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AAAS to have high profile at the EuroScience Open Forum 25-28 August in Stockholm
For years, Gabriella Norlin was among a contingent of European scientists and educators who attended AAAS's annual meeting. Amazed by the mix of cutting-edge science and public interaction, they would return home talking about the need for something similar in Europe. This month, it will finally happenand organizers hope that EuroScience Open Forum 2004 will be only the first of many.
From 25-28 August, an estimated 3,000 scientists, science enthusiasts, educators and students will gather in Stockholm, Sweden, for an unprecedented interdisciplinary, pan- European, public scientific meeting. The forum is expected to feature 270 top scientists and science experts from 33 countriesincluding a contingent from AAASparticipating in 100 speeches, symposia and workshops.
According to officials on both sides of the Atlantic, the conference will represent the latest milestone in the long, historic collaboration of science cultures in Europe and North America.
Norlin, an expert in science communication, is the lead conference organizer; conference director Carl Johan Sundberg, an award-winning physiology professor, also has attended the AAAS annual meeting. Without AAAS, Norlin said, organizing the European forum would have been much more difficult.
"My AAAS friends and colleagues have been very generous and very, very open," she said in a telephone interview from Stockholm. "We learn and exchange views and experiencesI find that really important. And I think we are working on the same goal, and that is to make people more interested in knowledge and to get people to use knowledge from science. Knowledge is always something positive, for all societies."
AAAS will have a high visibility during the four-day conference:
"Science has many stories to tell," Malcom says. "We have to think about the front endscience educationas the place where you learn the plot and get set up for life-long learning."
Among all scholars who received Ph.Ds in science, mathematics and computing in 2000, 41 percent in the U.S. were women, compared to 34 percent in Europe. But, George says, many European countries have adopted ambitious efforts to boost those numbers.
"In my studies of Sweden, it was interesting to see that universities have to set a target for the number of women they're going to recruit into undergraduate programs, and into graduate programs," she explains. "And that's true for a lot of countries in Europe, not just Sweden….We don't have that kind of push in the U.S."
"EurekAlert! plays a key role in the exchange of science news between the United States and Europe," says O'Malley. "Each day, hundreds of European and U.S. reporters log on to EurekAlert! to find out about the latest news from research organizations around the globe.
"The EurekAlert! seminar will bring together scientists, press officers and journalists from the United States and Europe to explore how scientific discoveries evolve into headline news in both regions. Its goal is to foster a cross-pollination of ideas about communicating science, and we hope people will leave the event with new ideas on how they can play a role in bringing science news to the public."
"AAAS has thousands of members in Europe," Teich says. "AAAS's presence at this event will help to establish us as an organization that isn't just U.S.-focused, but one that has a broader scope."
In explaining the desire to carry AAAS's idea to Europe, Norlin says that it started simply: She was deeply inspired by the annual meetings.
"In less than one week, you get all of the forefronts in science, from different fields and different angles," she says. "Some things I've understood for the first time only after attending the meetingsnanotechnology, for example."
Still, she says, while the EuroScience forum is derived from AAAS's annual meetings, it won't be a clone. The European affair will be biennial, rather than annual. And it's likely to have a distinctively European perspective.
"I think that the discussion about some topics could be more critical than it is on the U.S. level," she said. "For example, I have gotten the impression that we talk differently in Europe about climate change and sustainable development…. We are more critical in our thinking sometimes when we see that people are or could be afraid of the effects of some of the applications of science."
Within the European science community, there are differing views on the goals of the conference. Some, said Norlin, have a political interest in pushing science higher on the European agenda. Others, she explained, see the meeting contributing to "the democratic argument for advancing science."
But the benefits of the program are sure to extend beyond Europe, Malcom says.
"Obviously, the benefit of EuroScience is that it underscores the connectedness of the global science community," she said. "For us, we'll see how they do science outreach. We'll see what issues might be important in Europe that might not be recognized in other places. "It's not just a matter of what we can teach, but what we can learn. And I imagine that we'll be able to learn a lot, too."
Edward W. Lempinen
30 July 2004