Why are we running this project?
The recent debate about nitrogen oxide limits shows how quickly and easily scientific evidence can get lost in the back and forth between different social forces. Whenever scientific results seem to contradict what we consider "common sense", they are easily attackable in the public debate. Also, scientists are challenged by the alternative media and self-proclaimed experts whose views are spread unfiltered via the internet and social media. To gain trust and strengthen its credibility, the science community must enter into a dialog with different social groups and also address people who otherwise have little exposure to science.
What are our goals?
Mensch Wissenschaft! (Science, Man!) aims to breathe life into the often-mentioned dialog between science and society. The event format seeks to provide an example of how an actual dialog between scientists and non-scientists can succeed, even and especially across social classes. The researchers are driven by the motto, "Out of the bubble, into the neighborhood." The project gives them an opportunity to transparently present their principles and methods and reflect on their social role. Citizens can express their expectations as well as their reservations and concerns about science. The goal is to establish personal contacts that have an effect beyond the event.
In the longer term, Mensch Wissenschaft! is intended to bring about a dialog model that scientific institutions can apply to host their own, similar events in their regions.
How does the project work?
The Mensch Wissenschaft! event format brings together a very diverse group of 50 citizens and about 25 scientists from various disciplines. All participants share a local connection as they all come from the same city or region.
The two-day event provides the framework for an exchange on eye level, in a suitable setting and professionally moderated. It does not focus on a specific research topic, such as artificial intelligence, but on more general questions about science itself: Which methods and rules do researchers apply to their work? How is science funded and how independent is it? Or: How does society benefit from science? In addition to discussing such questions, key objectives of the event format are fostering personal contact and an informal exchange among participants.
The first Mensch Wissenschaft! event took place at Zeche Zollverein in Essen in the fall of 2018. In 2019, the venue will be in Stuttgart.