A knowledge-based society as fostered by the EU Lisbon Strategy plan actually requires a society-based knowledge, a knowledge with deep roots in the society. Scientific research is traditionally performed in hardly accessible academic institutions or in jealously protected industrial laboratories. There is a growing need for research activity to become a living part of society, to be perceived as a service bringing long-term benefits and a better quality of life. In this respect the role of science and culture for the progress of nations is well established, but the public awareness and confidence in science has to be promoted with all means. These concepts are the essence of the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC) in San Sebastian in the vision of his founder Pedro Echenique: a world-class institute combining top-level theoretical physics research with an intense and effective outreach activity. DIPC, created in 2000, was actually the seed of three other major research centres in the campus, and the promoter of public seminars, initiatives for students, exhibits and open-door days, timely information on media, all qualifying DIPC as a living body in a receptive society.
Passion for Knowledge (P4K) is its major event, a festival started in 2010 and held every third year to promote science as a cultural key activity. By gathering scientists, leading figures from different disciplines and citizens at large, the festival aims at bringing scientific knowledge to society and fostering the participation of the public in the dissemination of science and its values. P4K 2016, the third of the series and the fifth large-scale science communication and outreach DIPC event, took place mainly in San Sebastian (Basque Country) from 27 September to 1 October 2016, as a leading event of the 2016 European Capital of Culture (DSS2016) programme and with the sponsorship of several institutions, including EPS. The main venue was the hundred-year-old Victoria Eugenia Theatre, chosen to stress the cultural nature of science, but P4K 2016 spread around, even across borders. Several parallel activities have been scheduled in Bilbao and Bordeaux, the latter in the framework of the UPV/EHU International Campus of Excellence Euskampus. P4K 2016 included diverse activities to engage citizens, old and young. It was built around a series of Plenary Lectures aimed at the general public, presented by world-leading scientists, including several Nobel Laureates in different disciplines. But P4K had much more: Encounters of high-school students with leading scientists, a summer course for young researchers, Naukas (educational) sessions, exhibitions, etc.
EPS, besides sponsoring P4K and holding its Executive Committee meeting during the Festival, wanted to recognize DIPC endeavour for the promotion of public awareness of science with a special EPS Outreach Award, delivered by the EPS President during the P4K closing ceremony. Starting a series of annual EPS Outreach Awards recognizing the endeavour of European institutions and single scientists for disseminating scientific knowledge and increasing the public confidence in science is definitely an effective bottom-up approach to the implementation of a knowledge-based society, at least as effetcive as the top-down approach of EU-funded research flagships.