Descartes Science Prizes - initial nominations and IPF involvement

The Grand Jury for the prestigious Descartes Research Prize announced 14 nominated projects in Brussels on 11 July, from which five winners will be chosen later this year. Amongst the 14 nominated projects (from 76 initial contenders) is the CECA project, coordinated by the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC), involving multi-disciplinary research projects on climate and environmental change in the Arctic. The International Polar Foundation (IPF) attended the function and is also a candidate for the Descartes Science Communication Prize (shortlisted candidates, from amongst 63 contenders, will be announced shortly).

The Descartes Prizes are awarded both for research and for science communication. The latter prize aims to improve public understanding of scientific research. Among last year's finalists were scientists, authors, broadcasters and science journalists who succeeded in presenting science in innovative, entertaining ways. The IPF's candidature for this prize relates to its work in creating innovative interactive animations on the polar regions and climate change.

At the event, organised by the European Commission's DG Research, there was also some discussion of the initial findings of the Eurobarometer survey carried out earlier in 2005. The question was raised whether a more participatory approach to European discussions about science would actually generate greater interest in and knowledge about science (rather than knowledge driving participation as is often considered the case). Although only preliminary assessment of the data had been carried out, some interesting figures to emerge included:

  • 57% of Europeans think scientists don't communicate their research results effectively
  • 76% support taxes being used to finance fundamental research
  • 23% consider that science & technology can make resources last indefinitely
  • 60% have concerns about science driving too rapid changes in our way of life
  • 59% think scientists do not handle their positions of power as responsibly as they should

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