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Euroscience Open Forum 2014

Final Report Summary - ESOF 2014 (Euroscience Open Forum 2014)

Executive Summary:
EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) is the largest interdisciplinary science and science policy conference in Europe. The conference is a biannual event held in changing European cities since 2004. The Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science was the host for the sixth edition of ESOF at the Carlsberg City District in Copenhagen the 21-26 June 2014.
ESOF is the most important forum for an open dialogue between the scientific society, organisations, politicians, citizens and companies about shaping the future role of society and science in solving global challenges. More than 4.000 delegates from 88 countries participated in ESOF2014.
The headline for ESOF2014 was Science Building Bridges. In this respect, the ambition for ESOF2014 was to build bridge between science and all corners of society; between the private and public sector; between science and media; between Europe and the rest of the world. This is in line with the vision of raising public awareness of science and to strengthen the effective ‘bridges’ between science and society that are synonymous with EuroScience Open Forum. The ambition characterised the scientific programme where eight societal challenges united the delegates in debate across different scientific disciplines. In total the ESOF2014 programme included 120 sessions with 586 speakers, including 15 distinguished key note and plenary speakers in which five were Nobel Laureates. The sessions gave way for high quality dialogues.

Placing ESOF2014 and the Science in the City Festival in the old brewery grounds of the Carlsberg City District, with its rich industrial and scientific heritage, was a very unique conference venue that allowed for the two events to take place in close harmony.
At this ESOF edition great attention was given to young researchers' career possibilities. First the Career Programme provided early stage researchers with the opportunity to enter into dialogue with professional career advisers from different European countries about their options for developing their scientific careers. Furthermore the ESOF2014 Career Programme consisted of three career oriented events: ‘Picnic with the Prof.’, ‘Career Fair’ and ‘Poster Sessions’
There has been a tireless effort from sponsors and partners to support the creation of ESOF2014. The support to ESOF2014, from both Danish and European science environments, has contributed to many interesting suggestions of how to create an inspiring programme with many themes that enhanced dialogue across scientific disciplines. Particularly the support of the European Commission was a major contributor to the success of the conference.
The ambitious science festival Science in the City was held alongside the conference. At the Festival you could get your head 3D-scanned for the benefit of the development of tomorrows advanced hearing aids, learn about beer brewing, and children could learn about health and medicine at the teddy bear hospital. The activities contributed to a great public interest which provided citizens with the opportunity to get an insight into the world of science, and not least, science’s impact on citizens’ everyday life. Approx. 38,000 visitors attended the science festival.
That so many delegates and festival visitors attended ESOF2014 was particularly due to the huge media interest that had been generated thanks to the impressive media and marketing effort. In total 631 media representatives from 47 countries attended ESOF2014, and 1,267 media hits, both before, during and after, were generated.
Indeed ESOF2014 promoted dialogue, supported a spirit of collaboration and joint efforts, and stimulated and inspired public interest, excitement and debate about science and innovation across scientific domains, fields, institutions and geographies in Europe and the rest of the world.

Project Context and Objectives:
ESOF is a pan-European meeting staged to provide an interdisciplinary forum for open debate and discussion on the role and future of scientific research, education and innovation. ESOF is the only of its kind which makes it the most important forum for open and free discussions and contributes to the goal of a tighter integration of science, innovation communication and public engagement.

The process of preparing ESOF2014 began in January 2011 where the proposal was submitted to Euroscience. In March 2011 Copenhagen was announced as the next host for ESOF2014. The ESOF2014 Secretariat was formed within the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
The ESOF2014 Secretariat was complemented by five committees; the Local Organising Committee, the Steering Committee, the Programme Committee, the Career Committee, and the International Media and Marketing Committee in its efforts to achieve the objectives. In the process of developing and preparing ESOF2014, the Secretariat operated with the following objectives:

To emphasize public debate, collective reasoning and reflection as intrinsic to the democratic community.
To promote awareness of European science and engage the scientific community in Europe and globally.
To honour the expectations of the various ESOF delegates by offering state-of-art sessions and inspiring conference formats.
To increase the level of integration between the different target audiences - scientists, politicians, journalists, students, business representatives and the general public.

Particularly a huge media and marketing effort ensured that the objectives were reached. A Media and Marketing strategy was developed and was carried out under the guidance of the International Media and Marketing Committee. The establishment of Media partnerships (Politiken, Nature Publishing Group, Naturejobs, ScienceNordic/Videnskab.dk) ensured both national and international visibility. A professional media presence during ESOF2014 was ensured with a full service media center. Post ESOF2014, the media and marketing team collected post-event information, which included number of delegates, media presence and coverage for evaluation of the media and marketing effort. The media and marketing effort generated a huge media interest which amongst others included 1,267 media hits nationally and globally in print, radio, TV, and on the web. In addition ESOF20214 was covered 273 articles.

