100xCiencia.4: SOMMa reaching out to society

  • SOMMa members met in Donostia/San Sebastián on 22-23 November to appeal to families and citizens as a whole
  • Dozens of talks and interactive activities took place at the Tabakalera Culture Centre
  • 18 speakers and 13 stands from SOMMa members gathered during this event for the whole family

During the past 22nd and 23rd of November took place the outreach event of the SOMM alliance during the year 2019: 100xCiencia.4. Citizens and scientists met at the Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture in Donostia/San Sebastián, where numerous representatives of SOMMa members could enjoy the charming premises and delightful landscape around the location while they contributed their science and enthusiasm to the event.

During those two days the objective was to reach out for citizens and provide them with experiences and talks that would allow them to grasp and see first-hand what research is doing for them. The motto “What is science doing for you?” became the banner under which researchers of SOMMa members appealed to citizens. The edition of this year, the first in which the citizenry was explicitly addressed, was co-organised by SOMMa and the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL).

Landscape outside Tabakalera: see the sea not far behind, Mt. Urgull to the left, and the city centre around…
Landscape outside Tabakalera: see the sea not far behind, Mt. Urgull to the left, and the city centre around…

What met the visiting citizens during 100xCiencia.4?

Despite the rainy weather, hundreds of people attended during the two days after the inauguration by Cristina Uriarte, Basque Counsellor of Culture, Manuel Carreiras, director at BCBL, and SOMMa director Luis Serrano. 100xCiencia.4 boasted up to 18 different speakers, paired with 13 stands covering a variety of disciplines.

Visitors did not only have chance to hear about what the scientists had to say during their talks: they could also hold in their own hands and interact with many of the developments and devices presented. The ludic format of the event allowed families and people of all ages, senior and child, to enjoy and learn about what research is for, and even how it can contribute to everyday life. Interactive science for the whole family was put at the centre of the stage.

One of the first talks was given by José Antonio Lozano, Scientific Director of the Basque Centre for Applied Mathematics
One of the first talks was given by José Antonio Lozano, Scientific Director of the Basque Centre for Applied Mathematics

Many disciplines were represented: nanotechnology, chemistry, bioengineering, plant biotechnology… and of course computer science, biomedicine and bioengineering, neuro- and language science, physics, environmental sciences, mathematics, physics and engineering… and even more!

One could find about projects of international cooperation, therapies against either very rare or very prevalent diseases, various simulations and virtual reality approaches to research and different human conditions, developments in agronomy and livestock technology, … the use of plants for food or for water decontamination, nanotechnology for nanomedicine, and so on and so forth. Very popular among young visitors were the virtual reality activities , pinpointing the importance of the interactive element to attract citizens, as well as technology.

Examples of companies and technology transfer services were also presented: the tangible example of how research translates into products that the society can grasp –and leverage-. Science, and the companies stemming from it, can become part of the drivers of a thriving economy. With technology advancing at an ever-increasing pace, what new advances will the progress of science bring next?

Adding to the cocktail, aspects related to the application of mathematical simulation and data analysis to many aspects of life and industry were treated. Closing the circle, the outstanding success of a physics divulgation YouTube channel, the computational simulation of a full human body, and even rocket science were address. The latter, regardless of the cliché, was explained in a pleasant and very enjoyable fashion. All this, and more, was found during 100xCiencia.4.

Impressions from the event

Among the participants and public, the reception of the event was very positive. For instance, the possibility to see a developed product (such as a new device, sensor or treatment), a prototype of a new idea or an illustrative demonstration of a concept (such as in a simulation) was acclaimed by the visitors. Every interactive activity also was object of success and interest, again with the emphasis put on those younger citizens… perhaps some of them future scientists?

Snapshot of visitors and stands at 100xCiencia.4, with some of the visitors about to take a... vertiginous experience.
Snapshot of visitors and stands at 100xCiencia.4, with some of the visitors about to take a… vertiginous experience.

As the event also appealed to children, the finding of the right formula or way to communicate to them constituted another challenge for participants: presenting scientific ideas using games, puzzles, and adapting complex explanations by means of metaphors adapted to children. To the delight of the public, this was an infrequent opportunity to interact with the scientists, their equipment, and ask them questions that perhaps had not ever found the right place or moment to be asked.

The provision of sensory experiences was recurrent among the stands. Children were repeatedly among the most enthusiastic participants, sometimes puzzling researchers with their ideas and leaving them thinking afterwards. Scientists themselves did not miss the chance to learn and exchange ideas with colleagues from disparate fields of knowledge.

Pictures of several stands of 100xCiencia.4. Clockwise: IFAE, CNIO and CNB.
Pictures of several stands of 100xCiencia.4. Clockwise: IFAE, CNIO and CNB.

Among the institutional representatives, words of praise were also uttered: speaking in name of the co-organisers at BCBL, Manuel Carreiras, scientific director of BCBL declared that “all disciplines of science impact directly on our society. This event has been an excellent opportunity to approach science and society, of which we are very satisfied”.

For his part, Luis Serrano, declared that “as president of SOMMa I am impressed by the quality of the stands offered to the public, and by the dedication of the members of the different institutions that participated of them: it has to be thanked and acknowledged. The public enjoyed it. Moreover, the short talks of research centres and units were spectacular, and showed not only the quality of the science done by SOMMa members, but also highlighted that science can translate into competitive businesses and companies providing jobs and solutions to societal problems. Really impressive.”

The upcoming 100xCiencia.5

Some of the participants were at the end of 100xCiencia.4 already looking forward to the next edition, wondering whether it will again appeal to the citizen: lots of ideas may already have sprung into life in their heads, in wait for 100xCiencia.5. The format, said several participants, “gives chance to perform a fundamental exercise on the part of research institutions: rephrasing their message for society to understand better”.

As said some other participants, 100xCiencia is an opportunity for members of SOMMa institutions, “to get to know better each other, and to consolidate a stronger sense of community”. One of them also added that events such as this one are “really useful to generate interest of youngsters in science. It will help feed the ranks of future generations of researchers, and show society that science really is useful”. The next edition, that will be taking place in Santiago de Compostela (Galicia), will be co-organised with the Galician Institute of High Energy Physics. Participants and organisers are already looking forward to it, and to the future 100xCiencia.5! When and how…? More details to come!

Image credits

Landscape around Tabakalera picture was downloaded and modified from Wikipedia, and licensed via an Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license

All other pictures taken by SOMMa personnel.