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science and citizenship

science and citizenship

For three days, Lisbon hosted the Ibero-American Conference on Science and Technology Indicators, whose network celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020. As explained by Maria de Lourdes Rodriguez, Dean of ISCTE-IUL, which hosted the event, more than a year expected to have a face-to-face meeting, but It was only possible to use a hybrid form, although approximately 800 people attended the sessions. But this Congress, even after a year’s lag, was still a celebration in which some of those who intervened in the formation of this network, such as Maria de Lourdes Rodrigues or João Mata, but also those who contributed to it for many took part. Year Nuno Rodriguez, current Director General of Education and Science Statistics. Statistics and indicators may seem to the layman, myself included, a dry subject we prefer to get into in the bottom line, perhaps without wondering how their formulation is decisive in the choice of public policies. Minister Manuel Heitor, who has monitored the regulation and selection of topics from the start, emphasized the importance of thinking about new trends in building indicators (preserving traditional methodologies or integrating blockchain technology?) and above all, achieving greater participation of citizens in shaping scientific agendas. Science and technology at the service of societies and people.

At the closing conference, Alexandre Quintanilha astounded us with his reflection on risk, resilience, and the place of knowledge. It couldn’t be a more recent topic in a time of risk and adversity, as we are still searching for solutions to a virus that seems to be out of our control. We are dissatisfied (to say the least) because solutions do not come all at once, there are different opinions and decision makers are not as firm as we would like. We live our lives in a thread and we live in great uncertainty. As Alexandre Quintanilla warned, the only tool we have for gaining resilience is to increase knowledge, to build what he calls clear self-confidence, and the combination of certainty and enduring questioning, allowing us to more humbly accept that science is and always will be. Way. The word time was so present in his thinking – knowledge takes time, building our resilience takes time, decision makers need time – and yet we only know speed, almost unlimited acceleration.

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Therefore, it was a privilege to hear from the Spanish philosopher and mathematician Javier Echeverria at this conference on indicators, in an intervention called “Information, disinformation, and technical data”, which alerts to the effects of technologies on science and, above all, the social impacts of the existing economy on data that will make those who own them more powerful (just think about how we enrich them each time we allow them access to all of our information!). In 1994, Echevarría published one of his most famous books, Telepolis, a metaphor for a city that establishes new models of human coexistence, in which population concentration leads to geographical dispersal, though social interaction is enhanced. Borders can have effects on the formation of nation-states. A few years later, he published Los señores del aire: Telépolis y el tercer entorno (1999), in which he analyzes the impact of information technology on our society, showing that it is not just a change in technology, but a new social order characterized by the possibility of remote connection and interaction (-tele). If our recent experience (empty cities with citizens working remotely) allows us to get acquainted with this new virtual system, Echeverría called at his conference in Lisbon an ethics of knowledge, where we can (more) prepare for a critical conscience (I refer to one of his books: Ciência do Bem eo Evil, 2007).

Thinking about indicators of science and technology is not, after all, a task purely for specialists, but behind them is a broad reflection of choices and policies (How do you measure the social impact of science and technology? What is the social perception and appropriation of knowledge?? How do strategies improve scientific communication?). This Ibero-American network, of which we are all so proud, has been able to look to the future, realizing that data collection can never be separated from a sense of citizenship that requires constant questioning.

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Director in Portugal of the Organization of Ibero-American States