Category Archives: science communication

Health/science journalists/editors: deadline is March 22, 2024 for media boot camp in Boston, Massachusetts

A February 14, 2023 Broad Institute news release presents an exciting opportunity for health/science journalists and editors,

The Broad Institute of MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and Harvard is now accepting applications for its 2024 Media Boot Camp.

This annual program connects health/science journalists and editors with faculty from the Broad Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Harvard’s teaching hospitals for a two-day event exploring the latest advances in genomics and biomedicine. Journalists will explore possible future storylines, gain fundamental background knowledge, and build relationships with researchers. The program format includes presentations, discussions, and lab tours.

The 2024 Media Boot Camp will take place in person at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA on Thursday, May 16 and Friday, May 17 (with an evening welcome reception on Wednesday, May 15).

APPLICATION DEADLINE IS FRIDAY, MARCH 22 (5:00 PM US EASTERN TIME).

2024 Boot Camp topics include:

  • Gene editing
  • New approaches for therapeutic delivery  
  • Cancer biology, drug development
  • Data sciences, machine learning
  • Neurobiology (stem cell models of psychiatric disorders)
  • Antibiotic resistance, microbial biology
  • Medical and population genetics, genomic medicine

Current speakers include: Mimi Bandopadhayay, Clare Bernard,Roby Bhattacharyya, Todd Golub, Laura Kiessling, Eric Lander,David Liu, Ralda Nehme,Heidi Rehm, William Sellers, Feng Zhang, with potentially more to come.

This Media Boot Camp is an educational offering. All presentations are on-background.

Hotel accommodations and meals during the program will be provided by the Broad Institute. Attendees must cover travel costs to and from Boston.

Application Process

By Friday, March 22 [2024] (5:00 PM US Eastern time [2 pm PT]), please send at least one paragraph describing your interest in the program and how you hope it will benefit your reporting, as well as three recent news clips, to David Cameron, Director of External Communications, dcameron@broadinstitute.org

Please contact David at dcameron@broadinstitute.org, or 617-714-7184 with any questions.

I couldn’t find details about eligibility, that said, I wish you good luck with your ‘paragraph and three recent clips’ submission.

Simon Fraser University’s (SFU; Vancouver, Canada) Café Scientifique Winter/Spring 2024 events + a 2023 Nobel-themed lecture

There are three upcoming Simon Fraser University (SFU) Café Scientifique events (Zoom) and one upcoming Nobel=themed lecture (in person) according to a January 15, 2024 notice (received via email), Note: All the events are free,

Hello SFU Cafe Scientifique friends!

We are back with a brand new line up for our Cafe Scientifique discussion series.  Zoom invites will be sent closer to the event dates [emphasis mine].  We hope you can join us.

All event information and registration links on this page: https://www.sfu.ca/science/community.html

Café Scientifique: Why Do Babies Get Sick? A Systems Biology Approach to Developing Diagnostics and Therapeutics for Neonatal Sepsis. 

Tuesday, January 30, 5:00-6:30pm over Zoom 

Around the world five newborn babies die each second from life-threatening infections. Unfortunately there is no fast or easy way to tell which microbes are involved. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry assistant professor Amy Lee will share how we can use genomics and machine learning approaches to tackle this challenge.
Register here. https://events.sfu.ca/event/38235-cafe-scientifique-january-why-do-babies-get-sick?

Cafe Scientifique: From data to dollars: A journey through financial modelling
Tuesday, February 27, 5:00-6:30 pm over Zoom 

Financial modelling involves using mathematical and statistical techniques to understand future financial scenarios, helping individuals and businesses make informed decisions about their investments. Join Dr. Jean-François Bégin as he explores how these models can empower us to navigate the complexities of financial markets.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/763521010897

Cafe Scientifique: Overtraining and the Everyday Athlete
Tuesday, April 30, 5:00-6:30 pm over Zoom 

What happens when we train too hard, don’t take enough time to recover, or underfuel while exercising, and how that applies to both elite athletes and just your “everyday athlete.” Join Dr. Alexandra Coates from our Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology Department in this interesting discussion.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/763521010897

Missed our last Café Scientifique talk [Decoding how life senses and responds to carbon dioxide gas] with Dustin King? [SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Assistant Professor Dustin King’s Indigenous background is central to his work and relationship with the biochemical research he conducts. He brings Indigenous ways of knowing and a two-eye seeing approach to critical questions about humanity’s impact upon the natural world …] Watch it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCHTSbF3RVs&list=PLTMt9gbqLurAMfSHQqVAHu7YbyOFq81Ix&index=10

The ‘2023 Nobel Prize Lectures’ being presented by SFU do not feature the 2023 winners but rather, SFU experts in the relevant field, from the January 15, 2024 SFU Café Scientifique notice (received via email),

BACK IN-PERSON AT THE SCIENCE WORLD THEATRE!

Location: Science World Theatre 1455 Quebec Street Vancouver, BC V6A 3Z7

NOBEL PRIZE LECTURES  

Wednesday, March 6, 2024 

6:30-7:30 pm Refreshments, 7:30-9:30 pm Lectures 

Celebrate the 2023 Nobel awardees in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine!

SFU experts will explain Nobel laureates’ award-winning research and its significance to our everyday lives. 

Featured presenters are

*Mark Brockman from Molecular Biology and Biochemistry for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology;

*Byron Gates from Chemistry for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; and

*Shawn Sederberg from the School of Engineering Science for the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/nobel-prize-lectures-tickets-773387301237

For anyone who has trouble remembering who and why the winners were awarded a 2023 Nobel Prize, here’s a nobleprize.org webpage devoted to the 2023 winners.

Science communication perspectives from a documentary filmmaker

Marina Joubert, science communication researcher at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, has written a September 21, 2023 essay about science communication and documentary filmmaker, Sonya Pemberton, on The Conversation (h/t Sept. 21, 2023 news item on phys.org), Note: Links have been removed,

In general, people trust scientists more than they do most other professions. But this isn’t the case universally. Trust in science dropped in sub-Saharan Africa after the pandemic. In other parts of the world, in particular the US, public opinion about science is driven by political ideology and is becoming increasingly polarised.

As multi award-winning Australian filmmaker Sonya Pemberton put it during a plenary address at the 2023 Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference: “We have access to so much information, and yet simultaneously some areas of science are facing walls of doubt, disbelief and distrust.”

So what’s the solution? Communication, Pemberton told attendees at the conference, held in April in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands:

Her assertion, and her approach to making films, is rooted in evidence from science communication research. To build trust with an audience, scientists must demonstrate that they are competent experts. But they must also come across as warm, caring and human.

Pemberton – and we, a group of South African science communication academics who attended the conference – are part of a global movement in our discipline towards using the science of science communication. In essence, this is about building our science engagement efforts on evidence, rather than on a gut feeling.

Pemberton has one guiding principle: know your audience. She also has five golden rules for effective science communication:

  • acknowledge uncertainty
  • avoid polarising messages
  • check for biases
  • incite curiosity
  • embrace complexity.

… where her five rules come in. They are the way, she believes, to engage those who dislike, distrust or dismiss science. Her approach draws on the Yale University-based Cultural Cognition project, which involves an interdisciplinary team of scholars using what they call “empirical methods to examine the impact of group values on perceptions of risk and related facts”.

1. Acknowledge uncertainty

Sometimes scientists are wrong. …

Joubert’s September 21, 2023 essay also has an embedded SWIPE SciComm Issue no. 3 video interview with Pemberton (runtime of almost 47 mins.).

As for SWIPE SciComm, it is a mobile science communication magazine that was launched according to Dr. Tullio Rossi’s October 26, 2022 blog post on that date on Dr. Rossi’s ‘Animate Your Science’ website,

I’m SO EXCITED to share a major new project with you!!!

We’ve been keeping this project secret for the past 6 months, and it’s now time to reveal that we created the world’s FIRST science communication magazine!

Wait, what? Yes you heard right!

My team and I realised that there was not a single science communication magazine out there, so so we decided to create one!

And since it’s 2022, and we don’t like to cut down trees for paper or burn fuel to ship it, we made it mobile-first 📱. It’s a new kind of magazine that you can read on your phone without downloading any apps simply by swiping and scrolling. 📲

Here’s an overview of what to expect:

Interviews with leading personalities
Tutorials
Reviewing the “science” of science communication
Guest articles
Case studies

Dr. Rossi’s declaration may be a bit of a surprise to the folks at Sage Journals who publish Science Communication,

Science Communication is an international and highly ranked communication research journal that publishes manuscripts that are of the highest quality, in terms of theory and methods. We define science broadly to include social science, technology, environment, engineering, and health, as well as the physical and natural sciences. However, across all scientific contexts, communication must be at the center of the investigation. We also recognize the critical importance of science communication practice and expect all manuscripts to address the practical implications of their research, as well as theory.

Perhaps Dr. Rossi meant the mobile aspect? In that case, SWIPE SciComm seems to be a first.

Dr. Rossi’s free magazine initiative is part of his larger venture for-profit venture, Animate Your Science, which was last mentioned here in a July 15, 2019 posting (scroll down to the text immediately following the image of an x-rayed hand followed by an embedded vide).

