La UB Divulga: science for everyone
The University of Barcelona gets research closer to society through many approaches
Bringing research closer to people is getting more and more necessary. La UB Divulga gather the initiatives carried out at the University of Barcelona by means of different approaches: from talks aimed at general audiences far from science forums to planning parties and games to explain what science is about, going through an intense task of spreading the word on social networks. Researchers from all disciplines are involved in this important task.
The Historical Building of the University of Barcelona is full on the day of the Science Fest of the UB, an event in which the research staff prepares workshops to get citizens closer to the science carried out at the University. One of these activities is carried out by the lecturer of the Faculty of Chemistry José Antonio Padilla, on science and materials engineering, which receives many visitors. During the activity, a group of Japanese tourists who have arrived to see the architecture of the building gets closer. One of them sees the children, listening to the researcher’s explanations, and says to Padilla: “You are a good teacher”. “That person did not understand our language but saw children taking part in a dissemination activity: this means we were doing a good job, and we were waking up some scientific vocations”, notes Padilla.
The Science Fest shows the task of the Scientific Culture and Innovation Unit (UCC+i) of the UB, organizer of the event. “Probably, and luckily, dissemination existed from the moment research started to exist too”, says Marga Becerra, member of the UCC+i. This unit of the University created La UB Divulga, which became a club which anyone interested in science can join.
Many formulas to explain science
The UCC+I, which received the Quality Education Label from the Barcelona Pedagogical Coordination Council (CCP), which promoted initiatives such Camins Infinits, which offers lectures at schools so that researchers who are preparing their doctoral thesis can present their research to young students and answer their questions. Another project, Toc-toc, lets experienced researchers give lectures to social and cultural institutions that apply for it. During the weeks of COVID-19 pandemic situation, an online edition has come up: Toc-toc: #joemquedoacasa.
Any support can be used for dissemination, for instance cartoons, like in the case of the children-addressed collection Animated Science. It features thirteen episodes on the scientific method, sustainable tourism, and the periodic table, among others. During the period of closed schools due to the pandemic, the episodes of Animated Science have been broadcasted on Clan TV as educational content for children.
There are many other ways to disseminate science. For instance, illustrated narration in tales: in Pinta’m un conte, a narrator tells a small group of children about a story with scientific content while an illustrator draws a painting. Also, boardgames (like Inventum) and phone apps (RiuNet and BCNRocks) can serve as disseminating tools. The website of La UB Divulga offers about forty projects like these. Moreover, the University conducts dissemination activities framed within events such as the Mobile World Congress Youth Mobile Festival (YOMO) , and Espai Ciència in Saló de l’Ensenyament.
At the moment, however, dissemination is carried out through social media. La UB Divulga uses its profile @UBDivulga to publish on Twitter about highlighted facts, and it uses the hashtag #motordelarecercaub on Instagram to present researchers of the University, from a professional and personal view. Their aim is to bring the figure of men and women who work in science closer to society.
UB researchers are artificers of this task to make science closer. Professor Carme Llasat, from the Faculty of Physics, notes that “Since I started doing research on natural risks, I considered the people to be the addressees, so that my research could be a service to society”. Also, Professor Esther Arroyo, from the Faculty of Law, head of the Jean Monnet Chair on Private Law, which counts on European funding and includes dissemination among its requirements, thinks there should be more official calls for research projects focused on dissemination. The Jean Monnet Chair organizes playful workshops on European Law, consumers’ rights and housing in the Science Fest.
The vice-rector for Doctoral Studies and Research Promotion, Xavier Roigé, says that one of the functions of research is to transfer and share knowledge: “Researchers have to return to society that which we study, explaining it in an understandable way, in order to help society to take decisions”. “Moreover —he says—, dissemination is great: knowing how to simplify scientific problems helps us making advances in our research”. Actually, dissemination contributes to guarantee the human right to science, included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In short, the disseminating task has an impact on the need to set more bindings between the scientific community and society.
Xavier Delclòs, professor at the Faculty of Earth Sciences, has worked along with the UCC+i for a long time. An example is the organization of the Geoflaix exhibition. “We all should have a time piece to explain our research to society instead of using only science forums”, he says. However, he says dissemination does not have the support it should.
Although the regulation notes the importance of having citizens present in research project, it still needs to set how to fit dissemination actions in the researchers’ curricula. Regarding the UB, the vice-rector’s offices for Research and Doctoral Studies and Research Promotion expect to collect the dissemination activities in the Academic dedication plan (PDA) of the UB teaching staff.