Report from Euroscience Open Forum
17 July, 2010
Powerful ideas attract their own supporters. One such idea that is
slowly beginning to attract international attention is the idea of
Science Debates. Most of the world’s great challenges now revolve
around science policy issues, yet we are paralyzed on many of them
because of politics, particularly because science has ceded a certain
measure of the public definition of reality to ideologues who define it
using "but faith or opinion, but not knowledge,"
to quote John Locke, whose seminal work centered around avoiding such
paralysis. Science debates bring policymakers together with science
and the public, highlighting key knowledge issues and helping to break
I was at the Euroscience Open Forum this last week in Torino, Italy,
heading up a panel on the Science Debate movement, talking about its
beginnings as a grassroots US science initiative, and why it is
important to global policymaking in the 21st
century. There is a video here
Several countries have already had science debates patterned on the one
we (with your support) organized together, here in the U.S. in 2008, and
more are planned.
For those who are interested, I wrote a 5-part popular science and
travel reporting series on the trip, and on the ins and outs of
scientists engaging in the public dialog, called Postings from Italy, below. Perhaps it will be enjoyable weekend reading.
A new home for Science Debate?
In related news, Science Debate is looking for a new home. We are in
talks with one potential university partner, who will provide an office,
some support staff and interns, but we are doing due diligence to see
if others are out there who feel this work in important enough, and is
within the public mission of your charter, to provide some measure of
support or funding. If so, reply to this email. If in doubt, read posting 5 above.
Congressional Questionnaire in the works
We are working with SEforA to develop science questions for the
congressional candidates again this cycle. We would like to see these
races all have science debates in the future, but this is an excellent
Reinventing Technology Assessment for the 21st Century
Finally, Science Debate steering committee members Darlene Cavalier and
David Guston have been working closely with a group to reopen the OTA,
but with citizen involvement. This is an idea that is on the cutting
edge in Europe, where they are seeking vehicles for citizen
participation in science policy and resource allocation decisions.
The group has prepared a report calling for citizen participation to
inform decision making in science and technology The report can be
The report defines the criteria for a new technology assessment function
in the United States that incorporates citizen-participation methods to
complement expert analysis.
Report author Richard Sclove recommends creating a nationwide Expert & Citizen Assessment of Science & Technology (ECAST
network that combines the skills of nonpartisan policy research
organizations with the research strengths of universities and the public
outreach and education capabilities of science museums.
Founding partners in ECAST include the Science and Technology Innovation
Program at the Wilson Center, the Boston Museum of Science, Arizona
State University, ScienceCheerleader
, and the Loka Institute.
if you'd like to learn more or get involved with ECAST.