Confidence in science - series of debates

Most people in the Netherlands have great confidence in science and are convinced of the importance of scientific research. However, issues such as climate change and vaccination campaigns, the great pressure on scientists to publish and headline-hitting fraud scandals have all caused a great deal of commotion. This begs the question of how we can maintain a high level of confidence in science into the future.

At the request of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Rathenau Institute and the WRR are organising a series of debates around the theme ‘Confidence in science’. What do the public actually expect from science? Do scientists and citizens listen to each other properly when discussing societal issues? Are the questions that concern people in society being adequately answered by the world of science? And how can science continue to meet society’s expectations?

In three debates on this topic, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, and/or the State Secretary Sander Dekker, led by the chair Anouschka Laheij and director of the Rathenau Institute Jan Staman, will engage in debate with scientists, civil-society organisations, stakeholders, policymakers and the business community.

The aim is to seek out dilemmas and sensitivities, to debate the issues that matter. The intention is to engender constructive cooperation between all concerned and to ensure that science functions well and is of benefit to everyone.

High expectations, heavy demands?

Research by the Rathenau Institute and the WRR shows that we have high expectations of and place heavy demands on science and research. Can science meet those expectations? Using food and health and youth crime as the framework, this debate looks at the relationship between science and society. Where does the truth really lie in relation to healthy eating? Have the assumptions of those in the field regarding youth crime actually been tested by criminologists? If scientists cannot agree among themselves, who can we trust?

  • 11 March 2014, 20.00 – 22.00 hrs, NEMO Amsterdam.

Disputed authority

Public controversies such as the reports by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) raise questions about whether the relationship between science and policy is perhaps a little too cosy. There is also growing resistance to the increasing influence of business on scientific research. How are the interests and views of other stakeholders taken into account? Based on topical cases, this debate focuses on the paradox between the societal value of science and its integrity. How can we ensure that science is able to contribute to resolving issues that are relevant for society?

  • 24 March 2014, 20.00 – 22.00 hrs, NEMO Amsterdam.

Concluding debate: future-proof science

The concluding debate builds on the results of the two earlier debates. If we are content to rely upon science, what do we expect from science in the future? What should be part of scientific practice, and what should not? Is the present scientific system able to meet the high expectations that are placed upon it? How can the development of knowledge maintain its social relevance? How can we organise a better match between supply and demand in relation to scientific knowledge? This debate focuses on whether the existing rules and incentives (pressure to publish, peer review, citation indexes, distribution of funding) are still fit for purpose, and whether more attention is needed for problem-driven research.

  • 14 April 2014, 20.00 – 22.00 hrs, NEMO Amsterdam.