Participation and science governance

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.

21/03/2006

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.

21/03/2006

Do we have to drag in the thought of Michel Foucault to show the political (and not neutral), partial and local (and not universal and non-historic), active (and not merely transmissive) face of science communication? Do we need the work of the controversial French intellectual to dispute the anxious search – almost a quest like that for the Holy Grail – for the “best practices” in the dissemination of scientific culture? If we read over the pages that Foucault dedicated to words and things, to the archaeology and genealogy of knowledge, to biopolitics, we have few doubts. Two elements, on the one hand the central nature of discourse and “regimes of truth”, on the other the concept of biopower (a “power over bodies”), enable us to reflect both on the important specific features of modern science in comparison with other forms of production and organisation of knowledge, and on the central role of its communication.

21/06/2005

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.

21/09/2003

On June, the 23rd of last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its Draft Report on the Environment, a report on environmental quality. The EPA is an autonomous federal agency known for its reliability on environmental studies and safeguards. Its Draft Report is considered by Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the nation's most scientifically reliable analysis on environmental quality.

21/06/2003

No field of western society has remained untouched by the events of September 11. Lastly, science and science communication are also bearing the consequences. During the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver, Colorado, on February 15, 2003, the major international scientific magazines, faced with the bioterrorism alarm and the fear of seeing important information fall in the wrong hands, announced their intention to resort to an unprecedented security measure: preventive self-governance. They consider the Statement on Scientific Publication and Security as a manifesto of the sense of responsibility that the scientific community feels about global terror. In part four, after recalling the 9/11 tragedy, the 32 publishers, scientific associations and scientists who signed the Statement (among which also the directors of Nature and Science) stated that "On occasion an editor may conclude that the potential harm of publication outweighs the potential societal benefits. Under such circumstances, the paper should be modified, or not be published".

21/06/2003

"Weapons of mass destruction" is the word of the year 2002, at least according to the American Dialect Society, an association which has been studying the English language in North America for more than one century and which yearly chooses the word having more relevance to American society and information. The word of the year 2001 was "Nine eleven", and the passing of the baton was very significant. September 11th has actually marked an extraordinary media watershed in the debate on the dangerousness of weapons of mass destruction. The bioterrorist threat, for instance, seems to have gained ground in newspaper pages and in programme schedules - and therefore in people's houses - together with anthrax letters terrorising America. However, though this lethal powder has remained confined beyond the Atlantic, fear has rapidly spread throughout the world, including Italy. (Taken from the book "Armageddon Supermarket" - Sironi Editore)

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