Margot Lee Shetterly (Hidden Figures author) in Toronto, Canada and a little more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) information

Ms. Shetterly was at the University of Toronto (Hart House) as a mentor at Tundra Technical Solutions’ 2023 Launchpad event. The company is a ‘talent recruitment’ agency and this is part of their outreach/public relations programme. This undated video (runtime: 2 mins. 27 secs.) from a previous Hart House event gives you a pretty good idea of what this year’s Toronto event was like,

This November 9, 2023 Tundra Technical Solutions news release (on Cision) suggests that this is a US-based company while supplying more information about their 2023 STEM or Launchpad mentorship event at Hart House,

On the heels of [US] National STEM Day, a landmark event unfolds tonight to advance the role of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Tundra, a trailblazer championing diversity within the world’s most innovative industries, hosts its annual Launchpad Mentorship Event at the University of Toronto’s Hart House.

This event welcomes hundreds of high school female students across the GTA [Greater Toronto Area?] to inspire and empower them to consider careers in STEM.

The night opens with a fascinating keynote speech by Margot Lee Shetterly, acclaimed author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Hidden Figures. Margot will share her insights into the critical contributions of African-American women mathematicians at NASA, setting a powerful tone for the evening. The spotlight also shines brightly on Arushi Nath, a 14-year-old Canadian prodigy and Tundra Launchpad Mentee of the Year whose contributions to astronomy have propelled her onto the world stage.

The Launchpad Event panel discussion features an impressive lineup of leaders, with Anne Steptoe, VP of Infrastructure at Wealthsimple; Linda Siksna, SVP of Technology Ops and Platforms at Canadian Tire; Natasha Nelson, VP of Ecostruxure at Schneider Electric; and Allison Atkins, National Leader for Cloud Endpoint at Microsoft. Moderated by Marisa Sterling, Assistant Dean and Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Professionalism at the University of Toronto, the panel tackles the challenges and opportunities within STEM fields, emphasizing the need for diversity and inclusion.

In a seamless transition from Shetterly’s keynote to the voices of present-day STEM leaders, the event spotlights the potential of young women in these fields. Arushi Nath [emphasis mine], the 9th-grade Canadian astronomy sensation, embodied this potential. Fresh from her success at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, Arushi’s presence will be a vibrant reminder of what the next generation can achieve with support from initiatives like Tundra’s Launchpad Event.

Tundra’s commitment to nurturing and developing STEM leaders of tomorrow is evident through its substantial investments in youth. Every year, Tundra connects thousands of students who identify as female and non-binary with mentors, awarding scholarships and prize packs to help students excel in their future.

Tundra’s dedication to diversity and empowerment in STEM remains unwavering since the Launchpad’s inception in 2019. The event is a testament to the bright future that awaits when we invest in the mentorship and recognition of young talent.

Female-identifying or non-binary students in grades 10-12 can apply for Tundra’s next Launchpad Scholarship here [deadline: December 3, 2023].

You can find out more about the Tundra Technical Solutions STEM initiatives here. (I’m not sure why they’ve listed Vancouver as a location for the event on the STEM initiatives page since there is no mention of it in the news release or elsewhere on the page.)

Arushi Nath was last mentioned here in a November 17, 2023 posting where her wins at the 2023 Canada Wide Science awards and the 34th European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) and her appearance at the 2023 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Awards were highlighted.

I’m having trouble keeping with her!

She has written up an account of her experience at the 2023 Launchpad Mentorship event at Hart House in a November 18 (?), 2023 blog posting on the HotPopRobot website,

Almost 150 students from across Toronto and the region attended the event. In addition, around 20 mentors from several organizations gathered to interact with the students. Many staff members from Tundra were also present to support the event.

Keynote Speech: Science and Space is for All

The evening started with a keynote speech from Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures book. Hidden Figures [movie] explores the biographies of three African-American women who worked as computers to solve problems for engineers and others at NASA.

In her speech, she talked about her journey writing the book and what drew her to the topic. The fact that one of the three women was her neighbour was a big inspiring force. She shared the background of these brilliant women mathematicians, their personal stories, anecdotes and the crucial roles they played during the Space Race.

Several questions were posed to her, including how she felt about having her book transformed into a movie before the book was even complete and how students could merge their other passions with science.

Prizes and Awards: Winning 2023 Mentee of the Year Award

At the end of the raffle, I was surprised to hear my name called on the stage. I was honoured to receive the 2023 Mentee of the Year Award. I thanked the organizers for this gesture and for organizing such a wonderful evening of fun, learning and networking.

With Margot Lee Shetterly, the Author of Hidden Figures book [downloaded from https://hotpoprobot.com/2023/11/18/encouraging-young-women-in-science-technology-engineering-and-math-reflections-from-the-2023-launchpad-mentorship-event/]

More about Hidden Figures on FrogHeart

First mentioned here in a September 2, 2016 posting titled, “Movies and science, science, science (Part 1 of 2),” it focused heavily on Margot Lee Shetterly‘s 2016 nonfiction book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.”

The movie focused primarily on three women but the book cast a wider net. It’s fascinating social history.

They were computers

These days we think of computers as pieces of technology but for a significant chunk of time, computers were people with skills in mathematics. Over time, computers were increasingly women because they worked harder and they worked for less money than men.

I have an embedded video trailer for the then upcoming movie and more about human computers in my September 2, 2016 posting.

There’s also something about the Hidden Figures script writing process in my February 6, 2017 posting; scroll down about 80% of the way. Sadly, I was not using subheads that day.

More Canadian STEM information

The government of Canada (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) has a webpage devoted to STEM initiatives, their own and others,

Canada has emerged as a world leader in many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and many new jobs and career opportunities that have emerged in recent years are STEM-related. As more and more businesses and organizations look to innovate, modernize and grow, the demand for people who can fill STEM-related jobs will only increase. Canada needs a workforce that can continue to meet the challenges of the future.

Additionally, young Canadians today need to think carefully and critically about science misinformation. Misinformation is not new, but the intensity and speed in which it has been spreading is both increasing and concerning, especially within the science realm. Science literacy encourages people to question, evaluate, and understand information. By equipping youth with science literacy skills, they will be better positioned to navigate online information and make better decisions based on understanding the difference between personal opinions and evidence-based conclusions.

The Government of Canada and its federal partners have put forward several new opportunities that are aimed at increasing science literacy and the participation of Canadians in STEM, including under-represented groups like women and Indigenous communities.

CanCode (Innovation, Science and Economic Develoment Canada)

CanCode is an Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) funding program that provides financial support for organizations to equip Canadian youth, including traditionally underrepresented groups, with the skills they need to be prepared for further studies. This includes advanced digital skills, like coding and STEM courses, leading to jobs of the future. For more information on the program and future Calls for Proposals, visit the CanCode webpage.

Citizen Science Portal (ISED)

The Citizen Science Portal provides information and access to science projects and science experiments happening in various communities for Canadians to participate in. Some may only be available at certain times of year or in certain areas, but with a little exploration, there are exciting ways to take part in science.

Objective: Moon – including Junior Astronauts (Canadian Space Agency)

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) aims to engage young Canadians, to get them excited about STEM and future careers in the field of space through a suite of resources for youth and educators. The CSA also helps them understand how they can play a role in Canada’s mission to the Moon. As part of Canada’s participation in Lunar Gateway, the Objective: Moon portfolio of activities, including the Junior Astronauts campaign that ended in July 2021, makes learning science fun and engaging for youth in grades K – 12.

Actua

Actua is a Canadian charitable organization preparing youth, ages 6-26, to be the next generation of leaders and innovators. It engages youth in inclusive, hands-on STEM experiences that build critical employability skills and confidence. Through a national outreach team and a vast member network of universities and colleges, Actua reaches youth in every province and territory in Canada through summer camps, classroom workshops, clubs, teacher training, and community outreach activities.

Mitacs

Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization that designs and delivers internships and training programs in Canada. Working with universities, companies and federal and provincial governments, Mitacs builds and maintains partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. More information on Mitacs’ programs can be found here.

Science fairs, STEM competitions and awards

The Government of Canada supports the discoveries and the ingenuity of tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and inventors.

Canada’s science fairs and STEM competitions

The page has not been updated since August 13, 2021.

There are more organizations and STEM efforts (e.g. ScienceRendezvous [a national one day science fair], Beakerhead [a four day science fair held annually in Calgary, Alberta], the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics [they also offer “Inside the Perimeter” with all kinds of resources online]) than are listed on the page, which is a good place to start, but keep on looking.

A reminder: Tundra Launchpad scholarship deadline

Female-identifying or non-binary students in grades 10-12 can apply for Tundra’s next Launchpad Scholarship here [deadline: December 3, 2023].

November 2023 science events with a UK flavour

This list of events, which are in date order (more or less), comes courtesy of the UK’s Sense about Science organization. Self-described as “… an independent charity that promotes the public interest in sound science and evidence,” their November 13, 2023 announcement (received via email) offers a good range of events focused on science, evidence, and understanding the science you’re getting.

