Dialogue between Science and the Public, from 1999 – 2012

Despite politicians' avowed commitment to the knowledge-based society, despite the promotion of know-how as a commodity and despite the growing penetration of cutting-edge technology and science into all areas of life and work, the wider public frequently displays a considerable sense of alienation from scientific topics. This discrepancy is not future-proof; a public science dialogue is called for.

Objective: Accepting Knowledge-Based Society as a Challenge

As a country poor in natural resources and with a small domestic market, Switzerland has always had to adopt a strategy of increasing production in the technology and service sectors. In this sense, this country has already long since been well on the way toward becoming a knowledge-based society: this is where the teaching and research carried out at universities has a very special part to play. Both are largely tax-funded and form the basis for the creation of «knowledge» as a product.

At the same time, specialist knowledge is increasingly meeting with public suspicion and unease. What is called for is an effective communication of science with a view to involving the general public in shaping the future on the basis of knowledge. Key questions here are: What contribution does science make? What can society expect of science and what is society entitled to expect of science? Where do science's opportunities lie and where are its limits?

Integrated Approach

Gebert Rüf Stiftung gives the theme «Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit» (public understanding of science) significance in the form of a passive area of activity by repeatedly implementing new and promising approaches to communicating the message of science.

Cultivating the relationship between science and the public is strictly rooted in the foundation's support strategy and is pursued by means of an integrated approach, i.e. a commitment applied to every project supported by Gebert Rüf Stiftung: in accordance with the support agreement (Art. 4 of the project-related agreements), the project managers undertake to regard non-scientific, i.e. public, communication as part of the scientific project work and to act accordingly. In addition to public relations work directed at the media and others, two clearly defined commitments are to be met: conducting a «school in the laboratory» session (giving an upper secondary school class an opportunity to experience research work first-hand) and participating in a «media training course» (intensive two-day further training event; in cooperation with the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Swiss School of Journalism in Lucerne (MAZ) and the «Maison de la communication» in Lausanne).

Thus, all participants in Gebert Rüf Stiftung support projects (most of whom are young scientists) will be faced with the requirement to communicate scientific content in contemporary form. In this way, Gebert Rüf Stiftung contributes toward ensuring that instead of isolating themselves in government-financed ivory towers, younger academics see the need for communication as an integral part of their perception of themselves as scientists.

Links: Science Communication

Public portals for research and innovation
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Approved projects Wissenschaft & Öffentlichkeit