Every two years, Europe holds a science shindig called the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF). The last one, which featured a ‘nano declaration’ just took place in Copenhagen (or Kopenhagen), Denmark from June 21 – 26, 2014. (You can find out more about the 2014 ESOF in my Feb. 19, 2014 posting in the context of a call for travel grant applications.)
The European Union of Science Journalists Associations has billed the outcome of their nano debate at the recent ESOF as a Copenhagen Declaration. That is a bit puzzling as there doesn’t seem to be any text for the declaration as per this July 15, 2014 news item on Nanowerk where it’s described as a science debate,
The science debate of the European Science Journalists EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations) revealed many severe misunderstandings and a profound lack of knowledge about nanotechnology, two decades after the topic first emerged. More detailed information and more dialogue is necessary, in particular a broader array of inclusive, participative and collaborative formats, above all in the early phases of research. This is the essence of the Nano Debate which may be summarized in 10 points. They comprise EUSJA’s COPENHAGEN DECLARATION.
Nanotechnology remains a research field with many promises.
In many fields such as graphene it has not been able to show its benefits for electronics.
One of the major reasons is that the scientific community is divided and the general public is only badly informed.
These deficits shall be resolved by establishing national and Europe-wide information centers which provide sound data bases with detailed information, as unanimiously agreed upon by stakeholders and the audience during the ESOF debate.
Transparency will be further enhanced if more nano-products are being labeled in a clear consumer language and at conspicuous places.
Regular and intensive stakeholder dialogues and polylogues are needed to bridge the gap among scientists and between research, industry and the general public including representatives of the civil society and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations].
A new participative culture of communication, dissemination and education which has been pondered for many years needs to be introduced at all levels of society.
With these conditions fulfilled, nano technology may after 20 years enter its 2nd phase, its realization and the exploitation of its full benefits, in close contact and consensus with the consumers, taxpayer, voters.
All in all, the nano example shows that the public needs to be engaged in the early phases of research, not only with nano technology, but in all fields of research, science and technology.
This new type of cutting edge science will empower Europe to compete globally and to reaffirm its number one position in world-class science.
And this is the background of the COPENHAGEN DECLARATION. The ESOF session “Expectations and Risks of Nanotechnology”, organized by the European Science Journalists EUSJA, … [emphasis mine]
Wolfgang C. Goede’s June 25, 2014 posting on the EUSJA website provides a description of the debate but not a text of the declaration,
International Rollout of the Science Debate@ESOF 2014 Kopenhagen. Major stakeholders and the public debated nanotechnology. After 20 years, our society still lacks knowledge about benefits and harm. The feedback of the roundtables showed that more dialogue and formats are needed. A respective resolution will be presented to the European Commission.
Four major stakeholders presented their views about ”Expectations and Risks of Nanotechnology”: Dr. Markus Lackinger, nano researcher representing Deutsches Museum (German Museum) and Technical University Munich TUM; Dr. Steffi Friedrichs, Nanotechnology Industries Association, Brussels; Dr. Lone Mikkelsen, Danish Ecological Council, Kopenhagen; Claus Jorgensen, Danish Consumers Council, Kopenhagen. The meeting was attended by some 60 participants of the Euroscience Open Forum 2014 Kopenhagen. The event was moderated by Barbie Drillsma, EUSJA president emeritus.
Why shall science journalists instigate this process? ”They have the knowledge, keep the distance and are observers of research”, Neubert [Hanns-J. Neubert, former chairman of the German Science Writers Association TELI] noted.
Lackinger agreed that science and media need to engage in more closely monitored feedback cycles. Unkeepable promises of science are often due to improper reporting and media hypes, he regretted. ”The right balance is the challenge”, he demanded. The physicist explained nanotechnology and used the example of carbon nanotubes.
After these presentations of five minutes each the moderator threw the ball at the roundtables. She [Drillsma] asked for a discussion of the topic after which a speaker should present three bullet points with comments, questions, concerns. During this phase the stakeholders went from table to table and made themselves available to answer arising questions. The individual debates got under way without the aid of a special moderator and were presented afterwards by roundtable speakers.
An overall wrap-up at the end of the nano debate was given by Menelaos Sotiriou, head of Science View Athens, organizer of science conferences and journalistic trainings in Greece, associated board member of the European Science Journalists EUSJA and its expert on EU projects. The debate in Kopenhagen showed that ”the public needs to be engaged from the early stages of research” he stated. Also young people and schools should be encouraged to participate.
The Horizon 2020 program of the EU will make funding for this type of public dialogue available. Furthermore he remarked that EUSJA is already partner of Nanodiode and will enhance the stakeholder engagement. Thus ”the public becomes a co-creator” of science, Sotiriou concluded.
A June 28, 2014 posting by Wolfgang C. Goede on the EUSJA website provides a more succinct summary but little more detail. As to the text for a declaration, perhaps I have failed to understand what the EUSJA meant by ‘declaration’ as that too is missing from Goede’s June 28, 2014 posting.
The debate itself didn’t uncover any new ideas or approaches although Sotriou’s ‘science co-creation’ is a term I haven’t seen previously in these discussions. Whether it will come to mean something new and innovative in the practice of science is (tongue in cheek) debatable.
In any event, Europeans have been exposed to many public dialogue and/or public engagement projects concerning nanotechnology. For example, Richard Jones in a March 17, 2005 posting on his Soft Machines blog describes two UK projects of the day and a June 14, 2011 posting here describes some then current European public engagement/dialogue projects. (The June 2011 posting features a mention of the Nanologue project which I believe was the first of its kind. It was a Europe-wide 2005-6 public dialogue project.) The questions that spring to mind are, how much money do you want to spend and to what purpose?