Greenwich (England) and Glasgow (Scotland) Skeptics pub talks

Here’s more from the Sense about Science November 13, 2023 announcement,

Greenwich and Glasgow Skeptics pub talks

Want to engage with us about the importance of evidence? We have two public talks coming up, which can be a great opportunity to learn more about our work, meet some of our team and explore how everyone can use evidence as a tool to improve our lives.

We’ll be at Davy’s Wine Vaults in Greenwich at 7pm tomorrow [Tuesday, November 14, 2023] and Admiral Woods Bar in Glasgow on Tuesday 21 November 2023.

I found out more about Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub (from the Skeptics in the Pub (SitP) website),

Welcome to Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub!

Greenwich SitP is currently the only branch of SitP in South East London. The idea is simple: Once a month, we all meet up in a pub to hear a guest speaker and enjoy a drink or three

The Royal Park of Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum, from the Observatory. Backdrop: the Canary Wharf business district. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Our chosen pub is the Davy’s Wine Vaults (161 Greenwich High Road, SE10 8JA) and usually we meet on the second Tuesday of every month. Talks will begin at 7:30pm. Although the talks are free and open to all, we would appreciate a small contribution towards covering speakers’ expenses (suggested donation: £3).

Our Next Talk

The Power of Asking for Evidence

Munkhbayar Elkins & Tushita Bagga
Sense about Science

14 November 2023 Tuesday 19:30

In a time of misinformation, purchasable blue ticks, and spurious claims to be ‘following the science’, how do we ask the right questions of information we find from social media, companies, and politicians? 66% of people think it’s important the government shows the public all the evidence used to make policy decisions. And yet, the sources of data used in policy making become more complex, modelling and big data being two key examples. But you don’t need to be an expert to ask the right questions. This talk will cover how to ask about the data behind the issues that matter to you, be that climate change or local healthcare policies. With examples of how people asking for evidence have made a real difference, we’ll show you how you can too, and why this is more important than ever in the lead up to a general election next year.

Munkhbayar is senior research and policy officer at Sense about Science, with a BA in International Relations and an MSc in Security Studies. He works closely with decision-makers, world-leading researchers and community groups to raise the standard of evidence in public life. He wants to promote transparency of evidence standard across government to ensure accountability and to equip society with the right skills to scrutinise 21st century decision-making.

Tushita serves as a Policy and Campaigns Officer at Sense about Science, where she works on the upcoming Transparency of Evidence Standard campaign and is responsible for co-ordinating the annual Evidence Week event at UK Parliament. She recently completed her master’s degree in social policy research at the London School of Economics. Her previous work has focused on the role of ethics in academics interacting with marginalised communities and in news media representations of public health approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic. Tush is passionate about the accessible dissemination of social science research to the public and is driven to enable the masses to critically analyse complex policy concepts.

NB: This talk replaces the one which was originally advertised.

A week later on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, this same talk will be given by a different speaker in a Glasgow (Scotland) pub,

The power of asking for evidence – Annie Howitt (Sense About Science)

November 21 [2023] @ 8:15 pm – 10:00 pm

In a time of misinformation, purchasable blue ticks, and spurious claims to be ‘following the science’, how do we ask the right questions of information we find from social media, companies, and politicians? 61% of people think it’s important the government shows the public all the evidence used to make policy decisions. And yet, the sources of data used in policy making become more complex, modelling and big data being two key examples. But you don’t need to be an expert to ask the right questions. This talk will cover how to ask about the data behind the issues that matter to you, be that climate change or local healthcare policies. With examples of how people asking for evidence have made a real difference, we’ll show you how you can too.

About the speaker: Annie is the Communities officer at the charity Sense about Science. During her PhD researching pancreatic cancer, she realised that so much of our understanding of cancer biology and treatments is inaccessible to the people it affects the most. That’s how she found Sense about Science, which works with researchers to equip the public, policymakers and media with good questions and insights into evidence, particularly on difficult issues. Recently, Sense about Science has published What Counts? (a scoping inquiry into how well the government’s evidence for covid-19 decisions served society), guides to understanding data science and AI. It also runs Evidence Week in Parliament at Westminster and in Holyrood, bringing together policy makers, researchers and the public, and, in partnership with the journal Nature, the John Maddox Prize for courageously advancing public discourse with sound science.

This is event is free to attend, although we will be asking for donations at the end of the talk. Participants are under no obligation whatsoever to donate, however please rest assured that the money we collect doesn’t end up in anyone’s pocket – it is used to fund our overhead costs, and travel/accommodation for our speakers who come from further afield.

Accessibility: The Admiral Woods Bar now has a functioning lift which can take wheelchair users (or others who are unable to manage stairs) down to the function room. There is also a disabled toilet in the function room too. To help us accommodate you if you require to use these facilities we recommend you email us in advance: contact@glasgowskeptics.com

Venue

The Admiral Woods Bar 29 Waterloo Street
Glasgow, G2 6BZ United Kingdom + Google Map

UNESCO (Global) Media (and) Information Literacy Week 2023: a webinar on Thursday, November 16, 2023

According to their November 13, 2023 announcement, Sense about Science will be chairing a panel discussion,

UNESCO [Global] Media [and] Information Literacy week webinar

Join us online as we chair a live panel discussion on what infrastructure is needed for people to access sound evidence, find trustworthy sources, and engage in informed debate.

What societal infrastructure is needed for information literate citizens to thrive? is hosted by the International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA) to mark UNESCO [Global] Media [and] Information Literacy Week at 2pm GMT Thursday 16 November 2023 – register for free to participate in discussions.

There are more details on the International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA) event page,

Schedule (Time Zone: New York)

  • 9:00 – 9:10: Welcome
  • 9:10 – 9:15: Introduction
  • 9:15 – 10:00: Live Panel Discussion
  • 10:00 – 10:30: Live Q&A

Note: Presumably these are morning hours, i.e., 9 a.m ET.

Speakers

  • Host: Ning Zou, Chair, Information Literacy Section, IFLA|Associate Director for Student Academic Services and Learning Design at Harvard University Graduate School of Education
  • Panel Chair: David Schley, Deputy Director, Sense about Science
  • Angeline Djampou, Head, Knowledge and Publications Management Unit, UN Environment Programme 
  • TBC Deborah Jacobs,  Stichting IFLA Global Libraries (SIGL) Board of Directors 
  • Stephen Wyber,  Director of Policy and Advocacy, IFLA 

Theme and Focus

When the introduction of disposable beverage containers increased litter in the US, the response of producers was to launch a keep America beautiful campaign that placed the blame on consumers – the end users. In many countries it has taken over half a century for regulators to step in and deal with the problem of waste by, for example, prohibiting the use of free plastic bags or by making retailers take back unwanted packaging. But we still largely blame consumers for waste, despite them having little choice in practice about how goods are packaged.

Are we at risk of doing the same for consumers of information, overwhelmed by the volume of material available but not in control over what content is presented to them– by blaming poor information literacy for the spread of false information and misunderstanding?

While empowering citizens with information literacy is unquestionably good, is it enough? Or are we setting people up to fail in an attention economy where information providers surface content that maximised engagement, with no interest in whether it is accurate or useful? Is it fair to blame someone for naïvely sharing bad information when they are only fed corroborating material, or should we challenge the absence of regulation and oversight of how information is curated by social media platforms and search engines?

What infrastructure is needed for people to access sound evidence, find trustworthy sources, and genuinely engage in informed societal debate?

Join the IFLA Information Literacy Section and the School Library Section co-sponsored Global MIL Webinar and have a rich conversation with the invited panelists.

Registration is required and free.

Royal Statistical Society (RSS) workshop on developing accessible health statistics on Monday, November 20, 2023

This is the last event noted in the November 13, 2023 Sense about Science announcement,

Royal Statistical Society workshop on developing accessible health statistics

On Monday 20 November 2023, our Deputy-director David Schley will be part of a panel discussing how organisations producing health statistics across the UK can ensure their data is accessible and meaningful to the public.

This is a hybrid event at the Royal Statistical Society, run by the Official Statistics section but open to the public for a fee.

I have more details from the RSS’s event page,

Official Statistics and Health: Developing coherent and accessible health statistics: a UK perspective (Online)

Date: Monday 20 November 2023, 1.00PM – 5.30PM [GMT?]
Location: Online

Event costs:

Concessionary RSS Fellow £10
RSS CStat/GradStat £12.50
RSS Fellow £15
Non-members £20

During this afternoon of discussion, we will be exploring with our panels the approaches and challenges faced by organisations producing health related statistics across the UK to ensure the numbers and messages produced are accessible and meaningful to the public and other users.

In the first session (1-3pm), the panel will cover work across government departments and organisations to create a coherent system to produce comparable statistics across the four nations of the UK. They will touch upon the importance of presenting a coherent picture across the UK, at national and subnational levels, the data challenges, including how the definitions used can change the meaning of the statistics produced and how the public understand them.  We will hear the experiences from people working in that area to improve the coherence of our statistical system to those that used these statistics to inform policy. 

