Originally I was just going to talk about the thinking behind Café Scientifique in a blog post; however, the more I found out about the concept, the more I realized that it warranted its own page here on the All About Forensic Science Website.
Café Scientifique events take place in cafés, bars, bookshops etc and typically begin with a talk from somebody with a scientific background. The events are open to all and allow the audience to discuss and think about thought provoking scientific issues in a very relaxed and informal environment.
One only has to think about the potential serious consequences of the CSI effect to see that this is an excellent concept that should be embraced by the forensic science community.
"The audience does not come for self-improvement or to be lectured to. It comes to participate...The public wants to be informed, but also want to discuss the consequences, and very often the Cafés provide the most interesting and agreeable opportunity for this." (Duncan Dallas)
The History of Café Scientifique
The Café Scientifique concept was developed by Duncan Dallas and was inspired by the cafés philosophiques movement in France. In an article for the Guardian newspaper, Dallas notes "I was reading the paper's obituary of Marc Sautet, the man who founded the cafés philosophiques in France, and I thought 'I'd like to do that'. But the British don't think philosophy is a real subject, so I opted for science instead."
The first Café Scientifique event took place in Leeds (UK) in 1998 and was advertised as A place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, people can meet to discuss the latest ideas of science and technology which are changing our lives.
Over 40 people turned up to hear the first speaker talk about the idea of 'The Selfish Gene' by Richard Dawkins. At the end of the evening, when a number of people said "When's the next one?" Dallas realized that the Café Scientifique concept had a future. There are now Café Scientifiques throughout the world.
To listen to Duncan Dallas talking about Café Scientifique on BBC radio just click on the logo below. This programme was first broadcast on the 13th March 2003.
How Does It Work?
The following information is taken form the Café Scientifique website FAQ page:
Cafes start with a short talk from the speaker, who is usually a scientist or a writer on science to introduce the topic. After this there is usually a short break to allow glasses to be refilled and conversations to start. This is followed by an hour or so of questions and answers and general discussion.
Audiences consist of people who are interested in science but generally never have the opportunity to discuss their views with, and ask questions of, someone "in the know". No scientific knowledge is assumed by the speakers, so anyone can participate.
Cafes are generally free and you can just turn up on the night. However, in some venues a small entry charge is made to cover venue costs and many cafes pass a hat round on the night for contributions towards the speaker's travel expenses. These are always voluntary.
Cafe Scientifique does not make a profit from events or pay fees to speakers.