Science in society

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

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 [...]

Science in society: caring for our future in turbulent times

Over the past two decades, concerns about the relation between science and society at European and Member State levels have gone through a number of shifts. Previously, science enjoyed a large degree of freedom to pursue curiosity-driven inquiries without facing the scrutiny of democratic accountability. Then, a new social contract pushed the idea that scientific production should be demonstrating that it is beneficial for the public good. Read more [...]

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 [...]