Our panel will include the head of the Office for Statistics Regulation Ed Humpherson, Lucy Vickers, Deputy Director – Statistics & Data Science at the Department for Health and Social Care, Julie Stanborough, Deputy Director for Health and Social Care Analysis at the Office for National Statistics with colleagues Michelle Waters and Heidi Wilson who work together with colleagues across the four nations on improving the UK-wide coherence on health statistics. They will be joined by William Perks (Head of health, social services and population statistics, Welsh Government), and colleagues from Scotland and Northern Ireland. We are also looking to bring into the discussion the perspectives from local authorities around the challenges of low-granularity meaningful statistics.

After a break, the second session (3.30-5.30pm) will discuss how we communicate statistics to users in a sensitive and accessible manners. The language of statistics, especially in the health context can be extremely technical and emotionally charged with words such as ‘risks’, ‘hazards’ and ‘uncertainty’. Those terms have a very specific meaning for a statistician which differs from the one the general public gives to these words. In this session, our panellists will share their experience in communicating sometimes complex concepts to a wide audience, balancing transparent and accurate reporting with accessibility.  They will share what they have tried, what worked and what did not and ideas to communicate clearly in that area, in a time where misleading information spreads fast and that mistakes in communication have the potential to damage the trust users have in the organisations producing the statistics.

The second panel will include both statistics producers (ONS engagement hub lead, and Lucy Vickers from DHSC, William Perks from Welsh Government) and the head of the Office for Statistics Regulation Ed Humpherson, individuals that champions promoting public understanding of statistics (David Schley from Sense about Science, Rhian Davies a RSS Statistics Ambassador), and charity and users groups.

Book now

Final note

Thank you to the librarians for this:

When the introduction of disposable beverage containers increased litter in the US, the response of producers was to launch a keep America beautiful campaign that placed the blame on consumers [emphasis mine] – the end users. In many countries it has taken over half a century for regulators to step in and deal with the problem of waste by, for example, prohibiting the use of free plastic bags or by making retailers take back unwanted packaging. But we still largely blame consumers for waste, despite them having little choice in practice about how goods are packaged. [[emphases mine]

Are we at risk of doing the same for consumers of information, overwhelmed by the volume of material available but not in control over what content is presented to them– by blaming poor information literacy for the spread of false information and misunderstanding? …

Hopefully, there’s something to your taste in this range of upcoming events.

October 31, 2023 data analysis and visualization workshop for science writers

Thanks to the Science Media Centre of Canada for the notice about this upcoming workshop for science writers, (from the Data Analysis and Visualization Tools for Science Writers page on eventbrite.com), Note: There is a fee of $125 (I assume this is US currency) and a limited number of discounts are available (keep reading either here or on the event page for details about the discounts),

[downloaded from https://www.eventbrite.com/e/data-analysis-and-visualization-tools-for-science-writers-tickets-692049688247]

Also from the event page,

This workshop will focus on reporting & producing data stories about science topics, highlighting free tools for analysis & visualization.

Date and time

Tuesday, October 31 · 12:30 – 2pm PDT

Location

Online

Refund Policy

Contact the organizer to request a refund.Eventbrite’s fee is nonrefundable.

About this event

1 hour 30 minutes Mobile eTicket

Science writers are used to encountering data, whether we’re reading through dense scientific papers or trying to figure out what a statistic means for our readers. But sometimes, datasets themselves can be sources for stories—and they have led to some of the most widely read science stories of the last few years, from El Pais’ visualization of coronavirus spread to ProPublica’s investigation of burning sugar cane. Datasets can help us make complex topics accessible, visualize patterns from research, or even investigate instances of wrongdoing.

A science writer interested in pursuing stories like these could find a wide variety of resources to help them get started on a data project. But the growing data journalism field can be overwhelming: you might not be sure how to pick an initial project, which online course to try, which tools to use, or whether you need to learn how to code first. (Spoiler alert: you don’t!)

This 90-minute hands-on workshop from The Open Notebook, building on the instructor’s TON article about this topic [TON = The Open Notebook], will provide a crash course in data reporting basics. It’s designed for science writers who are interested in pursuing data stories but aren’t quite sure how to get started, and for editors who are interested in working with writers on these stories.

You’ll get an introduction to all of the steps of reporting and producing a data story, from finding story ideas to editing and fact-checking. The workshop will include an interactive tutorial showcasing two common tools that you can start using immediately.

You will learn how to:

Recognize potential data stories on your beat
Search for public datasets that you can use
Use free tools for data analysis and visualization
Work with a data team or independently as a freelancer
Make your data stories accessible

The workshop will be recorded and made available to registered participants for three months following the workshop.

Instructor

Betsy Ladyzhets is an independent science, health, and data journalist focused on COVID-19 and the future of public health. She runs the COVID-19 Data Dispatch, a publication that provides news, resources, and original reporting on COVID-19 data. Recently, she was a journalism fellow at MuckRock, where she contributed to award-winning COVID-19 investigations. She also previously managed the Science & Health vertical at Stacker and volunteered at the COVID Tracking Project. Her freelance work has appeared in Science News, The Atlantic, STAT, FiveThirtyEight, MIT Technology Review, and other national publications.

Registration Fee

The registration fee is $125.

About our discounted rates: Our goal at The Open Notebook is to support the advancement of science journalists around the world. In particular, we want to ensure that the resources we provide are accessible to those who have experienced higher-than-average barriers to entry in our field. A limited number of discounted slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis to individuals who are members of communities that have historically been underrepresented in science journalism or whose economic circumstances would make the full cost of the workshops a financial strain. To use this discount, add the promo code TON_70DISCOUNT for a 70 percent discount. (The promo code box is above the workshops listing on the sign-up page.)

I found out a little more about The Open Notebook, from their About tab Mission page,

Our Mission

The Open Notebook is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is widely regarded as the leading online source of training and educational materials for journalists who cover science. We are dedicated to fostering a supportive, diverse, and inclusive global community that enables reporters and editors who cover science to learn and thrive. Through our comprehensive library of articles on the craft of science journalism and our extensive training and mentoring programs, we empower journalists at all experience levels, around the world, to tell impactful, engaging stories about science.

Why We’re Here

At no other time in human history has the meaning of what constitutes a fact—a valid piece of knowledge—been more at risk than it is today. Journalists’ ability to report stories about science clearly, accurately, and engagingly has never been more critical for public understanding of science and for a well-functioning democracy. Journalists who cover science play a crucial and demanding role in society—they must not only explain the newest advances in scientific research, but also provide critical context and analysis on issues ranging from climate change to infectious disease to artificial intelligence; shed light on the human beings behind the research; and serve as watchdogs to help ensure the continued freedom and integrity of the scientific enterprise.

To fulfill such a role takes skill. And the skills that science journalists need are endangered. Only a fraction of working science journalists are trained in formal journalism programs. And with the shrinking number of traditional staff jobs available, science journalism is fast moving toward a “gig economy” that relies on freelancers to produce work once done by staffers. One effect of that shift is that fewer journalists have the opportunity to master skills through the natural mentoring that takes place in newsrooms. In addition, science journalists who are from historically underrepresented communities face formidable barriers to entry and participation in the field. The Open Notebook is dedicated to helping journalists cultivate fundamental skills necessary for covering science and to helping foster a more inclusive community of voices covering science.

What We Do

Since The Open Notebook was founded in 2010, more than a million people from around the world have visited the site. Thousands of journalists have taken part in our courses, workshops, and mentoring programs. Below is a summary of our major programs.

There you have it.

Toronto’s ArtSci Salon hosts October 16, 2023 and October 27, 2023 events and the Fourth Annual Small File Media Festival in Vancouver (Canada) Oct. 20 – 21, 2023

An October 5, 2023 announcement (received via email) from Toronto’s ArtSci Salon lists two events coming up in October 2023,

These two Events are part of the international Leonardo LASER series
LASER Toronto is hosted by Nina Czegledy and Roberta Buiani

The Anthropocene Cookbook on October 16, 2023

[downloaded from: https://artscisalon.com/coms4208/]

From the Toronto ArtSci Salon October 5, 2023 announcement,

Oct 16 [2023], 3:30 PM [ET] 
The Anthropocene cookbook

with authors 
Zane Cerpina & Stahl Stenslie
Cerpina and Stenslie are the authors of
The Anthropocene Cookbook. How to survive in the age of catastrophes 

Join us to welcome Cerpina and Stenslie as they introduce us to their
book and discuss the future cuisine of humanity. To sustain the
soon-to-be 9 billion global population we cannot count on Mother
Earth’s resources anymore. The project explores innovative and
speculative ideas about new foods in the field of arts, design, science
& technology, rethinking eating traditions and food taboos, and
proposing new recipes for survival in times of ecological catastrophes.

To match the topic of their talk, attendees will be presented with
“anthropocene snacks” and will be encouraged to discuss food
alternatives and new networks of solidarity to fight food deserts,
waste, and unsustainable consumption.

