A number of interesting European Science Foundation reports

Looking at the European Science Foundation publications page, I was happy to discover a number of interesting reports that were published in the last year:

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Computing metaphors and synthetic biology

The metaphors of computers and computing were very popular in the debate on synthetic biology, especially in quotes from scientists; the language was rich in codes, booting up, software, hardware, programming, executing and tagging. Venter says “it’s pretty stunning” to replace the DNA software in a cell.

“The cell instantly starts reading that new software, starts making a whole different set of proteins, and within a short while all the characteristics of the first species disappear and a new species emerges from the software that controls that cell going forward.”(Munro 2010)

Previously, “reading” was done by researchers or computers, while now it seems that cells do the reading and function as software, a chaining of metaphors that is quite novel in a media context.
While in the debate about the human genome the only parts of the computer/computing metaphor were those of codes and soft-ware (Nerlich and Hellsten 2004), in the debate on synthetic biology the metaphor was extended to cover booting up, tagging and executing, all new uses of themetaphor.

Really interesting article on Synthetic biology: building the language for a new science brick by metaphorical brick by Iina Hellsten and Brigitte Nerlich.

Responsible Research and Innovation

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Options for Strengthening Responsible Research and Innovation

This expert group report on the State of Art in Europe on Responsible Research and Innovation has been authored by an interdisciplinary group with experts from science, innovation, economics, law, governance and ethics’.

It was prepared as an intermediate step in the reflection on future policy initiatives regarding Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). Currently, various policy discussions are taking place regarding RRI, both inside and outside of the European Commission. In order to provide input to these policy deliberations, this group was asked to reflect specifically on policy options with regard to a possible Communication or Recommendation from the European Commission on RRI.

You can find the report here.

NEW EU-funded project: PROGRESS – PROmoting Global REsponsible research and Social and Scientific innovation

Objective: Delivering European Renewal relies heavily on the advancement of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) that is, research and innovation which is: – is ethically acceptable, – is sustainable by avoiding significant adverse effects and – drives towards the common good, i.e. societal desirability. To achieve maximum impact where it is most needed, ProGReSS concentrates on the underexplored and least converging part of RRI, namely achieving societal desirability. The project will link existing international networks of RRI from all continents with European partners and policy-makers, policy-advisors, funders, industry and non-governmental organisations. In interactive discussions with relevant societal actors as well as innovators, we will move RRI debates from the national or regional to the global level and achieve the following objectives:
1. Link existing international networks of RRI with relevant societal actors on a global scale to focus innovation on societal desirability.
2. Complete a major fact-finding mission comparing science funding strategies and innovation policies in Europe, the US, China, Japan, India, Australia, and South Africa.
3. Advocate a European normative model for RRI globally, using constitutional values as a driver to inform societal desirability.
4. Develop a strategy for fostering the convergence of regional innovation systems at the global level.

UPDATE: see more recent post with more links

Young Europeans Discuss Sustainable Development

I have been absent from this blog because I have been organising the Young Europeans Discuss Sustainable Development from the point of view of science and technology event:
Young Europeans Discuss Sustainable Development
9-14 of May 2011

Advances in Science and Technology directly affectyour life, and you should have an opinion!
28 Young Europeans (18-24 years old) from 13 EU countries, will be discussing with Greek scientists about6 different aspects of Sustainable development.
Meet the 23 scientists that will talk at the event! They work at almost all of the big Greek universities and research centres!
Learn about the issues that will be discussed:
Climate Change, Energy, Innovation, Water and Food, Biodiversity, Public Health
Chat with other people!
Check out what will be happening during that week!
Find out about the participants!
Watch online, ask questions for the scientists to answer, vote!
The event language is English.
Please forward this to your members and whoever you think might be interested.
For more information do not hesitate to contact us at yedsda@gmail.com
Dr Ino Agrafioti

Science and Society: My analysis of the Eurobarometer (1)

So I finally finished gathering my data and did my plots. Before I get into specifics about what exactly did the Greek sample say, I want to mention four things that I found striking:

  1. there was significantly more emphasis in the Greek answers: Even though, in most questions their beliefs appear to be similar to those of other Europeans, their answers were more “emphatic” i.e. their answers were less divided compared to other EU countries. I noticed this by eye, and in an effort to “quantify” it, I ranked all European countries according to their responses using the graph charts presented in the Eurobarometer report. In these graphs, the countries were plotted in descending order, according to the value of the majority and minority percentages in those questions. The country on the far left was thus ranked “1” since it showed the greatest majority percentage. Similarly the country on the far right was ranked “28” (the average of all 27 EU countries was included in the ranking).

In the following graph I present the distribution of rankings of the EU27 average:

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Science and Society: step 2 is to plot the data…

This is just a teaser of the data i am plotting.

QC6.8 (see below)  is maybe the question whose answers showed the biggest difference between Greece and the UK so far (I am half way through all the eurobarometer tables).

So a lot more Greek than British people feel that “because of their knowledge, scientists have a power that makes them dangerous”. When all EU27 countries are ranked according to their belief in this statement, Greece is on the one end of the spectrum (2nd most agreeing) and the UK is at the other end of the spectrum (6th least agreeing).

Could this maybe be part of the explanation of why the one country reacts and the other doesn’t?

Science and Society: step 1 is to set the question…

Why is there reaction to science-related issues in some countries, and in others not so much?

Having lived for almost a decade in a country where there were big reactions to science issues (MMR, GM, mad cow, etc), and having moved back to a country where the reactions are not so big – one could say non-existent – it makes me wonder why is this the case?

Of course it comes down to society, but why? What I mean is, of course there are big differences between the British and Greek societies, but which of these differences cause reaction in the former and not in the latter?

This question has been brewing in my mind for quite sometime now since it is different to communicate science to a society that is against it, than to a society that simply does not care. (A related question: why it does not care?)

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