“This is a new phase in science”, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College, Lord Robert Winston said on Saturday 25 October before a gathering of 140 young scientists from 10 European countries and local and international journalists in the plenary hall of the Istanbul Technical University in Turkey.
Lord Winston should know – he has an international reputation for his researches into human reproduction and has pioneered advances widely used in fertility and IVF treatment, but amongst the public he is perhaps best known for his work in popularising science and medicine on the BBC and for writing a number of popular science books for both adults and children.
He was referring to the exceptional event Beautiful Science Network which brought together researchers from
and the UK with a passion for communicating science to the general public.
The event was one of the core elements of the British Council’s multinational project Beautiful Science which started in 2006.
The young scientists gathered mainly to meet each other face-to-face after months of online interactions through innovative social networking tools like Facebook.
They also attended workshops led by some of the UK’s most prominent communicators and worked on joint ideas for future multinational, accessible and exciting public presentations of scientific topics like
“The Science of Sci-Fi”,
“Mathematics of Genes”,
“The Science of Colours”,
“Interactive Shows for Children”
and “Science in the Kitchen”.
They discussed and planned how to take their newly found collaborations forward through an independent, international network.
“When we first started promoting this new profession some 10 years ago or so in the UK, nobody would have believed in their wildest dreams that such a meeting would ever be possible – to see so many young scientists from so many countries committed to science communication come together in a single room”, the UK’s first ever professor of Science Communication and recipient of an MBE in the 2000 Queens Birthday Honours list for his innovative science communication activities, Professor Frank Burnet said in an emotional closing address to the meeting.
A public declaration was launched in Istanbul, developed and signed by the young scientists present, and endorsed and presented to the media by Lord Robert Winston and İrfan Sayar, the emblematic Turkish cartoonist with a special passion for science, and in the presence of the British Council’s Chief Executive Martin Davidson who was in Istanbul especially for the event.
The Bulgaria delegation consisted of 9 young researchers of physics, chemistry, biosciences and medicine – winners and finalists in the national Famelab competitions of 2007 and 2008. They actively participated in all the events of the meeting and came away even more enthusiastic about their committment to speaking about science in public, and collaborating with fellow-communicators from across Europe on exciting and innovative shows.
Representatives of Beautiful Science partners in Bulgaria also attended the meeting and actively worked with colleagues from other countries on setting a more favourable context for communicating science in the country – Diana Zapryanova from the Ministry of Education & Science, Ivaylo Dimitrov from Forum Democrit and Yavor Koinakov from the State Institute of Culture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A TV crew from Bulgarian National TV and a journalist from Capital Light were there too to report on the events in our media.
On the last day of the visit the Bulgarian group attended a very special event. Within the framework of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Bulgaria’s Independence Day the young scientists met part of the Bulgarian community living in Istanbul.
They demonstrated in practice what speaking understandably about complex scientific issues is all about by explaining how the world of fairytales, e.g. Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs, links to research in the area of genetics.
“I will never forget this!” a little boy (age approx. 7) from the audience exclaimed after he saw how colours magically change due to a simple chemical reaction and was told what really was going on “behind the scenes”.
That scientists are just as talented in a range of other areas than just their research became obvious from the beautiful voices of a biologist and a doctor who sang to the group of Bulgarian expats.
And it was relief for our compatriots in Istanbul to find out that the young people from Bulgaria had found many new friends from Turkey and were planning to work with them in close collaboration, thus reinforcing the fact that the universal language of science is an efficient ambassador of intercultural relations.