Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Salzburg Global Seminar

The Salzburg Global Seminar is an institution that attempts to train future leaders in a diverse range of fields. The YSSP participants had the opportunity to hear Edward Mortimer talk on 'Communicating the Global Agenda', a topic he is well qualified to pontificate on. As chief speech writer for the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan he shared his views on the global media, the pillars of the UN and provoked a quite lively lunch time discussion on how to bridge the gap between global problems (or the UN buzz word "challenges") and local politics.

The SGS is housed in yet another castle, Schloss Leopoldskron. I'm getting used to working in grandeur, going back to boring brick and concrete is going to be tough.

Not science related at all, Schloss Leopoldskron's exterior was using for all the garden shots for the Sound of Music (including the gazebo scenes and lake scenes). We had a chance to explore Salzburg in the late afternoon and spotted a few more Sound of Music sights.

After lunch and our exploration of this highly detailed schloss we entered into a very lively debate on the 'Public Understanding of Science & Public Engagement' led by Ian Brown and John Lotherington. This topic was centred around the "Climategate" incident in November 2009 that called into question the validity of climate science and the public's right to data.

Some of the chief points for and against the engagement of the public in science that emerged from this debate are summarised below (in no order):
  • Will the public have more trust in scientists if they are more transparent in their methodologies and data acquisition?
  • Greater engagement with the public improves the overall level of education
  • Peer-review is a process with its own checks and balances and would be undermined by the public
  • The allocation of funding is already decided by and large by the public through political appointments (in the case of some countries like USA but not China)
  • The extra time and energy commitment needed to reply to all public criticism would hinder scientific progress
  • The role of scientists is already mandated by society
  • There are drawbacks to the public having access to data, it would become a popularity contest as larger institutions can release more data
  • Who holds the Intellectual property rights to data produced by simulations at an government institution and the models developed there?
  • Would a premature release of data create more chaos and prepared and filtered data?
  • The public has a right to review any tax funded research project?
Any thoughts from fellow scientists? Are the public demanding too much?


alapan said...

One hot potato that doesn't seem to be mentioned - in the case of public financed research (full or part), should the public get free access to results including papers, patents, etc.

Seems like you are having a great time - and some really awesome interactions!

Hayley said...

Ah, this wasn't mentioned in the debate but caused quite an uproar on the bus home as various publicly funded project participants tried to motivate that the public has a right to the data because it paid for it...so yes a very hot potato.

I've been given the opportunity meet the most amazing experts in their fields. I feel highly privileged to be here.