Publications included in this section.
In May 2004 the Balì Museum, Planetarium and interactive science museum, was opened to the public in Italy: 35 hands-on exhibits designed according to the interactive tradition of the Exploratorium in San Francisco, an astronomic observatory for educational activities, a Planetarium with 70 places. With a total investment of about three million euros, about two thirds of which were spent on restructuring the splendid eighteenth-century villa in which it is housed, the undertaking may be considered a small one in comparison with other European science centres. Three million euros: perhaps enough to cover the cost of only the splendid circular access ramp to the brand-new Cosmocaixa in Barcelona, an investment of one hundred million euros. But the interesting aspect of the story of the Balì Museum (but also of other Italian stories, as we shall see) lies in the fact that this lively and advanced science centre stands in the bucolic region of the Marches, next to a small town of only 800 inhabitants (Saltara, in the Province of Pesaro and Urbino), in a municipal territory that has a total of 5000. Whereas in Italy the projects for science centres comparable with the Catalan one, for example projects for Rome and Turin, never get off the ground, smaller ones are opening in small and medium-sized towns: why is this? And what does the unusual location of the centres entail for science communication in Italy? This Focus does not claim to tell the whole truth about Italian interactive museums, but it does offer some phenomenological cues to open a debate on the cultural, economic and political premises that favour their lives.
The people of Val di Susa (Italy) blocked the construction of the new high-speed railway line that should connect Turin with Lyons (France). This project is regarded as a strategic achievement for the economic development of the European Union, but local communities have a different concept of development and are asserting their rights through ad hoc experts’ reports and the production “from the bottom” of new specialised knowledge. We shall describe these events as a case study to put ecological democracy to the test of facts, also through a comparison with the experimental actions taken in some Southern countries of the world. From Europe to Brazil, the debate on health and environmental risks resulting from modernisation is upsetting democratic societies and urging new forms of participation in the decision-making process. There is a clash between different “concepts of the world”, in which communication strategies play a crucial role and from whose outcome the society in which we wish to live in will emerge.
From exhibitions to theatrical performances, from fireworks to video games, countless events and ventures have been held all over the world in 2005 to mark the occasion of the World Year of Physics (WYP2005). The year that is drawing to a close has brought physics out into the streets and University campuses, but in a few cases physics has even invaded theater stages and art museums, it has involved musicians and even architects. The worldwide objective was to highlight a science that has more and more need to communicate its close connections with society, its involvement in themes that are vital for the present day but above all for the future, like the frontiers of medicine, the reduction of global pollution and the search for new energy sources. This focus tries to discover, country by country, the events that have accompanied the World Year of Physics. But this will also be an attempt to reply to a question on the very nature of this type of event: “do we really need it”? Is a World Year of Physics really necessary and, above all, is it effective?
If we wish to attempt an initial analysis of the inquiry on the communication of science in Brazil, India and China that JCOM proposed in its three most recent issues, we should paraphrase Chinese science and science-fiction writer, Yan Wu: even though these three countries are emerging in the fields of economy and science, and are now part of a wide group of communicators, promoting numerous methods to divulge information, they don't yet have a sound theory on the communication of science to the public. This is not an insignificant problem because according to David Dickson, the director of SciDev.Net, democratic dialogue on scientific matters is crucial to modern societies. However, it is difficult to propose the highest possible level of democratic dialogue on science topics without having a sound theory about the communication of science. In addition, the difficulties increase in those countries where developing economies and systems of science are both new and impetuous, as is the case of Brazil, India and China.
Science and technology: these are the mainstays China wants to concentrate on in order to stabilise its future as an emerging world power. Beijing plans to have the whole, enormous Chinese population literate in the scientific field within a few years. Scientific popularization is the key to what now, due to political influences and deep social disparities, seems remote.
Nowadays, India is experiencing a widespread diffusion of science communication activities. Public institutions, non-governmental organisations and a number of associations are busy spreading scientific knowledge not only via traditional media but also through specific forms of interaction with a varied public. This report aims to provide a historical overview of the diffusion of science communication in India, illustrating its current development and its future prospects.
Internal scientific communication and public communication of science and technology are growing in Brazil at a good pace, along with scientific productivity. In this Focus we will try to analyze the debate on standard or alternative models of communication of science that can be seen in the practice of science journalism and popular science in Brazil.
If there is a peculiarity in the way of doing science and in the way of communicating science in Brazil, it is in the use of the idea of "deficit" in political and economic discourses, as well as in the discourses of socio-technical networks. Our proposal here is not to affirm or reject the existence of this deficit, but rather to understand its workings and its construction as a way of bringing about networks of interest that make use of this idea. For us, this is not an idea which is restricted to the discourse of researchers or of journalists and scientific broadcasters; there is also an echo in the general society, and in different spheres and situations. The idea of deficit with regard to scientific knowledge is functional in Brazil, in conjunction with the idea that the country itself has a deficiency in relation to developed countries. It is as if there were two levels of deficit which join together and empower each other.
The scientific institution in Brazil is marching to a good rhythm. Despite problems in funding (and in the very irregular distribution of such funds), universities and private research centers changed and grew over the last few years. In 1999, Brazil (whose external debt is over 50% of GDP), invested 0.87% of GDP in Research & Development: a percentage comparable to that of several Mediterranean countries.
Never have there been so much science and so much technology on so many sides as now. The expansion of scientific information in the social sphere is frankly impressive. In newspapers and movies, on television and radio, scientific ideas circulate freely every day of the week. Science is in cell phones, shampoo, compact discs, Olympic athletes' clothing, food, perfumes, and in so many places that trying to enumerate them would be insane. After all, why should it be particularly strange to speak of science and technology if scientific thought finally molds our deepest fibers? Today's society, developed or not, lives immersed in a scientific and technological culture which guides the course of the most fundamental events. Even though, of course, the common sense obliges us to admit that the majority of us are not fully conscious of its reach and consequences. Perhaps this helps to understand why we still feel a certain shame when, in a social gathering, we comment that our profession consists of spreading science or analyzing the ways in which it circulates and its repercussions in the public opinion. It may be that we live with the fear that someone will look at us strangely and with disbelief and ask us to explain what scientific communication or the social studies of science consist of or, worse yet, that we find ourselves in the embarrassing situation of rehearsing an answer to justify the importance of thinking about science in daily life.