Terre des Sciences
The research and higher education institutions of Angers, and the French Ministry of Education, supported by local government agencies and the French Ministry of Research, created the Scientific, Technical and Industrial Culture Centre (CCSTI) in 1992, which now goes under the name of « Terre des Sciences ». Terre des Sciences, or « Science and Culture – Innovation », the name adopted by the French Ministry of Higher Education in 2008, promotes scientific, technical and industrial culture in France’s Pays de la Loire region. Terre des Sciences now has a multidisciplinary team of 17 people, a researcher network and 60 to 70,000 participants per year, including a large number of young people. Terre des Sciences, a centre of scientific, technical and industrial culture, focuses its activities around two major poles:
- the sciences, society and innovation,
- the sciences and youth.
For a science-friendly society, an active appropriation of the sciences by its citizens, for a positive image of research and innovation aimed to appeal to young people, in step with Europe, and for the promotion of sustainable development. The urgency of sustainable development has overturned current paradigms; we can no longer talk about progress or science as we did several years ago. Energy alternatives, climate change, GMOs, nanotechnologies and stem cells are just a few of the burning issues facing us today, issues that underline the necessity of being actively involved in decisions that influence our everyday life. Scientific knowledge is not just an educational issue, but a political and economic one as well.
REVIVING INTEREST IN THE SCIENCES
Terre des Sciences promotes exchanges between the scientific community and the public. Stakeholders in the area of research are encouraged to participate in the development of scientific and technical culture geared to the public and to young people in particular, within a framework of knowledge sharing and active citizen participation. For this purpose, the CCSTI has undertaken a multidisciplinary and transversal approach to the notion of science and technology, and initiates partnerships that make it possible to involve a public that is as varied socially as it is geographically. Just like in the case of literary culture, scientific culture must find its niche in the classroom, in the city and in everyday life. We are concerned by the dwindling interest of young people in pursuing careers in the sciences. One of the goals of Terre des Sciences is to encourage more young people to specialise in the sciences so that they may become the researchers, engineers and technicians of tomorrow who will be responsible for making the Pays de la Loire region and Angers an economic and scientific force to contend with on the French and European stage. In the Pays de la Loire region, Terre des Sciences popularises sciences « in the making », prizes history and scientific heritage, and promotes access to the multimedia.
TALKING ABOUT A SHARED FUTURE
« We must find a way for citizens to participate in major societal debates and scientific decision-making. The job is enormous, the challenge exhilarating. (…) We must, above all, give citizens a major role to play on the scientific stage. » Pierre Lehir, « Researchers and citizens: the social contract », Le Monde, 1/07/2004. Since Terre des Sciences was created, scientific and technical culture has developed to become not only a cultural component of the city and its surrounding area, but of the Maine et Loire department and the Pays de la Loire region as well. Terre des Sciences has recently been pursuing its efforts to strengthen its regional network. It promotes relationships between researchers and citizens to order to give all those involved the means to express themselves, to understand the evolution of the sciences and technologies in everyday life and to make relevant choices.
In « Socialising innovation: a challenge for tomorrow » (March 2004) FutuRIS suggests promoting popularisation (making the intrinsic characteristics of innovations known and understood) as well as contextualisation, in order to put research and innovation activities and results into perspective (Who is responsible for this innovation? Who will benefit from it? What are the social and economic consequences? Who determines and manages the immediate or eventual risks? etc.). This socialisation is the only way that we will be able to address the fundamental issues arising from our societal choices for tomorrow. Within the plant pole, Terre des Sciences promotes cultural, educational and recreational activities to help the citizens of Anjou become involved in the economic and scientific life of their region. Similar efforts are being made within the « Child » and « Atlantic Biothérapies » poles.