This is a Hybrid event: our guests will join us virtually on zoom.
Join us in person at Glendon Campus, rm YH190 (the studio next to the
Glendon Theatre) for a more intimate community experience and some
anthropocene snacks. If you wish to join us on Zoom, please

register here

This event is part of a series on Emergent Practices in Communication,
featuring explorations on interspecies communication and digital
networks; land-based justice and collective care. The full program can be found here

This initiative is supported by York University’s Teaching Commons Academic Innovation Fund

Zane Cerpina is a multicultural and interdisciplinary female author,
curator, artist, and designer working with the complexity of
socio-political and environmental issues in contemporary society and in
the age of the Anthropocene. Cerpina earned her master’s degree in
design from AHO – The Oslo School of Architecture and Design and a
bachelor’s degree in Art and Technology from Aalborg University. She
resides in Oslo and is a project manager/curator at TEKS (Trondheim
Electronic Arts Centre). She is also a co-founder and editor of EE:
Experimental Emerging Art Journal. From 2015 to 2019, Cerpina was a
creative manager and editor at PNEK (Production Network for Electronic
Art, Norway).

Stahl Stenslie works as an artist, curator and researcher specializing
in experimental media art and interaction experiences. His aesthetic
focus is on art and artistic expressions that challenge ordinary ways of
perceiving the world. Through his practice he asks the questions we tend
to avoid – or where the answers lie in the shadows of existence.
Keywords of his practice are somaesthetics, unstable media,
transgression and numinousness. The technological focus in his works is
on the art of the recently possible – such as i) panhaptic
communication on Smartphones, ii) somatic and immersive soundspaces, and
iii) design of functional and lethal artguns, 3D printed in low-cost
plastic material.He has a PhD on Touch and Technologies from The School
of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. Currently he heads the R&D
department at Arts for Young Audiences Norway.

If you’re interested in the book, there’s the anthropocenecookbook.com, which has more about the book and purchase information,

The Anthropocene Cookbook is by far the most comprehensive collection of ideas about future food from the perspective of art, design, and science. It is a thought-provoking book about art, food, and eating in the Anthropocene –The Age of Man– and the age of catastrophes.

Published by The MIT Press [MIT = Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
| mitpress.mit.edu

Supported by TEKS
Trondheim Electronic Arts Centre
| www.teks.no

*Date changed* Streaming Carbon Footprint on October 27, 2023

Keep scrolling down to Date & location changed for Streaming Carbon Footprint subhead.

From the Toronto ArtSci Salon October 5, 2023 announcement,

Oct 27, [2023] 5:00-7:00 PM  [ET]
Streaming Carbon Footprint

with 
Laura U. Marks
and
David Rokeby

Room 230
The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences
222 College Street, Toronto

We are thrilled to announce this dialogue between media Theorist Laura U. Marks and Media Artist David Rokeby. Together, they will discuss a well known elephant in the room of media and digital technologies: their carbon footprint. As social media and streaming media usage increases exponentially, what can be done to mitigate their impact? are there alternatives?

This is a live event: our guests will join us in person.

if you wish to join us on Zoom instead, a link will be circulated on our website and on social media a few days before the event. The event will be recorded

Laura U. Marks works on media art and philosophy with an intercultural focus, and on small-footprint media. She programs experimental media for venues around the world. As Grant Strate University Professor, she teaches in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Her upcoming book The Fold: From Your Body to the Cosmos will be published I March 2024 by Duke University Press. 

David Rokeby is an installation artist based in Toronto, Canada. He has been creating and exhibiting since 1982. For the first part of his career he focussed on interactive pieces that directly engage the human body, or that involve artificial perception systems. In the last decade, his practice has expanded to included video, kinetic and static sculpture. His work has been performed / exhibited in shows across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.

Awards include the first BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for Interactive Art in 2000, a 2002 Governor General’s award in Visual and Media Arts and the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art 2002. He was awarded the first Petro-Canada Award for Media Arts in 1988, the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for Interactive Art (Austria) in 1991 and 1997.

I haven’t been able to dig up any information about registration but it will be added here should I stumble across any in the next few weeks. I did, however, find more information about Marks’s work and a festival in Vancouver (Canada).

Fourth Annual Small File Media Festival (October 20 -21, 2023) and the Streaming Carbon Footprint

First, let’s flip back in time to a July 27, 2021 Simon Fraser University (SFU) news release (also published as a July 27, 2021 news item on phys.org) by Tessa Perkins Deneault,

When was the last time you watched a DVD? If you’re like most people, your DVD collection has been gathering dust as you stream movies and TV from a variety of on-demand services. But have you ever considered the impact of streaming video on the environment?

School for the Contemporary Arts professor Laura Marks and engineering professor Stephen Makonin, with engineering student Alejandro Rodriguez-Silva and media scholar Radek Przedpełski, worked together for over a year to investigate the carbon footprint of streaming media supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

“Stephen and Alejandro were there to give us a reality check and to increase our engineering literacy, and Radek and I brought the critical reading to it,” says Marks. “It was really a beautiful meeting of critical media studies and engineering.”

After combing through studies on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and making their own calculations, they confirmed that streaming media (including video on demand, YouTube, video embedded in social media and websites, video conferences, video calls and games) is responsible for more than one per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. And this number is only projected to rise as video conferencing and streaming proliferate.

“One per cent doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s significant if you think that the airline industry is estimated to be 1.9 per cent,” says Marks. “ICT’s carbon footprint is growing fast, and I’m concerned that because we’re all turning our energy to other obvious carbon polluters, like fossil fuels, cars, the airline industry, people are not going to pay attention to this silent, invisible carbon polluter.”

One thing that Marks found surprising during their research is how politicized this topic is.

Their full report includes a section detailing the International Energy Association’s attack on French think tank The Shift Project after they published a report on streaming media’s carbon footprint in 2019. They found that some ICT engineers state that the carbon footprint of streaming is not a concern because data centres and networks are very efficient, while others say the fast-rising footprint is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Their report includes comparisons of the divergent figures in engineering studies in order to get a better understanding of the scope of this problem.

The No. 1 thing Marks and Makonin recommend to reduce streaming’s carbon footprint is to ensure that our electricity comes from renewable sources. At an individual level, they offer a list of recommendations to reduce energy consumption and demand for new ICT infrastructure including: stream less, watch physical media including DVDs, decrease video resolution, use audio-only mode when possible, and keep your devices longer—since production of devices is very carbon-intensive.    

Promoting small files and low resolution, Marks founded the Small File Media Festival [link leads to 2023 programme], which will present its second annual program [2021] of 5-megabyte films Aug. 10 – 20. As the organizers say, movies don’t have to be big to be binge-worthy.

Learn more about Marks’ research and the Small File Media Festival: https://www.sfu.ca/sca/projects—activities/streaming-carbon-footprint.html

And now for 2023, here’s a video promoting the upcoming fourth annual festival,

The Streaming Carbon Footprint webpage on the SFU website includes information about the final report and the latest Small File Media Festival. Although I found the Small File Media Festival website also included a link for purchasing tickets,

The Small File Media Festival returns for its fourth iteration! We are delighted to partner with The Cinematheque to present over sixty jewel-like works from across the globe. These movies are small in file size, but huge in impact: by embracing the aesthetics of compression and low resolution (glitchiness, noise, pixelation), they lay the groundwork for a new experimental film movement in the digital age. This year, six lovingly curated programs traverse brooding pixelated landscapes, textural paradises, and crystalline infinities.

TICKETS AND FESTIVAL INFO

Join us Friday, October 20 [2023] for the opening-night program followed by a drinks reception in the lobby and a dance party in the cinema, featuring music by Vancouver electronic artist SAN. We’ll announce the winner of the coveted Small-File Golden Mini Bear during Saturday’s [October 21, 2023] award ceremony! As always, the festival will stream online at small​file​.ca after the live events.

We’re most grateful to our future-forward friends at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, and SFU Contemporary Arts. Thanks to VIVO Media Arts, Cairo Video Festival, and The Hmm for generous distribution and exhibition awards, and to UKRAïNATV, a partner in small-file activism.

Cosmically healthy, community-building, and punk AF, small-file ecomedia will heal the world, one pixel at a time.

TICKETS

There we have it. And then, we didn’t

*Date & location change* for Streaming Carbon Footprint event

From an October 27, 2023 ArtSci Salon notice,

Nov 7, [2023] 5:00-7:00 PM 
Streaming Carbon Footprint

with 
Laura U. Marks
and
David Rokeby
 

Tuesday, November 7 [2023]
5:00-7:00 pm
The BMO Lab
15 King’s College Circle, room H-12
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3H7

Good luck to the organizers. It must have been nervewracking to change the date so late in the game.

2023 Nobel prizes (medicine, physics, and chemistry)

For the first time in the 15 years this blog has been around, the Nobel prizes awarded in medicine, physics, and chemistry all are in areas discussed here at one or another. As usual where people are concerned, some of these scientists had a tortuous journey to this prestigious outcome.

Medicine

Two people (Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman) were awarded the prize in medicine according to the October 2, 2023 Nobel Prize press release, Note: Links have been removed,

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet [Sweden]

has today decided to award

the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

jointly to

Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman

for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19

The discoveries by the two Nobel Laureates were critical for developing effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 during the pandemic that began in early 2020. Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times.

Vaccines before the pandemic

Vaccination stimulates the formation of an immune response to a particular pathogen. This gives the body a head start in the fight against disease in the event of a later exposure. Vaccines based on killed or weakened viruses have long been available, exemplified by the vaccines against polio, measles, and yellow fever. In 1951, Max Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing the yellow fever vaccine.

