In our role as researchers and teachers we work to increase the knowledge, use it and transmit it to new generations of scientists.
At the same time, our global citizenship is often confronted with technical, cultural, ethical and social issues needing scientific knowledge not available to the average citizen. Direct engagement with the public helps us to understand their interest for science and their doubts and concerns. Therefore we devote time to outreach activities directed to the general public. The goal is to increase awareness among the citizens about the research performed in our countries and its implications for society at large. We must take into account that in many cases values and world views have a bigger influence than facts in determining public attitudes towards science. As we want to promote a scientifically literate society we must work in such a way that the activities can be understood by non-specialists. This is intended not as a way to bend people to the goals and interests of scientific initiatives but as a path to open the scientific decision-making procedures to public scrutiny. Then they can get an informed view on those issues and act accordingly. In this way we can help them reach a decision on different alternatives in a responsible way, because “freedom is the first-born daughter of science” 1.
These activities also give us benefits. As our work is made visible and understandable to general audiences they can see the human face of research and avoid stereotypes and deformations. We can sow the seeds of scientific enquiry in young people who could be the researchers and professors of tomorrow.
Many of these activities have been going on all over the world during the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015, now approaching its end. This light has enlightened the people in many countries, giving them a view of the many facets that light plays in our world and that in many cases are overlooked.
We can be sure that light will continue to enlighten us, “for light and liberty go together” 2.
Victor R. Velasco,
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to François d’Ivernoi, February 6, 1795
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Tench Coxe, June 1 1795