Brussels, 26 Nov 2004
At a time when an effort is requested from European citizens to increase investment in research to three per cent of GDP, we must ensure that the public at large is better able to engage with the world of science, Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik, will say in his opening speech at the Descartes Prize Ceremony to take place at the Prague castle on 2 December.
According to Mr Potocnik, the new Descartes prize for science communication, which will be launched this year and is aimed at validating research in the eyes of the European public, is essential as part of the European Commission's strategy of encouraging greater public participation in scientific decision-taking.
'I believe that to bring science closer to society, science must be made public,' the European Commissioner will say in Prague. 'The public has to be kept aware of the results of research and be able to form an opinion on the state of scientific advances. European citizens ¿ as well as policy makers - must be able to make informed choices from the range of options offered from technological progress.'
The new 250,000 euro prize for outstanding research in communicating science and research to the European public will complement the existing Descartes prize for excellence in collaborative scientific research which has existed since 2000. In keeping with the EU Science and Society Action Plan, this new prize aims to help stimulate broader public understanding about science and research, and to promote interest in scientific careers.
To achieve this, believes Mr Potocnik, 'there must be a further widening of scientific and technical culture through all means and particularly through participative and open approaches to diversity and knowledge: newspapers and magazines; scientific documentaries; exhibitions by scientific museums; festivals; science weeks and more pro-active measures by science shops.
'These are all activities strongly supported by the European Commission and the Member States. The European Commission goes even further by encouraging research groups of community projects to think and organise, from the launch of their project, information for public,' Mr Potocnik will say.
According to Mr Potocnik, beyond these promotional activities for science, to which the new Descartes prize for Communication contributes, it is necessary to encourage the increased participation of the public in the debate on scientific issues. Furthermore, feels Mr Potocnik, the public's participation in decision-taking should be encouraged.
'This issue is at the heart of the European Commission's position concerning the subject of European governance, which recommends a broad participation of citizens and their representatives in all stages of policies,' Mr Potocnik will state on 2 December.
'The Descartes prizes, aimed at valorising scientific research and the communication of science, reflect perfectly the heart of the strategy for the future of research,' he will add. 'Namely, prioritising the Lisbon strategy, which makes knowledge an engine of growth, and strengthening the budgets to provide a solid foundation for our innovative system since the jobs for tomorrow depend on today's research investments.'
Europe needs to show its citizens that it is giving priority to research to prepare the future for European society while preserving the environment and the European social model, the Commissioner will conclude.
For further information on the Descartes prizes, please visit: