The European Researchers’ Night provides a platform for scientists to engage with the public.
Scientists are adept at sharing their discoveries with their peers, but communicating science with the public is often not prioritized — and sometimes unfairly so. In these times of fake news and alternative facts, it is more important than ever for scientists to act as explainers and advocates of the scientific method. The European Commission has long appreciated the value of communicating science to the general public. And by making funds available for its annual European Researchers’ Night (ERN), it has taken the open-day concept to a pan-European level (https://go.nature.com/3CWM4hP).
The ERN traditionally happens on the last Friday in September. Successful applicants use funding to offer activities in the form of science shows and exhibitions — the target audience being the public at large, with a focus on children and young people and, particularly, those who are not immediately exposed to scientific research. This year, proposals had to include an explanation of how possible pandemic-related restrictions could be mitigated. A total of 48 projects were successful in 29 European Union member states and associated countries, so the chances are that, if you’re in Europe, there is an event happening near you (https://go.nature.com/2W8AXSk).
The Night is not just about offering people a fun afternoon (or evening) out. Proposals were assessed for how they help increase societal awareness of the importance of research and innovation. They also must seek to promote excellence in research across Europe and beyond, and attract the interest of young people in a career in scientific research. In addition, the European Commission requires events to promote diversity and inclusion in research and innovation, and to connect with its European Green Deal initiative (https://go.nature.com/3ssZ0at) — a commitment to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050.
This year’s ERN is the last funded by Horizon 2020, but it will be reincarnated in the Horizon Europe funding cycle set to last until 2027. So if you happen to be in Europe, go out and get inspired on 24th September. And perhaps even consider becoming an organizer in 2022 (https://go.nature.com/3k3qkbz).
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A night for science. Nat. Phys. 17, 977 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-021-01362-5