, nearly sixty years ago, Norbert Wiener, the founding father of cybernetics (The human use of human beings. Cybernetics and Society, Houghton Mifflin Company, London, 1950), prefigured its opportunities, as well as its limitations. Today, it is a quite common belief. We have entered (are entering) a new, great era in the history of human society: the age of information and knowledge.
The Scientific Communications Act of 2007 (HR 1453) was introduced by the US House of Representatives on 9th March. The National Science Foundation, an independent United States Government agency that supports fundamental research and education, has thus been allowed to spend ten million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to provide communications training to improve the ability of scientists to engage in public dialogue.
What is the role of science museums nowadays? If we want to answer this question, we need to understand the historical period we are living and what role(s) museums can play. We are undoubtedly at the beginning of a new age based on a new relation between science and society, a concept which has been explained and repeated by sociologists and economists over and over again and is confirmed by statistics.