Thanks to the progress in molecular biology in recent decades, vaccines based on individual viral components, rather than whole viruses, have been developed. Parts of the viral genetic code, usually encoding proteins found on the virus surface, are used to make proteins that stimulate the formation of virus-blocking antibodies. Examples are the vaccines against the hepatitis B virus and human papillomavirus. Alternatively, parts of the viral genetic code can be moved to a harmless carrier virus, a “vector.” This method is used in vaccines against the Ebola virus. When vector vaccines are injected, the selected viral protein is produced in our cells, stimulating an immune response against the targeted virus.

Producing whole virus-, protein- and vector-based vaccines requires large-scale cell culture. This resource-intensive process limits the possibilities for rapid vaccine production in response to outbreaks and pandemics. Therefore, researchers have long attempted to develop vaccine technologies independent of cell culture, but this proved challenging.

Illustration of methods for vaccine production before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figure 1. Methods for vaccine production before the COVID-19 pandemic. © The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine. Ill. Mattias Karlén

mRNA vaccines: A promising idea

In our cells, genetic information encoded in DNA is transferred to messenger RNA (mRNA), which is used as a template for protein production. During the 1980s, efficient methods for producing mRNA without cell culture were introduced, called in vitro transcription. This decisive step accelerated the development of molecular biology applications in several fields. Ideas of using mRNA technologies for vaccine and therapeutic purposes also took off, but roadblocks lay ahead. In vitro transcribed mRNA was considered unstable and challenging to deliver, requiring the development of sophisticated carrier lipid systems to encapsulate the mRNA. Moreover, in vitro-produced mRNA gave rise to inflammatory reactions. Enthusiasm for developing the mRNA technology for clinical purposes was, therefore, initially limited.

These obstacles did not discourage the Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó, who was devoted to developing methods to use mRNA for therapy. During the early 1990s, when she was an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, she remained true to her vision of realizing mRNA as a therapeutic despite encountering difficulties in convincing research funders of the significance of her project. A new colleague of Karikó at her university was the immunologist Drew Weissman. He was interested in dendritic cells, which have important functions in immune surveillance and the activation of vaccine-induced immune responses. Spurred by new ideas, a fruitful collaboration between the two soon began, focusing on how different RNA types interact with the immune system.

The breakthrough

Karikó and Weissman noticed that dendritic cells recognize in vitro transcribed mRNA as a foreign substance, which leads to their activation and the release of inflammatory signaling molecules. They wondered why the in vitro transcribed mRNA was recognized as foreign while mRNA from mammalian cells did not give rise to the same reaction. Karikó and Weissman realized that some critical properties must distinguish the different types of mRNA.

RNA contains four bases, abbreviated A, U, G, and C, corresponding to A, T, G, and C in DNA, the letters of the genetic code. Karikó and Weissman knew that bases in RNA from mammalian cells are frequently chemically modified, while in vitro transcribed mRNA is not. They wondered if the absence of altered bases in the in vitro transcribed RNA could explain the unwanted inflammatory reaction. To investigate this, they produced different variants of mRNA, each with unique chemical alterations in their bases, which they delivered to dendritic cells. The results were striking: The inflammatory response was almost abolished when base modifications were included in the mRNA. This was a paradigm change in our understanding of how cells recognize and respond to different forms of mRNA. Karikó and Weissman immediately understood that their discovery had profound significance for using mRNA as therapy. These seminal results were published in 2005, fifteen years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illustration of the four different bases mRNA contains.
Figure 2. mRNA contains four different bases, abbreviated A, U, G, and C. The Nobel Laureates discovered that base-modified mRNA can be used to block activation of inflammatory reactions (secretion of signaling molecules) and increase protein production when mRNA is delivered to cells.  © The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine. Ill. Mattias Karlén

In further studies published in 2008 and 2010, Karikó and Weissman showed that the delivery of mRNA generated with base modifications markedly increased protein production compared to unmodified mRNA. The effect was due to the reduced activation of an enzyme that regulates protein production. Through their discoveries that base modifications both reduced inflammatory responses and increased protein production, Karikó and Weissman had eliminated critical obstacles on the way to clinical applications of mRNA.

mRNA vaccines realized their potential

Interest in mRNA technology began to pick up, and in 2010, several companies were working on developing the method. Vaccines against Zika virus and MERS-CoV were pursued; the latter is closely related to SARS-CoV-2. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, two base-modified mRNA vaccines encoding the SARS-CoV-2 surface protein were developed at record speed. Protective effects of around 95% were reported, and both vaccines were approved as early as December 2020.

The impressive flexibility and speed with which mRNA vaccines can be developed pave the way for using the new platform also for vaccines against other infectious diseases. In the future, the technology may also be used to deliver therapeutic proteins and treat some cancer types.

Several other vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, based on different methodologies, were also rapidly introduced, and together, more than 13 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given globally. The vaccines have saved millions of lives and prevented severe disease in many more, allowing societies to open and return to normal conditions. Through their fundamental discoveries of the importance of base modifications in mRNA, this year’s Nobel laureates critically contributed to this transformative development during one of the biggest health crises of our time.

Read more about this year’s prize

Scientific background: Discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19

Katalin Karikó was born in 1955 in Szolnok, Hungary. She received her PhD from Szeged’s University in 1982 and performed postdoctoral research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Szeged until 1985. She then conducted postdoctoral research at Temple University, Philadelphia, and the University of Health Science, Bethesda. In 1989, she was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she remained until 2013. After that, she became vice president and later senior vice president at BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals. Since 2021, she has been a Professor at Szeged University and an Adjunct Professor at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Drew Weissman was born in 1959 in Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. He received his MD, PhD degrees from Boston University in 1987. He did his clinical training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School and postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health. In 1997, Weissman established his research group at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research and Director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovations.

The University of Pennsylvania October 2, 2023 news release is a very interesting announcement (more about why it’s interesting afterwards), Note: Links have been removed,

The University of Pennsylvania messenger RNA pioneers whose years of scientific partnership unlocked understanding of how to modify mRNA to make it an effective therapeutic—enabling a platform used to rapidly develop lifesaving vaccines amid the global COVID-19 pandemic—have been named winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. They become the 28th and 29th Nobel laureates affiliated with Penn, and join nine previous Nobel laureates with ties to the University of Pennsylvania who have won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Nearly three years after the rollout of mRNA vaccines across the world, Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research in the Perelman School of Medicine, are recipients of the prize announced this morning by the Nobel Assembly in Solna, Sweden.

After a chance meeting in the late 1990s while photocopying research papers, Karikó and Weissman began investigating mRNA as a potential therapeutic. In 2005, they published a key discovery: mRNA could be altered and delivered effectively into the body to activate the body’s protective immune system. The mRNA-based vaccines elicited a robust immune response, including high levels of antibodies that attack a specific infectious disease that has not previously been encountered. Unlike other vaccines, a live or attenuated virus is not injected or required at any point.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the true value of the pair’s lab work was revealed in the most timely of ways, as companies worked to quickly develop and deploy vaccines to protect people from the virus. Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna utilized Karikó and Weissman’s technology to build their highly effective vaccines to protect against severe illness and death from the virus. In the United States alone, mRNA vaccines make up more than 655 million total doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines that have been administered since they became available in December 2020.

Editor’s Note: The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines both use licensed University of Pennsylvania technology. As a result of these licensing relationships, Penn, Karikó and Weissman have received and may continue to receive significant financial benefits in the future based on the sale of these products. BioNTech provides funding for Weissman’s research into the development of additional infectious disease vaccines.

Science can be brutal

Now for the interesting bit: it’s in my March 5, 2021 posting (mRNA, COVID-19 vaccines, treating genetic diseases before birth, and the scientist who started it all),

Before messenger RNA was a multibillion-dollar idea, it was a scientific backwater. And for the Hungarian-born scientist behind a key mRNA discovery, it was a career dead-end.

Katalin Karikó spent the 1990s collecting rejections. Her work, attempting to harness the power of mRNA to fight disease, was too far-fetched for government grants, corporate funding, and even support from her own colleagues.

“Every night I was working: grant, grant, grant,” Karikó remembered, referring to her efforts to obtain funding. “And it came back always no, no, no.”

By 1995, after six years on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, Karikó got demoted. [emphasis mine] She had been on the path to full professorship, but with no money coming in to support her work on mRNA, her bosses saw no point in pressing on.

She was back to the lower rungs of the scientific academy.

“Usually, at that point, people just say goodbye and leave because it’s so horrible,” Karikó said.

There’s no opportune time for demotion, but 1995 had already been uncommonly difficult. Karikó had recently endured a cancer scare, and her husband was stuck in Hungary sorting out a visa issue. Now the work to which she’d devoted countless hours was slipping through her fingers.

In time, those better experiments came together. After a decade of trial and error, Karikó and her longtime collaborator at Penn — Drew Weissman [emphasis mine], an immunologist with a medical degree and Ph.D. from Boston University — discovered a remedy for mRNA’s Achilles’ heel.

