Holidays prompt different kinds of activities and are a good time for reflection. And so I have been thinking about the two words that have been mentioned a lot by many different people over the last 20 years: the “civil society”.
I find good reference to these words in the initiative set up by the coalition of 56 different American associations and foundations committed to the development of science and technology. On the membership list we will find strictly scientific bodies, such as the Biophysical Society, but also the ones that are more society-focused, e.g. the National Center for Science Education. The coalition has created a set of questions to be addressed to the candidates for the President of the USA. The questions concern global issues such as the attitude to global warming, clean water deficit, cyber-terrorism, exploration of the Universe or biological destruction of seas and oceans, as well as issues that are of particular importance to all U.S. citizens: health care policy, improving the level of education, overuse of stimulants and long-term USA priorities in the field of science and technology development. Authors of the list (sciencedebate.org) always expect answers to their questions BEFORE the presidential elections take place, i.e. by 6 September. I am close to certain that they will receive all the answers they have asked for.
And now a reflection from our own backyard. I have been a member of many Polish assemblies and coalitions that are very similar to the American ones I have referred to above. So far none of these groups have even thought about creating a list of questions concerning the development of science here in Poland and presenting it to the people, who want to govern our country. Even though we do have individual and collective opinions on these matters, the experience of similar political initiatives of particular social websites shows that such questions are usually left without an answer. Therefore it seems that democracy has to be taught at each level of the social organisation. This triggers the development of the true civil society.
Professor Magdalena Fikus, Ph.D.
Professor of molecular biology, lecturer at many prestigious universities and an outstanding science communicator. Co-founder and co-organiser of the Science Festival in Warsaw and – for many years – the Head of its Programme Board. Member of the EUSCEA, Head of the Council for the Promotion of the Public Understanding of Science PAS, and member of the Copernicus Science Centre’s Programme Board since the establishment of the CSC.
date of publication: August 24, 2016