Science Reverse Café: Post-truth vs. Science engagement – Sparks project


The Sparks project, dedicated to raising awareness, familiarizing and engaging European citizens with the concept and practice of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), recently organized, in Brussels, a Reversed Science Café (RSC) entitled “Post-truth vs. Science engagement”.

A Reversed Science Café is a discussion event centred on various ethical and societal topics linked to examples of research and innovation. The dialogue is initiated by experts asking questions and listening to answers from the audience. Together with a moderator, they work in small groups to develop advice on how to make research and innovation more responsible.

The café concept is focused on encouraging new communication approaches between science stakeholders. This goes in line with the objectives of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) of reflecting and rethinking innovation, and of inventing new formats to hold conversations between citizens and scientists and between policy-makers and education professionals. All in all, to contribute to a more appealing way of approaching different aspects of science.

Different questions were posed during the “Post-truth vs. Science engagement” science café. From “How much is research taken into account when political decisions are being made?” to “How to use speculative design to create a physical object that will help us deal with fake news?”. Participants, in different small groups, were asked to discuss these topics.

“How important are the joint efforts at the educational area )(critical thinking) and at the media area (the digital literacy) to combat fake news? Who should be involved and what kind of institutions should feel responsible?”

I joined one of the groups, the assigned expert of which was Michael Boni, Member of the European Parliament and former Minister of Labour and Social policy, in Poland. In the group, an assigned moderator, from the Sparks project, helped us break down the question to debate over. This was “How important are the joint effects at the educational area (critical thinking) and at the media area (the digital thinking) to combat fake science? Who should be involved and what kind of institutions should feel responsible?”. After quite a fruitful discussion, we were asked to choose and jot down a number of key ideas or outcomes that answered the previous question. The chosen ones were:

1/ Rewarding interactions to break the silos;

2/ Encouraging the process of “learning how to learn” and improving Continuous Education;

3/ Inviting citizens to join the scientific process;

4/ Increasing democratic, social, scientific, media and political literacy. Taking into account individual responsibility and consider a broader learning ecosystem;

5/ Increasing resources to track producers of “fake news” as well as the multipliers of that information.

Once we had discussed and written down these ideas, we were asked to move around and join another of the several discussion groups that were part of the event. This proved quite helpful in order to get an overview of the discussions taking place at the same time. However, there was not enough time to go through each of the six discussion groups.

Finally, we were asked to hang up on the venue walls the results and conclusions stemming from all event discussions and to vote on the ones which seemed more helpful, in order to finalize by sharing some overall conclusions. All in all, it was a very good opportunity to exchange ideas and information about the different subjects that concern science, research, communication and innovation.

Article written by: Marina Jiménez Iglesias, European Schoolnet.

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