A highlight was their joint session at the General Assembly on ‘Unlocking Science: Should we do better on public engagement?’
The open public session explored how levels of public trust in science remain relatively high in the context of an increasingly fragmented and polarized political and media environment, and what the root causes of this polarization and fragmentation mean for science.
The Patrons explored the importance of not assuming that all audiences were alike, and the risk that fringe ideas could be amplified through advances in technological communication.
Vint Cerf argued that spending time and energy refuting fringe ideas takes communities away from helping people understand what the real facts are.
Ismail Serageldin cautioned that societies needed more than just knowledge; they needed wisdom and the ability to pull people together so that science could advance solutions in times of great challenges to humanity.
Mary Robinson described the gravity of so-called ‘alternative facts’ and their effects on democracy, citing a real dysfunction in the system affecting the possibility of holding dialogues in the civil space. She also proposed the three key messages for engaging communities on the existential threat of climate change, with a specific challenge to the science community to:
- Take the climate change emergency seriously in your personal lives, to make a commitment to doing something you weren’t doing yesterday;
- Get angry with those who are not taking steps – business, governments and, particularly, the fossil fuel industry; and
- Imagine and visualize the future that we are rapidly approaching and do more to express this through storytelling.
The Patrons discussed the need for a new framework to promote a multi-dimensional dialogue led by champions at all levels of society.
‘The Patrons’ discussion was very useful. At a time of uncertainties, it is good to hear from those who were pioneering and influential in major science developments.’Anonymous comment from ISC Member attending the General Assembly.