Science in society

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

Suspicion-laden paralysis over new nanotechnology labelling and register

Nanotechologies are the perfect case study to identify lobbying forces at work in the regulatory process in Brussels. Compulsory labelling or the implementation of a register for products containing nanotech components have been at the centre of the debate spreading over an inordinately long time. But such decisions will only come at the end of a protracted debate between the European Commission, industry, consumer representatives and environment protection organisations. In the end, evidence-base and the precautionary principle may not be the base for political decisions at the EU level. Read more [...]

Science dilemma: between public trust and social relevance

The positive perception of the public towards science is dictated by its altruistic pursuit of the common good—unlike politics and economics. However, to demonstrate its societal utility, science must point to compliance with expectations from economy and politics. Mastering the interplay between science, politics and economics is a delicate balancing act. And it is one of the major challenges in the way science portrays itself to the public. Particularly in the context where science has increasingly tied this self-representation to economic performance and made its complex processes appear trivial to garner public acceptance. Read more [...]

Trust in science and scientists is not eroding in Europe

Trust is one of those things that happen between people and between people and institutions that only gets noticed when it is in danger of being eroded. So what is the state of trust in science and scientists across Europe? There is little evidence of erosion of trust in science. One might even argue that the public’s relation to science and scientists is entering a new phase: no longer one of trust, but one of public confidence. Read more [...]

Charlie Hebdo massacre: intellectuals in the line of fire

Imagine that you have been sentenced to death by a self-righteous group because of your ideas. This could happen to any of you. As a researcher, imagine that you have been unveiling some fascinating counter-intuitive views on what has been the life of prophet Mohamed in ancient times. Or you could have been doing sociological studies of how well integrated and active second generation Muslim women are in Western society. Or any other scientific work that goes against the views of some ultra-minority of extremists. What happened yesterday, 7th January 2015, in Paris is only one step removed from such scenario. Read more [...]

Is astrophysics ready to draw a lesson from Thomas Kuhn?

Strong debates arise as scientific certainty is being questioned. Is the theory on the standard solar system undergoing changes as convergent possibilities are being questioned. Now, Pierre-Marie Robitaille, a chemist and professor of radiology from the University of Ohio, claims that the sun is not gaseous but may consist of liquid metallic hydrogen – a paradigm-shattering attack on the standard solar model that has been established for almost a century now. The problem is that evaluating Robitaille’s arguments requires expertise in very different fields – thermodynamics, astrophysics, for the sun, and condensed matter physics, for the liquid metallic hydrogen. Who has such expertise? Read more [...]

Ebola preparedness starts with dispelling fear

In an attempt to dispel any fear of the unknown surrounding ebola, EuroScientist analyse the many facets of the current outbreak based on the opinion of a broad range of experts. Above all, we look at whether European countries are sufficiently prepared to make adequate policy decisions that will help end this outbreak and prevent future ones. Read more [...]

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How can we trust scientific publishers with our work if they won’t play fair?

I am angry. Very, very angry. Personally I have never liked how scientific publishers charge us to read the research that we produce, and that we review for them free of charge. But that is another debate for another day. What I really hate is how they abuse this power to stifle debate in the name of their business interests. This is now going to dramatically affect the quality of a paper into which I poured a huge amount of effort – a critique of the (lack of) evidence for striped nanoparticles. Read more [...]

New design, unprecedented EU-level research activism and RRI – coming up in September at EuroScientist

Dear Reader, We hope the summer gave you time for reflection and that you had an opportunity to disconnect and unplug for a while. Welcome to this newly redesigned version of EuroScientist! We are looking forward to an exciting few months ahead. Already, there is an early indication that scientists' protest movements are being prepared in several countries around Europe in the coming weeks. . . Read more [...]

Handling uncertainties and risks in society requires all actors to cooperate

Uncertainty is ubiquitous, and an inherent feature of scientific research. Scientists are therefore used to dealing with uncertainty. Those making decisions in society are much less comfortable with uncertainty since they need to be accountable to a public, who is often averse to the unknown. Things become even more complex when uncertain is associated with risks faced by society. This leads to question how modern societies can come to reasonable decisions, norms, regulations and measures to deal with ambiguity, uncertainty and risk. Read more [...]

Have we reached the twilight of the fundamental science era?

History reveals a succession of many dawns and twilights, in different facets of human activity. Looking at the past, we can date and understand the reasons for the birth of science, specifically fundamental science. However, we do not know precisely when its twilight will take place. Nevertheless, clues of the advent of such twilight are already in the air. This article presents the underlying rationale suggesting that we are now past the golden age of pure science, and how we need to accommodate our research to this new era. Read more [...]