The Programme was developed with the support of the Programme Committee and the Career Committee. A lot of work was put into getting a relatively even gender balance, a diverse spread in nationalities and session topics. The ESOF2014 programme was approved by the Steering Committee in October 2013. Throughout the process, the gender balance was taken into account. Female keynote speakers represented 35% of the keynote speakers. Out of the 569 session speakers 39 % were women. Hence the programme was very close to fulfill the target of 40 % female session speakers. After the selection and invitation process followed the work with preparation of lectures and the production of ESOF2014. The plenary and keynote addresses were livestreamed during the conference, and can be found on https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDGFDSxZNirQZSWQa99xpZg.

The different tracks and the many themes represented at ESOF2014 contributed to very diverse sessions. In this way ESOF2014 contributed to increased knowledge about a wide range of global issues. Thus ESOF2014 promoted an open dialogue between 4,072 delegates with 88 different nationalities about shaping the future and the role of society and science in solving global challenges.

Through initiatives such as ‘Picnic with the Prof.’ students or young scientists were provided the opportunity to have lunch with an expert within their field of interest. 'Picnic with the Prof' was a unique opportunity to broaden early-stage career researchers' knowledge about career possibilities as well as networking possibilities.

The Science in the City Festival engaged many national and international partners and ensured wide ranging activities that attracted a broad audience. In total the Festival included 200 events organised by 84 different institutions, organisations and individuals from more than 15 different nations. One primary target group was primary school students, as the aim was to provide students with a unique opportunity to internalise knowledge outside the classroom, open their eyes to the possibilities of innovation and science and to gather inspiration for future studies and career possibilities.

ESOF2014 provided a unique opportunity for researchers to exchange research ideas across scientific disciplines and levels, hence, delegates came to discuss the future of Europe, to exchange ideas and to network. Indeed collaboration and the involvement of multiple actors were key characteristic of ESOF2014.

Project Results:
ESOF2014 contributed to a truly inclusive vision of science by stimulating the further integration of scientific and technological endeavours in Europe through the encouragement of the scientific community, business representatives, policymakers, journalists, students and citizens to participate and share their visions.

The Presentations and discussions of scientific and technological breakthroughs and perspectives within all scientific disciplines in Europe as well as the stimulation of policies to support scientific research ensured lively debate at ESOF2014. The sessions were supported with presentations by policymakers e.g. the European Commissioner for Research Innovation & Science and the Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science. Their support to ESOF2014 will without doubt leave a policy footprint to the debates and common understandings at ESOF2014.

Science and technology are cross-border activities and a common understanding of the covered topics is crucial to bring about the stated objectives. Therefore it is of utmost importance that the discussions on the future of European research and innovation can be strengthen in a global context and take place at a European level. Due to ESOF being the only European Forum that exists to discuss the future of European research and innovation, ESOF is an integral part of ensuring knowledge sharing and the science of tomorrow.

Communicating science and involving stakeholders is required in order to consolidate and justify the growth of investments in science, technology and education in Europe. In times of financial austerity and great societal challenges it is essential to articulate and promote the best arguments and most innovative thinking in favour of supporting science and technology. Hence it is important that support is collected among all parties and stakeholders in society by establishing closer ties to the business sector and international research institutions. Bringing science to deliver on the solutions needed for addressing major societal challenges means that dialogue, interaction and mutual responsiveness between the different stakeholders in society are more vital than ever.

One of the overall aims of ESOF was to promote dialogue on the role of science and technology in society and public policy. For ESOF2014 it was from the beginning very important to include upper-secondary students actively in the Programme to underline the importance of young people’s participation in democratic debates. ESOF Future Academy had a strong impact to get the younger generation to reflect upon science. Introducing young students to the scientific world was yet another example on bridge-building.

The S & T results of ESOF2014 are clear:
ESOF2014 broadened the vision of a genuine knowledge society.
ESOF2014 included citizens in a proactive way.
ESOF2014 consolidated the European efforts to rely on science, innovation and education as the source of future prosperity, curiosity and creativity.

Indeed, the overarching result of ESOF2014 was the interest from delegates to cooperate together in reaching common solutions to fight global challenges despite of different academic backgrounds in which science can influence both the economy and humanity.

