Cafe Scientifique

Café Scientifique is a grassroots program which encourages public discussion of new scientific and technological theories and ideas. These cafes are located throughout Great Britain and several locations exist in other countries such as the United States and Japan with expansion planned for areas in the Middle East.

The initiative typically meets once a month in either a café or a bar. Scientists are invited to speak to a group of people about their research and theories. The presentation of the materials is conducted in such a way as to make it accessible to the general public. The purpose of the café is to make laymen aware of issues relating to science particularly in areas related to public policy.

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Café scientifiques are not solely located in cafes and are not named based on location. Instead, Café Scientifique refers to a philosophy instead of a specific locale. The choice of holding these meetings in cafes, however, is an integral part of the philosophy. The idea is to provide a casual and relaxed ambience for those interested in learning more about the sciences. Instead of providing an environment which intimidates the student with lectures, notes, and exams, the café allows for scientists to discuss the material without creating an imposing academic situation.

There are numerous places in the world where cafes are held. Because of this, the program has to take into account various different cultures in order to make the experience more acceptable in different parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, the event is usually held by one speaker whereas in other countries there can be two or even more presenters. However, in Japan the presentation is typically solely auditory in order for the audience to be unaware of the age of the speaker. This is done because, in Japan, more respect is supposed to be given to the elderly.

The first Café Scientifique was organized in Leeds, a city in West Yorkshire in England by a man named Duncan Dallas. It was established by scientists for the purpose of informing the public about scientific subjects and concerns. The Committee on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) believed that the general population was not as in tune with technology and the sciences as was necessary for public welfare. Initially, the program was isolated to academic institutions but soon branched out in public forums such as bars. This opened up the Café Scientifique to a wider audience.

The Café Scientifique session typically begins with a short talk by the speaker. After this, a break is usually taken in order for the audience to converse and enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. This is followed by a question and answer session. This allows the audience a chance to pose any questions they might have and for the experts to answer. This section of the meetings also promotes discussion. Café Scientifique covers a variety of topics such as AIDS, cancer, biodiversity, genetic modification, global warming, evolution, ecology, nanotechnology, and sports science.

The Café Scientifique is a non-profit organization. They do not charge the audience an admission fee and the speakers themselves are not paid to present. However, the travel fares are provided to the presenters. This cost is paid for via donations collected from the audience during a lecture.

Copyright Cafe Scientifique Leicester, UK 2009/10