100xCiencia.3: Science and society working together for the future

Severo Ochoa - María de Maeztu alliance (SOMMa)
  • 100xciencia.3: Bridging science and society was a success, gathering numerous scientific institutions, scientists, journalists and politicians
  • The event featured the Nobel Prize for Chemistry Robert Huber, as well as debates on the science–society relationship and talks on citizen engagement
  • Representatives of five major political parties agreed on the implementation of measures to cut through red tape and to improve the science and innovation system

During the event, on November the 15th, representatives from the members of SOMMa met for the 100xCiencia.3 meeting. The alliance, encompassing 48 members, joined participants from other institutions, businesses and industry. This edition, the third since the creation of 100xCiencia, and the first since the foundation of SOMMa in October 2017, focused on the importance of the participation of society in science. The meeting was co-organized by SOMMa itself and Madrid’s CNIO, who hosted the event in its premises.

If you  could not attend but, you still would like to have a taste of what went on during the day, read on. You will find a panoramic albeit concise overview, as well as a direct link to one of the round tables, in case you would like to give it a look.

 

100xCiencia: opening

The opening of 100xCiencia.3 kick-started with the welcome by María Blasco, director of the CNIO, together with the president of SOMMa, Luis Serrano. Words of welcome were followed by an illustration about the CNIO and its activities, with an emphasis on its initiatives in the field of science engagement and education.

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Group picture of the participants in 100xCiencia.3 at the entrance of the CNIO, in Madrid.

After the words of María Blasco, Luis Serrano presented the alliance, explaining about its members, the foundation of the alliance and its objectives. Serrano highlighted the importance of an increased visibility of science and research, of a more appropriate science policy and the associated regulations, and of the exchange of knowledge.

Serrano further stressed that there are initiatives that would lead to improvements of the situation of science in Spain, and that are not linked to any budget increases. These initiatives could be implemented in a short time, if political will is present, something that SOMMa would support.

Rafael Rodrigo, the Spanish Secretary General for the Coordination of Science Policy spoke next. Acknowledging the relevance of some of the demands of SOMMa, he reminded that an objective of the Severo Ochoa programme is the recognition and consolidation of world class Spanish research. Rodrigo added that an objective of the government is to stabilize and improve the management of the research system. He said, the time has come to develop the Law of Science, whose full implementation has been lagging behind since its approval, back in the year 2011.

According to further of his words, there is also a long way to go as far as science literacy in Spain is concerned. The same is true for the fostering of a deeper interest in science in our society. Concerning that, several projects aiming to close that gap would be presented during the day.

 

100xCiencia.3: the day

The notable Robert Huber, 1988 Nobel Prize of Chemistry for the determination of the structure of a photosynthetic reaction centre, took up the lead of the next part. Huber shared his experiences and insights with his talk "The century of vision: Protein structures for drug research". Sometimes taken for granted, his words could not have stressed enough the key importance of technology to allow research and its output to explode in recent decades.

During the coffee break, there was chance to interact with Huber at a closer distance. In this more casual setting, some of the concerns of researchers were brought forth, connecting with the necessity of political measures to support the sustainability of Spanish science. Nonetheless, the existent excellent Spanish research offered reasons for optimism if adequate support to research is given, as reflected Huber himself in an interview later during the day.

Following this keynote lecture, three round tables took place during the day, as well as a generous selection of presentations about projects in science education and citizen engagement. Altogether, a pick of initiatives making research closer and more understandable, displaying its value, and in some cases even leading to published tangible discoveries. Many of them, initiatives with an accent on the appealing to the youth. You can take a look to the final programme (in Spanish) to see the full list.

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Nayra Rodríguez-Eugenio, of the IAC, presenting project PETER, where students can explore the skies by themselves.

The three round tables, each with a distinct flavour, involved different subjects and stakeholders orbiting around science and its interaction with deeply intertwined external aspects and actors: science and the media, science policy, and the scientific empowerment of society.

One round table led by notorious journalists and editors, noticeably stressed that journalism and science have not identical objectives, even if some of them are overlapping. The mission of journalism, it was reminded, is to inform about newsworthy events, rather than only to make science advances visible. This often includes science indeed, but it requires scientists to bear in mind, when addressing journalists, that not only scientific relevance, but also social relevance of a story matters.

A welcome piece of news came from another of the tables, with the presence of politicians of the PSOE, PP, Podemos, Ciudadanos and PdCat political parties. After the unfolding of the conversation, a seemingly unanimous agreement on several issues facing science was apparent. In this infrequent but appreciated display of political consensus, the present representatives of these parties agreed on the relevance of the demands of SOMMa in favour of research.

Such was the extent of the agreement, that the present representatives affirmed that solving the bureaucratic issues facing Spanish science could be a matter of weeks. The inconsistent VAT inspection criteria applied to research institutions seemed also straightforward to address. Thus, seemingly, specific measures would arise in the immediate future. These measures would have the added benefit of requiring of actions with a potentially neutral economic impact on Spanish State coffers.

Read the article on this round table by the journalist and moderator, Nuño Domínguez (for Materia - El País), right here. Watch the streamed round table directly here.

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Discussion in the round table treating public engagement, governance paradigms and the scientific empowerment of citizens.

The end of the day came with the final round table about the scientific empowerment of society. In this final dialogue, the concern was raised that society in the wide sense might be addressing global problems in a far too fragmentary way. The necessary transformation of the R+D+i system for the tackling of the challenges ahead requires not only of the deepening into the transdisciplinarity of research, but also the favouring of the participation of agents outside the academia. Moreover, the exchanges made possible by this could play a key part into addressing the philosophical and ethical challenges associated to the accelerated deployment of new technologies into our society.

 

Conclusion:

While the good news regarding political action are warmly welcome, the interplay of science, society at large and the political institutions needs to continue and get stronger. To this regard, meetings and fora as 100xCiencia.3 favouring this dialogue between the many involved actors are a positive step. Such events help to create opportunities for even more constructive changes to come. Come and join us next year in the following 100xCiencia.4, and do not hesitate: contribute to the conversation!

 

Picture credits:

All pictures used are taken by SOMMa, CRG or CNIO staff on-site.

 

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