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Innovative discovery centre tackles gap between science and society

The opening of the Universeum in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 18 June seems to address the recent claim by Swedish Research Minister Thomas Östros that the relationship between science and society still needs considerable attention in Sweden. Speaking at the conference on the role ...

The opening of the Universeum in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 18 June seems to address the recent claim by Swedish Research Minister Thomas Östros that the relationship between science and society still needs considerable attention in Sweden. Speaking at the conference on the role of the candidate countries in EU research, Mr Östros said that 'We [Sweden] have a lot to learn from other countries' on the science and society issue. Universeum, a science discovery centre aims specifically however at stimulating interest in science and technology. The Universeum's activities will use a scientific approach to knowledge that aims to create an understanding of how people can know that things are true or real. The centre is intended to boost the number of students studying science, and ultimately to increase the number of science and technology graduates entering the world of business. In the centre, which spans 10,000 square metres exhibits range from stingrays to humanoids, galaxies, arrow-poison frogs, moon buggies and anacondas. The centre is aiming to tackle controversial issues, such as which research should be carried out, who has the right to decide on the direction of research and how the results can be used in the future. With credibility in mind, the Universeum plans to present not only accepted research, but also unresolved issues. This, it is hoped, will inspire further contemplation. The centre also plans to further public understanding of science by becoming involved in research examining that very issue. The designers of the Universeum also intend for it to be an environmental role model. Solar energy is captured using solar cells that generate electricity for demonstration purposes, and solar panels that heat water. Natural daylight is used to light the building and the heat from the sun warms incoming air using a double glazed outer wall. A biological system for cleaning and recirculating the aquarium water reduces water consumption, and rainwater is used to irrigate the rain forest. Even the toilets are urine-separating, with the urine being taken away for agricultural use. The Universeum is an example of successful cooperation between academia, industry and politicians. It was founded by Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg University, the Gothenburg Regional Federation of Local Authorities and the West Sweden Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The project cost a total of 364 million Kronor (roughly 39.2 million euro). One third of the financing came from public funding, one third from Swedish business and the remainder from research institutes, foundations and other funds.

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