Potential Impact:
The vision of ESOF2014 was to reinforce the societal dimension of European research, i.e. recognizing that upstream citizen participation is intrinsic to the support of science in society and to appreciate the benefits of science for the economy and quality of life.

The inclusive vision of science was present in Copenhagen. In essence the greatest impact of ESOF2014 was that the many debate and discussions contributed to find solutions to global challenges. Dialogues were held at all levels in society, i.e. across scientific disciplines, across different age groups, and across civil society. The huge interest from the various target groups shows a substantial interest in the interdisciplinary spirit of ESOF.

One of the core objectives of ESOF2014 was to enhance social trust in science as an integral part of the development of European and global science. Hence ESOF2014 explored features of Responsible Research and Innovation in order to develop a European model for more developed ties between science and society. Research activities need to be justified and shaped in accordance with public norms and values. Albeit, a huge priority was given to attract the general public and make it part of ESOF2014.

Focusing on citizens was an important aspect of ESOF204, as it is acknowledged that citizens have an increasing stake in science, technology and innovation. Engaging multiple actors in the innovation process contributes to the responsible research agenda. In this light ESOF2014 provided an explorative platform for future responsible scientific research.

The ESOF2014 programme allowed participants to be part of a general discussion of the status and future of European research and innovation, hence, the conference contributed to increased understanding of the European Research Area, as well as increased awareness of interdisciplinary and challenge-based research. The different programme elements stimulated discussions arising from both the scientific frontier and major societal challenges. ESOF2014 emphasised the need for improved coordination between the different programme tracks and themes based on the rationale that science should not ‘talk’ to policy, business or the public, but there should be a real opportunity for a two-way-communication, i.e. the theme for ESOF2014; Science Building Bridges. That the scientific programme was organized around challenges instead of scientific disciplines enabled participants to reflect on what science can do for society, and what society can do for the promotion of science.

One major priority was to strengthen research training and education, making the programme as attractive as possible for the younger generation of researchers and students, which is of huge benefit for the future development of science and technology in providing solutions to grand societal challenges. It is highly acknowledged that the future is dependent on knowledge and the ability to translate knowledge into competitive and innovative products, industries and services. Hence, it is important to attract and nurture talent and knowledge that can meet the global competition. Therefore ESOF2014 paid special attention to attracting the younger generation via the Science in the City Programme, the career programme, the ESOF Future Academy, ESOF student travel grants, and the European Student Parliament. The different programmes, initiatives and grant opportunities ensured commitment to participate in Europe’s largest scientific forum to discuss global challenges.

It is with great contentment that so many delegates with different backgrounds attended ESOF2014 and debated the future of science. In this light, ESOF2014 enhanced trust and created co-ownership through the participation and engagement of scientists, citizens, students, businesses, and media, which is a necessary precondition for the continuous success of the European science system.

The broad number of dissemination activities helped raise European awareness on topics and stimulated discussions and network that provided input to future European instruments, including the Horizon 2020 framework as well as other future European instruments. The main dissemination activities included two websites, one for ESOF2014 (esof2014.org) and one for the Science in the City Festival (scienceinthecity.dk) flyers, press releases, videos, media briefings, articles published in the popular press, posters and TV clips.

Scientific knowledge contributes to wiping out epidemics, curing genetic diseases, raising life expectancy and driving the new green economy. Defining research agendas and articulating visions are important for the societal development, which ESOF has a huge stake in. ESOF2014 provided a space for debating, highlighting and disseminating relevant research agendas as well as exchanging experiences and expectations among citizens and scientists.

The support from the European Commission to ESOF2014 contributed to the future role of science and innovation in Europe. Amongst others, the support contributed to effective networking events, information-sharing, top quality sessions and a professional secretariat that ensured sufficient implementation of all activities. The support was crucial in achieving this impact.

ESOF2014 in Copenhagen signaled inclusiveness, effectiveness and social robustness. Building on the energetic tradition of engagement and corporatism which the Danish science system is based on, ESOF2014 fostered a deep and sustainable relationship between research (science), innovation (economy) and society (humanity), as interaction and involvement across scientific disciplines and societal sectors were at the center at this year ESOF.

It is the hope that the positive experiences from ESOF2014 will be used broader in the European scientific society as well as internationally to evaluate how science, citizens and society can be integrated closer in the future. Innovation and common solutions to global societal challenges demands dissemination, engagement and joint efforts and visions.

List of Websites:

esof2014.org and scienceinthecity.dk.