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European mobility of young people and scientists in scientific culture context

Final Report Summary - MEYPS SC2 (European Mobility of Young People and Scientists in Scientific Culture Context)

Communicating science and technology to the public has become an essential enterprise for research universities, government agencies, science museums, and other non-profit scientific organisations and corporations. Europe, governments and the scientific community are keen to improve the engagement of the general public with science promoting scientific understanding across society. The scientific community believes that a lack of knowledge about science and technology is a major obstacle to the development of the society. Another commonly held view is that lack of science literacy is a major factor in discouraging pupils and students from choosing science studies and then science or technology careers.

In this context, a wide range of institutions in Europe initiated science communication programmes for the public since they believe that increased knowledge of organisation's role in advancing research improve the institution's reputation. Finally, many public and science technology communication programmes, especially those conducted by government laboratories and universities, are grounded in the principle of the public's right to know.

The aim of these programmes is the participation of the public in a mature debate about the issues that affect science and society, improving public confidence and directing research. Science events are organised all over Europe leading to an increasingly popular way of reaching large and broad public audiences. Their aims are to excite the public about the wonder of science and technology, to harbour this interest to provoke curiosity about scientific progress and to help the public to relate science to their lives. Recent years have seen the focus of promoting science activities shift from encouraging public understanding of science to engagement with science. This led to a shift from deficit approach assuming widespread ignorance about scientific issues to a dialogue based approach.

The aim of MEYPS SC2 is to contribute to the diffusion of the scientific culture into the society and to promote science and scientific careers near the youth. To estimate the impact of that kind of project is extremely difficult since the influence of the actions developed, necessarily during a short time, on decisions that will be taken by young people in a future not necessarily near is not predictable. Furthermore, it is impossible to isolate the impact of the actions undertaken during the project from all the effects, positive or negative, coming from the entire society during the lifetime of young people.

Therefore, only a continuous and coherent effort on science communication, for a long period, can put science into the centre of society priorities and expect to win the challenge of creating in Europe a science based economy. The researchers work is in the heart of such a strategy, even when scientific mediators are implicated into the communication with the public. Despite there is a general agreement with these statements, little is effectively done to help researchers to invest their know-how and creativity in the field of science communication without putting their scientific career in danger.

Consistent with the analysis above, we recommend:
- to take into account the actions of science communication for the evaluation of the researchers career and consider them as one of the missions of the researchers;
- to recognise the role of science communication into the scientific training of the students and researchers;
- to include the valorisation of scientific communication actions into the dissemination plan of the financed projects could stimulate the implication of new communicators;
- to make the deliverables describing the actions accessible to the scientific community could be a simple way to reach such a goal;
- to promote the implication of cities authorities to ensure the continuity of actions developed by the universities;
- to recognise the role of university researchers as science makers and therefore communicators of the growing science;
- to promote projects conjugating science with humanities to reduce the gap of scientific culture of the society;
- to promote projects based in the dissemination of inquiry based learning strategy, especially for primary school teachers training;
- to encourage the dissemination of scientific culture via channels adapted to the public (for example, to touch the youth, paper documents and newspapers are almost useless).