Lorraine,a small province in northeastern France with four administrative zones and a population of over two million,has been aggressively trying to bridge the gap between scientific research and common man to take science to the grassroots.
Since 2002,many commercial cinema halls here have been screening science films on weekends and that too,free of cost. Films on nanotechnology and its implications in pharmaceutical research to those on zoology a recent favourite being one on psychological and social behaviours of rats have opened to packed halls.
Alternatively,roadside bars and cafes quite often turn into platforms of debate with researchers being brought in to speak to people. From astronomy to fisheries to environmental conservation the topics are varied. These evenings have become crowd pullers,thanks to their word of mouth publicity.
In Lorraine,the Hubert Curein Network for Science,Technical and Industrial literacy,a body of universities,research agencies and academicians,has been working on such democratisation of science since its inception in 2002. Patrick Baranger,the acting president of this network and a professor at Lorraine University,said: There is a strong global movement underway since the last two decades to take scientists out of their niche and share the practical benefits of their research with people. Lorraine being a small province we felt most of our citizens,particularly at the grassroots,were alienated from scientific research which was underway at the national and international levels.
While the first film may have had only a few curious onlookers,today,Baranger says,audience can be as high as 400 people for a show.
Today,science films have become so popular that an international four-day festival and competition on science films is organised in the province every year,with participants from across the world. Some films have made their way into TV networks that have broadcast these all over France.
Initially,we used to struggle to convince researchers to participate. But today,we are an established system with a structured jury, Baranger said.
The reporter was a guest of the University of Lorraine at Nancy,France.