UConn Science Salon, a new panel series sponsored by UConn and the UConn Foundation, is aimed at facilitating conversations between science experts and the public in a fun, stylish environment.
“The purpose of the program is to enhance public discourse at the intersection of science and culture,” says Kim Krieger, a research writer in University Communications. “Sure, people can read about research and technological developments, or watch some talking head opine about it on television. But how often does the average citizen get to ask a scientist a question?”
Both researchers and the public benefit from the events: the University can share research developments with the average person, and the average person has a chance to bring their insight to the panel while gaining more knowledge of a particular topic.
Science cafés are held all over the world. According to sciencecafes.org, a site run by NOVA as a resource for those interested in hosting or attending such events, the grassroots movement has been around for at least a decade. The events are typically casual gatherings held in places like coffeehouses, pubs, and libraries, and are focused on facilitating discussions about science.
“The successful café fosters an informal atmosphere where all participants feel encouraged to participate,” according to the site. “These are not long lectures with a passive audience listening to an expert. Rather, they are dynamic, two-way interactions between a scientist and the public. In this way, the public feels empowered to learn, and the scientist speaker gains valuable perspective on his or her own work.”
UConn Provost Mun Choi says he strongly supports UConn’s version, which kicked off in June 2015.
“The goal is to share exciting developments in technologies through an engaging and interactive format,” he says. “The insights from leading experts will lead to a greater understanding of the role of science and technology in our society.”
Through the program, he says, attendees will see how “UConn is playing a critical role in advancing science and engineering in areas such as genomics, manufacturing, and sustainability.”
Plus, the programs are fun.
“Fifteen bucks gets you a seat, a free drink, and an hour-and-a-half of geeky entertainment,” says Krieger. “It’s a no-lose proposition.”