You can get the whole story from my March 5, 2021 posting, scroll down to the “mRNA—it’s in the details, plus, the loneliness of pioneer researchers, a demotion, and squabbles” subhead. If you are very curious about mRNA and the rough and tumble of the world of science, there’s my August 20, 2021 posting “Getting erased from the mRNA/COVID-19 story” where Ian MacLachlan is featured as a researcher who got erased and where Karikó credits his work.

‘Rowing Mom Wins Nobel’ (credit: rowing website Row 2K)

Karikó’s daughter is a two-time gold medal Olympic athlete as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) radio programme, As It Happens, notes in an interview with the daughter (Susan Francia). From an October 4, 2023 As It Happens article (with embedded audio programme excerpt) by Sheena Goodyear,

Olympic gold medallist Susan Francia is coming to terms with the fact that she’s no longer the most famous person in her family.

That’s because the retired U.S. rower’s mother, Katalin Karikó, just won a Nobel Prize in Medicine. The biochemist was awarded alongside her colleague, vaccine researcher Drew Weissman, for their groundbreaking work that led to the development of COVID-19 vaccines. 

“Now I’m like, ‘Shoot! All right, I’ve got to work harder,'” Francia said with a laugh during an interview with As It Happens host Nil Köksal. 

But in all seriousness, Francia says she’s immensely proud of her mother’s accomplishments. In fact, it was Karikó’s fierce dedication to science that inspired Francia to win Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012.

“Sport is a lot like science in that, you know, you have a passion for something and you just go and you train, attain your goal, whether it be making this discovery that you truly believe in, or for me, it was trying to be the best in the world,” Francia said.

“It’s a grind and, honestly, I love that grind. And my mother did too.”

… one of her [Karikó] favourite headlines so far comes from a little blurb on the rowing website Row 2K: “Rowing Mom Wins Nobel.”

Nowadays, scientists are trying to harness the power of mRNA to fight cancer, malaria, influenza and rabies. But when Karikó first began her work, it was a fringe concept. For decades, she toiled in relative obscurity, struggling to secure funding for her research.

“That’s also that same passion that I took into my rowing,” Francia said.

But even as Karikó struggled to make a name for herself, she says her own mother, Zsuzsanna, always believed she would earn a Nobel Prize one day.

Every year, as the Nobel Prize announcement approached, she would tell Karikó she’d be watching for her name. 

“I was laughing [and saying] that, ‘Mom, I am not getting anything,'” she said. 

But her mother, who died a few years ago, ultimately proved correct. 

Congratulations to both Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman and thank you both for persisting!

Physics

This prize is for physics at the attoscale.

Aaron W. Harrison (Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Austin College, Texas, US) attempts an explanation of an attosecond in his October 3, 2023 essay (in English “What is an attosecond? A physical chemist explains the tiny time scale behind Nobel Prize-winning research” and in French “Nobel de physique : qu’est-ce qu’une attoseconde?”) for The Conversation, Note: Links have been removed,

“Atto” is the scientific notation prefix that represents 10-18, which is a decimal point followed by 17 zeroes and a 1. So a flash of light lasting an attosecond, or 0.000000000000000001 of a second, is an extremely short pulse of light.

In fact, there are approximately as many attoseconds in one second as there are seconds in the age of the universe.

Previously, scientists could study the motion of heavier and slower-moving atomic nuclei with femtosecond (10-15) light pulses. One thousand attoseconds are in 1 femtosecond. But researchers couldn’t see movement on the electron scale until they could generate attosecond light pulses – electrons move too fast for scientists to parse exactly what they are up to at the femtosecond level.

Harrison does a very good job of explaining something that requires a leap of imagination. He also explains why scientists engage in attosecond research. h/t October 4, 2023 news item on phys.org

Amelle Zaïr (Imperial College London) offers a more technical explanation in her October 4, 2023 essay about the 2023 prize winners for The Conversation. h/t October 4, 2023 news item on phys.org

Main event

Here’s the October 3, 2023 Nobel Prize press release, Note: A link has been removed,

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2023 to

Pierre Agostini
The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA

Ferenc Krausz
Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany

Anne L’Huillier
Lund University, Sweden

“for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter”

Experiments with light capture the shortest of moments

The three Nobel Laureates in Physics 2023 are being recognised for their experiments, which have given humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules. Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier have demonstrated a way to create extremely short pulses of light that can be used to measure the rapid processes in which electrons move or change energy.

Fast-moving events flow into each other when perceived by humans, just like a film that consists of still images is perceived as continual movement. If we want to investigate really brief events, we need special technology. In the world of electrons, changes occur in a few tenths of an attosecond – an attosecond is so short that there are as many in one second as there have been seconds since the birth of the universe.

The laureates’ experiments have produced pulses of light so short that they are measured in attoseconds, thus demonstrating that these pulses can be used to provide images of processes inside atoms and molecules.

In 1987, Anne L’Huillier discovered that many different overtones of light arose when she transmitted infrared laser light through a noble gas. Each overtone is a light wave with a given number of cycles for each cycle in the laser light. They are caused by the laser light interacting with atoms in the gas; it gives some electrons extra energy that is then emitted as light. Anne L’Huillier has continued to explore this phenomenon, laying the ground for subsequent breakthroughs.

In 2001, Pierre Agostini succeeded in producing and investigating a series of consecutive light pulses, in which each pulse lasted just 250 attoseconds. At the same time, Ferenc Krausz was working with another type of experiment, one that made it possible to isolate a single light pulse that lasted 650 attoseconds.

The laureates’ contributions have enabled the investigation of processes that are so rapid they were previously impossible to follow.

“We can now open the door to the world of electrons. Attosecond physics gives us the opportunity to understand mechanisms that are governed by electrons. The next step will be utilising them,” says Eva Olsson, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

There are potential applications in many different areas. In electronics, for example, it is important to understand and control how electrons behave in a material. Attosecond pulses can also be used to identify different molecules, such as in medical diagnostics.

Read more about this year’s prize

Popular science background: Electrons in pulses of light (pdf)
Scientific background: “For experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter” (pdf)

Pierre Agostini. PhD 1968 from Aix-Marseille University, France. Professor at The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA.

Ferenc Krausz, born 1962 in Mór, Hungary. PhD 1991 from Vienna University of Technology, Austria. Director at Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching and Professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany.

Anne L’Huillier, born 1958 in Paris, France. PhD 1986 from University Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris, France. Professor at Lund University, Sweden.

A Canadian connection?

An October 3, 2023 CBC online news item from the Associated Press reveals a Canadian connection of sorts ,

Three scientists have won the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for giving us the first split-second glimpse into the superfast world of spinning electrons, a field that could one day lead to better electronics or disease diagnoses.

The award went to French-Swedish physicist Anne L’Huillier, French scientist Pierre Agostini and Hungarian-born Ferenc Krausz for their work with the tiny part of each atom that races around the centre, and that is fundamental to virtually everything: chemistry, physics, our bodies and our gadgets.

Electrons move around so fast that they have been out of reach of human efforts to isolate them. But by looking at the tiniest fraction of a second possible, scientists now have a “blurry” glimpse of them, and that opens up whole new sciences, experts said.

“The electrons are very fast, and the electrons are really the workforce in everywhere,” Nobel Committee member Mats Larsson said. “Once you can control and understand electrons, you have taken a very big step forward.”

L’Huillier is the fifth woman to receive a Nobel in Physics.

L’Huillier was teaching basic engineering physics to about 100 undergraduates at Lund when she got the call that she had won, but her phone was on silent and she didn’t pick up. She checked it during a break and called the Nobel Committee.

Then she went back to teaching.

Agostini, an emeritus professor at Ohio State University, was in Paris and could not be reached by the Nobel Committee before it announced his win to the world

Here’s the Canadian connection (from the October 3, 2023 CBC online news item),

Krausz, of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, told reporters that he was bewildered.

“I have been trying to figure out since 11 a.m. whether I’m in reality or it’s just a long dream,” the 61-year-old said.

Last year, Krausz and L’Huillier won the prestigious Wolf prize in physics for their work, sharing it with University of Ottawa scientist Paul Corkum [emphasis mine]. Nobel prizes are limited to only three winners and Krausz said it was a shame that it could not include Corkum.

Corkum was key to how the split-second laser flashes could be measured [emphasis mine], which was crucial, Krausz said.

Congratulations to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier and a bow to Paul Corkum!

For those who are curious. a ‘Paul Corkum’ search should bring up a few postings on this blog but I missed this piece of news, a May 4, 2023 University of Ottawa news release about Corkum and the 2022 Wolf Prize, which he shared with Krausz and L’Huillier,

Chemistry

There was a little drama where this prize was concerned, It was announced too early according to an October 4, 2023 news item on phys.org and, again, in another October 4, 2023 news item on phys.org (from the Oct. 4, 2023 news item by Karl Ritter for the Associated Press),

Oops! Nobel chemistry winners are announced early in a rare slip-up

The most prestigious and secretive prize in science ran headfirst into the digital era Wednesday when Swedish media got an emailed press release revealing the winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry and the news prematurely went public.

