Science festivals:

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by Giuseppe Pellegrini

Over the last few years the public opportunities to spread scientific culture and technology have multiplied, also in Italy. Festivals and manifestations now come alongside more traditional channels for the evaluation of scientific heritage like museums, aiming at bringing citizens closer to the world of science and technology with debates, laboratories, play and encounters between citizens and scientists.

But what do the Italians expect of these events? The most recent data collected by the Science and Society Monitor show that, even though participation is still predominantly limited to a young and educated public, Italians look upon these manifestations, which they consider relevant opportunities to speak with the protagonists from the world of science, with approval. More than one Italian out of ten (13.5%) have participated in a festival or public meeting about science and technology in the last year and more than one out of four (26.9%) have at least been to a museum or scientific exhibition. The highest degree of participation can be found in the age range from 20 to 29 (one out of five has been to an event at least once a year) and above all among graduated people, where participation is almost 30%. More than two out of three people interviewed believe that these meetings and manifestations are the best way to know about science.

There is some scepticism however: some people point out the risk that these occasions show a superficial image of scientific work (37.4%) or that they are reduced to a celebrity event (33.6%); others are more categorical in their judgement that they “are useless” (23.4%).

In short, science festivals and public events have a potentially high appeal, which especially for some parts of the population still has to translate itself into an effective instrument of popularisation.