Sparks Forum

Thank you very much for invitation for today’s event. From my point of view – it is the follow up of our debate during the Reversed Science Cafe in January. I want to highlight some point. 

FIRSTLY – now, we meet at a very special momentum.

Two days ago the European Commission announced the MFF for post 2020 period. If I can say: this is the first time, in which the proposed expenditures from the common European budget for science and research – Horizon Europe, for innovation, for Erasmus Plus, for innovative solutions at the digital area –  are the visible priorities!!!! The budget is bigger of just about 40%!!! In addition – there is the special Digital Europe Programme with 9,2 bln Euro for AI development, for HPC networks development and building the European SuperComputers. Some projects addressed to the security, defense, cybersecurity will be financed by European financial sources – and will develop cooperation between the research and industries. So, there are many new opportunities…

What is especially important – is to keep this solution and strongly convince the Member States that innovation in the broad sense is the fundamental backbone for European future development and competitive advantages. And that it is crucial to complement the tools for development achieved thanks to the cohesion policies and agricultural programmes, for which budgets were lowered – to strengthen the growth of innovation.

SECONDLY, in addition, the innovation requires two measures:

  • the support for all kinds of innovators – numerous young creative minds to shape the future; it is crucial to base the innovative society on the open-minded society,
  • the societal understanding, the common awareness of the significance of the innovation and science development key for all generations and people of all kinds of professions.

What does it really mean?

It needs citizens to be ready and willing to uptake innovative products and services. It needs a clear model of science engagement, which is crucial for the innovation system. It needs a new societal environment for research development. It leads to a new significance of citizens’ science. The citizens – in this view – should be treated as co-designers in research and innovation, not only consumers.

So, there are many new challenges ahead of us…..

THIRDLY, we know that we live in a special times with special characteristic: illiberal democracy is fighting against the liberal democracy and fundamental values, populist emotions and narratives using fake news and fake science are attacking the open minded societies and critical thinking patterns, politics and public policies very often are based not on the evidence and knowledge, but on prejudices and stereotypes. The real science is undermined by the “science-like” based on emotion-biased propaganda. It is a war! Key for our democratic future!

It is clear that we need to find proper responses to these threats and dangers. We have discussed those concerns and problems in January.

FOURTHLY, there are clear recommendations after our January debate. They concern five areas:

  • how to deal with social media in the era of unlimited Internet opportunities and at the same time – many threats ( bright and dark side of the digital revolution),
  • how to communicate science –  publicly,
  • what kind of literacies are needed to create a new relationship between science and society,
  • how to develop citizens’ engagement in science,
  • how to tackle the problem of emotions in research.

It was highlighted that one of the key issue for making social media more useful in the deployment of the real science is to establish conditions for accountability of platforms providers for the content present at those platforms.

It requires a consideration of a new model: the diversity algorithms – to ensure that social media users are provided with diverse viewpoints after engaging with news, information and data online. As a complementary solution it would be important to implement science engagement duty, which means the need to have a system where citizens are called up and obliged to participate in science engagement, like a jury duty.

It was clearly expressed that the skills of researchers and scientist to communicate science have to be improved. So, trainings and incentives for researchers  to engage with the public – are very needed. The key issue is the focus on teaching critical thinking and source evaluation in school curricula, and on providing incentives for the lifelong learning.

It was emphasised that for the digital literacy development in the broad sense – a shared responsibility among individuals-citizens, scientists, consumers, public institutions, policymakers, politicians is really needed. This is the only way to support the work for identifying producers of fake news, fake science data and properly define their role as producers, receivers, and multipliers – very often at the same time.

On the other hand, the digital literacy development should be complemented by an increased democratic, social, scientific, media and political literacy – addressed both to children and adults. The ecosystem of formal and informal learning is needed with the purpose: “learning how to learn”.

It was also underlined how important is the definition of public engagement. It is clear that public engagement is a process. One of the recommendations recognised was the problem of how to understand the public – not regarding them as a single homogeneous mass, but as a diverse set of audiences. It also requires a collaboration among professionals and partners, but not only via media, but also in the real world, real communities, with real interactions.

It was strongly stressed – that emotions in science should be managed by trainings for scientists, using collective intelligence at that area. Additionally, it should be politically clear that we need to invest in people: all partners of scientific processes and interactions.

FIFTHLY, I think that recommendations from our January meeting presented above  are very useful to continue the debate on the key topic: how to build the new relationship between science and citizens. It is one of the crucial leverages for the modern science development supported by public engagement.

What is essential for this development?

If I could indicate key words – I would say two: PARTICIPATION and TRUST.

SIXTHLY, we are considering how to engage citizens in science, and in parallel – how to ensure and develop participation.

Thinking about democracy and citizens’ involvement in democracy – as a process and decision making processes, we are using the expression: participatory democracy.

Can we use an expression: participatory science? How to define this phenomenon? What is needed for the development of this participatory science?

The critical thinking, the open education, the open science, which means access to the open science data, the possibility to participate in some experiments and trials, the opportunity to donate the data to the scientific research, the accessibility of science centres and museums, and finally – the political, cultural, societal climate for an open society growth.

Participation also means: to be interested in science and have awareness of the significance of science and the impact of science on everyday life of everybody. It creates the societal needs for scientific works, it creates some kind of citizens’ demand. This kind of attitude can influence the development of science – as clear, transparent and strong motivation to inspire research and scientific ideas.  

SEVENTHLY, the needed trust is coming from the value of participation based on open minded societies and open science concept. In addition, it is complemented by transparent rules of the functioning of science and open relations of scientist vis a vis societal expectations.

The incoming debates on the science development related to the genetic challenges, automated algorithms used in the scientific purposes, the unpredictability of AI development and AI autonomy – all these issues raise some ethical questions. The fast development of science establishes a gap in the human awareness of many problems. The scientists have to help people, they should accompany citizens on their way to understand these new phenomena. This is a new moral duty. This is the real challenge for the engagement in science.

The engagement have to be based on trust. Trust is crucial for the relations among all stakeholders.