Here’s the fully sanctioned October 4, 2023 Nobel Prize press release, Note: A link has been removed,

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023 to

Moungi G. Bawendi
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA

Louis E. Brus
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Alexei I. Ekimov
Nanocrystals Technology Inc., New York, NY, USA

“for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots”

They planted an important seed for nanotechnology

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023 rewards the discovery and development of quantum dots, nanoparticles so tiny that their size determines their properties. These smallest components of nanotechnology now spread their light from televisions and LED lamps, and can also guide surgeons when they remove tumour tissue, among many other things.

Everyone who studies chemistry learns that an element’s properties are governed by how many electrons it has. However, when matter shrinks to nano-dimensions quantum phenomena arise; these are governed by the size of the matter. The Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2023 have succeeded in producing particles so small that their properties are determined by quantum phenomena. The particles, which are called quantum dots, are now of great importance in nanotechnology.

“Quantum dots have many fascinating and unusual properties. Importantly, they have different colours depending on their size,” says Johan Åqvist, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

Physicists had long known that in theory size-dependent quantum effects could arise in nanoparticles, but at that time it was almost impossible to sculpt in nanodimensions. Therefore, few people believed that this knowledge would be put to practical use.

However, in the early 1980s, Alexei Ekimov succeeded in creating size-dependent quantum effects in coloured glass. The colour came from nanoparticles of copper chloride and Ekimov demonstrated that the particle size affected the colour of the glass via quantum effects.

A few years later, Louis Brus was the first scientist in the world to prove size-dependent quantum effects in particles floating freely in a fluid.

In 1993, Moungi Bawendi revolutionised the chemical production of quantum dots, resulting in almost perfect particles. This high quality was necessary for them to be utilised in applications.

Quantum dots now illuminate computer monitors and television screens based on QLED technology. They also add nuance to the light of some LED lamps, and biochemists and doctors use them to map biological tissue.

Quantum dots are thus bringing the greatest benefit to humankind. Researchers believe that in the future they could contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and encrypted quantum communication – so we have just started exploring the potential of these tiny particles.

Read more about this year’s prize

Popular science background: They added colour to nanotechnology (pdf)
Scientific background: Quantum dots – seeds of nanoscience (pdf)

Moungi G. Bawendi, born 1961 in Paris, France. PhD 1988 from University of Chicago, IL, USA. Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA.

Louis E. Brus, born 1943 in Cleveland, OH, USA. PhD 1969 from Columbia University, New York, NY, USA. Professor at Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

Alexei I. Ekimov, born 1945 in the former USSR. PhD 1974 from Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute, Saint Petersburg, Russia. Formerly Chief Scientist at Nanocrystals Technology Inc., New York, NY, USA.


The most recent ‘quantum dot’ (a particular type of nanoparticle) story here is a January 5, 2023 posting, “Can I have a beer with those carbon quantum dots?

Proving yet again that scientists can have a bumpy trip to a Nobel prize, an October 4, 2023 news item on phys.org describes how one of the winners flunked his first undergraduate chemistry test, Note: Links have been removed,

Talk about bouncing back. MIT professor Moungi Bawendi is a co-winner of this year’s Nobel chemistry prize for helping develop “quantum dots”—nanoparticles that are now found in next generation TV screens and help illuminate tumors within the body.

But as an undergraduate, he flunked his very first chemistry exam, recalling that the experience nearly “destroyed” him.

The 62-year-old of Tunisian and French heritage excelled at science throughout high school, without ever having to break a sweat.

But when he arrived at Harvard University as an undergraduate in the late 1970s, he was in for a rude awakening.

You can find more about the winners and quantum dots in an October 4, 2023 news item on Nanowerk and in Dr. Andrew Maynard’s (Professor of Advanced Technology Transitions, Arizona State University) October 4, 2023 essay for The Conversation (h/t October 4, 2023 news item on phys.org), Note: Links have been removed,

This year’s prize recognizes Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov for the discovery and development of quantum dots. For many years, these precisely constructed nanometer-sized particles – just a few hundred thousandths the width of a human hair in diameter – were the darlings of nanotechnology pitches and presentations. As a researcher and adviser on nanotechnology [emphasis mine], I’ve [Dr. Andrew Maynard] even used them myself when talking with developers, policymakers, advocacy groups and others about the promise and perils of the technology.

The origins of nanotechnology predate Bawendi, Brus and Ekimov’s work on quantum dots – the physicist Richard Feynman speculated on what could be possible through nanoscale engineering as early as 1959, and engineers like Erik Drexler were speculating about the possibilities of atomically precise manufacturing in the the 1980s. However, this year’s trio of Nobel laureates were part of the earliest wave of modern nanotechnology where researchers began putting breakthroughs in material science to practical use.

Quantum dots brilliantly fluoresce: They absorb one color of light and reemit it nearly instantaneously as another color. A vial of quantum dots, when illuminated with broad spectrum light, shines with a single vivid color. What makes them special, though, is that their color is determined by how large or small they are. Make them small and you get an intense blue. Make them larger, though still nanoscale, and the color shifts to red.

The wavelength of light a quantum dot emits depends on its size. Maysinger, Ji, Hutter, Cooper, CC BY

There’s also an October 4, 2023 overview article by Tekla S. Perry and Margo Anderson for the IEEE Spectrum about the magazine’s almost twenty-five years of reporting on quantum dots

Red blue and green dots mass in rows, with some dots moving away

Image credit: Brandon Palacio/IEEE Spectrum

Your Guide to the Newest Nobel Prize: Quantum Dots

What you need to know—and what we’ve reported—about this year’s Chemistry award

It’s not a long article and it has a heavy focus on the IEEEE’s (Institute of Electrical and Electtronics Engineers) the road quantum dots have taken to become applications and being commercialized.

Congratulations to Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus, and Alexei Ekimov!

Study on skepticism towards such scientific innovations as nanotechnology, AI, and human gene editing

A September 26, 2023 CORDIS* press release announces a new study, Note: Links have been removed,

A new study looks at political beliefs, religion and spirituality to identify what makes people sceptical [sic] about new scientific developments.

Scientists supported by the EU-funded PSYDISC project carried out a study to gain a better understanding of people’s scepticism [sic] towards scientific innovations. They found that people who identify as spiritual are highly sceptical [sic] about advances in three scientific fields.

Science is advancing at a rapid pace, with novel technologies having the potential to eradicate disease and bring about many other advancements in medicine and areas such as food production and climate protection. Despite the benefits of such developments, concerns about their side effects have given rise to heated debates worldwide. To discover why some people are so sceptical [sic] about certain scientific innovations, the researchers surveyed 614 people from the Netherlands about their opinions on human genome editing, nanotechnology and AI. Their findings were published in the journal ‘Science Communication’.

Not really a matter of religion or politics

The team looked beyond the influence of political and religious beliefs, also examining the role played by spirituality. Growing rapidly in western Europe, spirituality – also known as New Age or post-Christian spirituality – is a range of beliefs and practices that reflect a dismissive attitude towards religious and scientific sources of authority. People who identify as spiritual emphasise [emphasize?] personal experience as a source of knowledge as opposed to trust in scientific methods. “As such, spirituality can be a driving force behind scepticism [sic] towards certain domains of science and technology,” reports a news item posted on the website of PSYDISC project coordinator University of Amsterdam.

According to study co-author Dr Bastiaan Rutjens: “Political ideology and religiosity are usually not the primary factors contributing to scepticism [sic] about specific topics such as nanotechnology and AI.” He goes on to explain: “Other aspects of a person’s worldview and beliefs, like spirituality, moral concerns and general trust in science, play a larger role.”

The study revealed clear evidence that individuals who identify as spiritual are more sceptical [sic] in the three areas investigated, namely AI, nanotechnology and human genome editing. “Generally, spiritual individuals have less trust in science,” observes Dr Rutjens.

Unsurprisingly, religious people were also found to be rather sceptical [sic] about human genome editing and, to a lesser degree, about nanotechnology. People who are averse to tampering with nature also expressed scepticism [sic] about genetic manipulation. However, political ideology was shown to have no influence on people’s scepticism [sic] towards scientific advancements.

A person’s religion, spirituality and the way they view nature are what appear to influence their attitude towards scientific innovations. “It is therefore important to make a distinction between religious and spiritual beliefs if we want to understand why people reject certain forms of science,” remarks Dr Rutjens.

The PSYDISC (Developing and Testing the Psychological Distance to Science Model) study highlights the need for a more in-depth look at the world views that shape these attitudes, especially in western Europe, where spirituality is on the rise and religion on the decline.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the study,

Who Is Skeptical About Scientific Innovation? Examining Worldview Predictors of Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology, and Human Gene Editing Attitudes by Bojana Većkalov, Aart van Stekelenburg, Frenk van Harreveld, and Bastiaan T. Rutjens. Science Communication Volume 45, Issue DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/10755470231184203 First published online: July 19, 2023

This paper is open access.

You can find Project II: PSYDISC here. It is a project that’s being funded by the ERC (European Research Council) and is administered by the PsiSci Lab which is ’embedded’ in the University of Amsterdam’s faculty of Social and Behavioural sciences.

*According to its Wikipedia entry, CORDIS, “The Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) is the European Commission’s primary public repository and portal to disseminate information on all European Union (EU) funded research projects and their results in the broadest sense.” Note: Links have been removed.