Science through graffiti and computer games

The Mar-Eco network of scientists and students, led by Norway and including participants from 16 other countries, has been awarded the EU Descartes Prize for Science Communication. The project seeks to popularise international scientific investigation at sea, in museums and laboratories, and to involve the wider public in the process.

08/03/2007 ::

Dr. Odd Aksel Bergstad from the Institute of Marine Research in Norway received the Prize at a ceremony in Brussels 7 March. The host for the evening, EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik (above), called the event “the Oscars of European Science”.

Exploring the secrets of the depths
Mar-Eco, also known as “Exploring the secrets of the depths”, was one of five laureates in the category Science Communication. The project aims at enhancing our understanding of the occurrence, distribution and ecology of animals and animal communities along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Iceland and the Azores. The Norwegian Research Council (NRC) nominated Mar-Eco for the Descartes Prize. The project is also funded in part by the NRC, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a wide range of Norwegian and international private companies.

Bridging the knowledge gap
Commissioner Potočnik underlined the importance of communication in his speech at the award ceremony in Brussels: – Without the people, or the language to bridge the gap of what scientists know, and what a wider audience can comprehend, nobody would understand – except very few. The people who can bridge that divide deserve our recognition. And that is what tonight’s communication prize is about, the Slovene commissioner stated.

Mar-Eco has gained distinction through its innovative forms of communication. This spring the travelling exhibition “Deeper than Light” will commence in cooperation with Bergen Museum. The partially interactive exhibition displays unusual deep-sea life forms as well as new scientific discoveries.

The project also seeks to communicate science through art. To reach young people untraditional means are applied. In one of the suburbs of Salvador in Brazil deep-sea species are displayed by graffiti. In this way Mar-Eco reaches an audience rarely targeted in the communication of science. Dr. Bergstad promises to continue to convey high-quality science information also in the time to come. Even a computer game is underway!

In Brazil Mar-Eco has organised a display of deep-sea spiecies thourgh grafitti. Photo: Anette Petersen / Mar-Eco.

Raising public awareness
– Management of ocean systems requires both scientific knowledge and public awareness, according to Dr. Bergstad. – And this has been the primary motivation for the communication efforts that have been so overwhelmingly acknowledged today, he explains. He wishes to share the honour with the more than 120 scientists, students and other partners of Mar-Eco from 16 countries across Europe and the Atlantic.

René Descartes (1596 – 1650) was a leading French philosopher, mathematician, scientist and writer. He has been dubbed “the Founder of Modern Philosophy” and “the Father of Modern Mathematics.” Descartes is the man behind the well-known quote “Cogito, ergo sum” – I think, therefore I am, or “Je pense, donc je suis” as it was originally written by Descartes in “Discourse on Method” from 1637.

The Descartes Prize has been awarded annually since 2000. The five laureates for Science Communication share the Prize of € 275 000. In addition to the Science Communication Prize, there is a separate Descartes Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research. Last year a European project led by professor Ole M. Johannesen at the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center received the award for Scientific Research.

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