Scienceground is a journey of scientific conversation led by a dynamic group of people who are interested in cultivating a common ground where to seed the values of the scientific method. The activities take place throughout the year via different channels of discussion and confrontation, some within the community and others shared with a mixed public: university students and staff, children and kids at school, adults with a scientific background, or simply curious people.
During the festival of literature Festivaletteratura that takes place yearly in the city of Mantua, the activities converge in a moment of gathering and sharing of the self-directed learning experiences. The community discusses the analytical tools and critical knowledge acquired and opens up to the people on the problematic relationship between science and society.
The (ex-)temporary scientific community promoting Scienceground is mostly made up of students and university researchers scattered all around Italy and Europe. We are a heterogenous, inclusive and constantly evolving group, moved by shared interests and strong personal and professional bonds. Our group is inspired by an urgent desire to offer an alternative to the current mass communication of science, which aims more and more at a metaphorical narration of science and at its spectacularization.
The aim of Scienceground is not to entertain nor to raise awareness, but to spark a public debate in which the problems of science can be explored in the light of the intrinsic complexity of the scientific process, without resorting to absolute or self-evident truths. The challenge lies in approaching various contents, including advanced ones, in a free and friendly way in order to stimulate transversal reflections on science, technology, society, politics, culture, with the underlying belief that there is a subtle thread connecting all these aspects of civil society. This experience aims at providing critical tools to help unravel the knot, revealing the deep connections existing between scientific progress – with its rules, myths and controversies – and the social context in which it develops.
We are also convinced that it is through experimenting with new forms of dialogue, paying attention to the contents, and via passion and individual commitment, that we can fight the modern opposition between science/technology and society/culture. The traditional positivist conception of science as a herald of absolute truth and cold rationality is not only questionable but also detrimental to the very image of science in the long term. A flattened narration of science creates a radicalized and exploitative mindset, both in those who blindly support a scientifically/technologically-driven “future”, and in those longing in vain for a “paradise lost” which cannot be revived. Such dynamics inevitably ends up cracking the image of science in the public eye, jeopardizing the original communal values embodied by the scientific method: which is not a criterion for certainty, but rather the systematic exercise of doubt.
To give back depth and complexity to the scientific narrative is thus not just an opportunity for us to grow as individuals by learning to think critically, but it ultimately becomes a way (perhaps the only one?) to preserve science itself.