Science in society

How scientific choices need to be made, bearing in mind the effect it could have to society

In praise of incompetence

Incompetence is probably the first of our competencies! Our globalised and technological society generates ‘systemic incompetence.’ These days, we interact with the outside world through a wide set of technological interfaces and tools which we cannot escape and whose detailed modus operandi is largely unknown to us, such as, for example, the search engine Google and the social network Facebook. Read more [...]

Scientists’ dreams: a society supporting science and respecting its autonomy

Science is closely linked with society. And yet, despite its close interdependency with society, science demands autonomy – the right to organise its discovery processes according to its own rules and some freedom to select research topics in accordance with its own agenda. Since society now widely recognises the economic and political importance of science, it has come under scrutiny. Its demands for autonomy are now contested. Read more [...]

Cultural literacy for today’s Europe

Ever wondered whether it would be possible to look at societal questions in a literary way? The field of cultural literacy—known as literary and cultural studies (LCS)—does exactly that. Today, LCS research has changed from an exclusive focus on literary works to studying such phenomena as disability, multilingualism, nostalgia or texting. Read more [...]

Genius endangered: intelligence is not just cartesian

Archimedes, Leonardo Da Vinci and Galileo, now almost make the unanimity as being three geniuses of our past. But during their lifetime, they were misunderstood, maligned, ridiculed and condemned. Being a genius hinges on a few things: a refusal of accepted wisdom, and the desire to offer better. They want to put the present on the way to a better future. Does this type of character still exist today? Read more [...]

The German Science Debate: innovation with democratic participation

Science and technology are always intertwined with the economic and political system. Therefore it needs to be submitted to fundamental democratic procedures. For the upcoming federal elections in September 2013, the German Association of Science Writers TELI has launched a Science Debate . On its internet platform , every citizen is able to share a topic of concern. These will subsequently be discussed with experts. Read more [...]

The GM debate in Europe: stalled for good?

This article peers into the history of technology that brought genetically modified organisms before looking into current European attitudes towards GMO food products. It looks at the various stakeholders responses over the years, which have led to the current status quo over approval of new GMO varieties in Europe. And now, the debate appears to be stalled, as the GM products currently in the pipeline are progressing through the system at a snail's pace . Read more [...]

Energy security: Poland goes for nuclear power, in a backdrop of EU green energy policies

The Polish Governments is attempting to enhance its energy security by giving the green light to its first nuclear power plant. It may seem ironic that this move happens as the EU intensifies its policy support towards greener energy solutions, while some countries such as Germany have stepped back from nuclear power all together. Read more [...]

EU-US trade talks: technical standards no longer a trade barrier?

Science often plays a crucial role in commerce, through technical product standards, often used as trade barriers. These non-tariff barriers are imposed by importing countries around the world to restrict the entry of certain goods into their markets, officially, as a means to protect consumers and the environment, among other objectives, but, more often than not, as a means to protect internal trade. This could one day be no longer the case, as forthcoming EU-US trade talks aim at reaching global standards, making science an instrument to promote greater trade and consumer protection. And not acting as a barrier. Read more [...]

Digging for answers: getting to the bottom of the Tohoku earthquake

On the 11th March 2011 the Tohoku earthquake struck off the north-eastern coast of the Japanese island of Honshu. An area of seafloor larger than Greater Tokyo moved eastwards by 5 metres and some parts of the fault moved by up to 50 metres. A total of nearly 19,000 people were killed, mainly as a result of the following tsunami. But the event came as a huge surprise to scientists the world over “This was a truly extraordinary earthquake and very unfortunately seismologists, including myself, did not expect this to happen,” said Japanese scientist Dr. Kiyoshi Suyehiro. Read more [...]

Europe sets the tone for long-term nuclear waste management strategies

Nuclear energy is at the forefront of many scientific minds these days. The Fukushima crisis shined a spotlight on possible dangers associated with the locations of nuclear plants, as well as the logistical and human health nightmares that can occur with meltdowns. But these aren’t the only concerns about nuclear power on which scientists are focusing. Nuclear waste management is also actively perplexing engineers, policy-leaders, and decision-makers, as the concern over how to best dispose of High Level Waste (HLW) continues to grow. Read more [...]