Can Science Define our Identity?

Philosophers and social scientists have been hampered by inability to define what is meant by “identity”. This is because they have been unable to clarify the term “sameness” on which the definition depends. As a result, specialists in the humanities have taken very different approaches to understanding “identity”. This has resulted in widespread confusion, even chaos, in its application. Science is now able to determine precisely what is meant by “sameness” in the individual and in the group. It can, therefore, define identity objectively and succinctly at these levels. The article asks why there appears to be reluctance to accept the new paradigm.

A gender scholar’s visit to ESOF 2018: she came, she saw, she ranted

In this theory-informed auto-ethnographic account, I relate my experience of participating in the EuroScience Open Forum Conference 2018 (ESOF). Gender equality was certainly on the agenda at ESOF, however, I argue that the manner in which gender equality was addressed at the conference is not only problematic but potentially counter-productive to the intended purpose of promoting women in research careers. If we keep 1) essentialising a presumed lack of confidence to women, 2) omitting men’s role in the reproduction of gender hierarchies in research from equality discussions, and 3) excluding gender scholars’ expertise from gender equality debates, I fear that women’s equal participation in academic research and leadership will remain a distant prospect in the future still.

How implicit bias can undermine academic meritocracy

The League of European Research Universities, LERU, has just published a paper pertaining to gender bias in academia. In this opinion piece, Jadranka Gvozdanovic, professor of Slavic studies and rector’s envoy for equal opportunities at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, who is also chair of LERU’s thematic group on gender and Katrien Maes, deputy-secretary-general of LERU, share their opinion on the much needed measures to counter gender bias in research institutions.

Holding on to lies! Unlocking the cognitive mechanism behind misinformation

Five years ago, the World Economic Forum declared that the spread of misinformation through social media was one of the greatest global risks to our future and prosperity. At that time, the future scale of the threat was still unclear, even to media experts. However, for anybody with the slightest doubt about how rapidly social networks are changing news consumption and its effects, last year was eye-opening and overwhelming. Misinformation and fake news have influenced every major voting process and strengthened science-denial movements — consider how ubiquitous anti-vaccine and climate change scepticism propaganda is. But what are the consequences and the remedies to this? On the 29th of June, this and other questions are the subject of discussion in the ‘Science journalism in a post-truth world’ session of the 4th European Conference for Science Journalists (ECSJ2017).

Are blockchain applications guided by adequate social values?

At their simplest, blockchains are just lists of transactions – ledger books – that are recorded in a transparent and decentralised way. Currencies such as Bitcoin are the best-known application of the technology. However, other applications are emerging far beyond the financial sector. In this stimulating opinion piece, Philip Boucher, policy analyst at the European Parliament’s Scientific Foresight Unit explains the opportunities and challenges that such an emerging technology offers. The biggest question is: are we ready to give up traditional financial and governmental control in favour of decentralised blockchain applications harbouring greater transparency? Some of the answers may be found in an event organised by the Scientific Foresight Unit of the European Parliament event on the 11th May 2017.

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Involving researchers in teachers’ training

A pragmatic solution to associate citizens more closely with research is to develop training programmes associating researchers with teachers. This is exactly what the Maison pour la Science en Alsace initiative has done in France. In this opinion piece, its director Mélodie Faury explains the benefits of such an approach in getting teachers first-hand experience of what research really is about.

Innovation has changed the meaning of rehabilitation

This year we celebrate the 10th annoversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. We now observe new issues arising that no-one could have ever anticipated 10 years ago, which are currently not dealt with by the Convention. The potential for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities is such that now we can enhance our capabilities beyond those of people without disabilities.