Are science centres an answer to a social demand?
Since 1996, there has been a significant intensification of public debate in areas such as climate, energy, pandemic threats, privacy protection, or scientific research. In addition, the digital revolution, which brought technology into our daily lives, has also created new ways to communicate and learn. Science centres are an answer to those circumstances, and each of them is tailored to the needs of local communities and operates on the principle of full openness.
Public authorities, as well as scientific organisations and international institutions, multinational corporations and academia, recognise the need to engage society in the global debate on the role of science and technology in stimulating development and ensuring prosperity and wealth. Almost 3,000 science centres around the world have set themselves the goal of experience-based education, which has earned the trust of over 310 million visitors each year.
However, the visible activity scope of science centres increasingly goes beyond merely demonstrating natural phenomena. Many centres try to engage society in a dialogue on global issues, equipping individual leaders of local communities with the necessary work tools and contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The increasing importance of science centres around the world
Every year, new science centres are established, particularly in Africa, South America, the Mediterranean countries, Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia. These centres place particular emphasis on taking the local context, native knowledge resources, and diversity among recipients into account. One could cite many examples of the intense dialogue between the scientific community and societies, and in result, knowledge-based ideas are reflected in decision-making processes. Contemporary people are much better prepared to participate in science investments and implementation of development plans, and therefore they can make an active contribution to solving both global and local problems. A significant increase in the extent to which science centres promote creativity, ingenuity and innovation has become the key to a more sustainable development.
Science Centre World Summit 2017
The Copernicus Science Centre participated in the Science Centre World Summit in Tokyo. The meeting of science centre representatives takes place every three years, and is an important event that sums up partnership, as well as science and engagement popularisation, conducted across cultural, political, economic, and geographical borders.
As a result of the previous meeting (2014), the Mechelen (from the Belgian city where the Summit was held) Declaration was signed, which was a kind of action plan necessary to implement the foundations, which are the science centres main calling – building a bridge connecting society to science and technology, and thereby solving many global problems.
While summarising the last three years – the changes that have occurred around us – participants decided to expand the Mechelen Declaration with a new Protocol. Cultural, technological, and scientific changes in the world are taking place quickly, which generates new opportunities, but also challenges. The task of mankind is to both take advantage of these opportunities, and meet the challenges.
As stated in the Preamble to the Protocol, science centres and educational museums around the world are committed to promoting scientifically educated societies and active citizen participation, via educating, increasing the potential, and inspiring people of all ages, through sharing awareness of the impact of science on their lives. There are almost 3,000 science centres and educational museums in the world, which affect over 310 million visitors – it gives us a significant power, a significant impact, but also a responsibility. The Tokyo Protocol is a declaration of taking this responsibility, through a broadly defined scope of activities for the sustainable development of humanity and the construction of a better world – the one we would like to live in.