Czech Science and Technology Week underway

05-11-2003

Technical universities in the Czech Republic have been witnessing a gradual drop in the number of students over the past years, as is the case pretty much everywhere else in Europe. While science and technology play key roles in our everyday life, young people are turning away from science subjects.

In order to attract young people back to science, events such as the Week of Science and Technology are being held throughout Europe. The Czech Republic is taking part in it this week, with dozens of research institutes, observatories, laboratories and lecture halls around the country opening their doors to the public.

Helena Illnerova is the chairwoman of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

"This is mostly directed towards high-school students so that the high-school students might find out what is important now in research and how it is interesting and how it is interesting and maybe one day they will decide themselves to become researchers or scientists."

Our science correspondent Pavla Horakova has been following the events of the Science and Technology Week. Pavla, Helena Illnerova said the main target of the week is to raise young people's interest in science. What kind of reactions have you seen among the young visitors?

"I can't be too general as we are now only in the middle of the week. But I've been to a few lectures in the mornings where most of the audience were high school students. To me they seemed to be enjoying themselves because of the simple fact it was better than school. I've seen the usual; such as young boys sneaking off in the middle of the lecture to have a cigarette in the toilets. Also after the lectures, during question time, it was only older people, more precisely senior citizens, who asked any questions."

So you think in this respect, the week is missing its point?

"No, I would not say that. I just think it is very difficult to make things like science look attractive to 16-year olds. You can't expect a whole classroom to fall in love with, for example, genomics after one lecture. The official European Union website says about Science Week that its main strength is that it stresses the importance of 'showing' rather than 'telling' young Europeans how science and technology affects their daily lives. And I think in this country, the events are is still very much about "telling". But Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are offering more interactive programmes, so we'll see what the response will be."

What else have you seen so far apart from lectures?

"I've been to two round tables at the Academy of Sciences, on the topics of women in science and the brain drain from the Czech Republic. Both were really really interesting, but again, although they were meant for the broad public and journalists, the audience hardly outnumbered the speakers and the number of journalists was negligible. And I think it's a great shame."

There are still four days of Science Week ahead of us. Is there something you'd like to recommend to our listeners who are based in Prague or the Czech Republic?

"I think Wednesday's lecture on brain research will be tremendously interesting. On Thursday and Friday, they can come to the Academy of Sciences' headquarters to "Meet the Mighty Gene Machine" - that's an interactive programme prepared by the British Council to mark the 50 years of the Double Helix, the DNA. And of course, a great tip for the weekend. On Saturday, the Ondrejov space observatory, southeast of Prague will open its doors and all weekend, visitors are welcome at the peak of the Milesovka Mountain in northwest Bohemia at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics. They can watch, for example, how the thickness of fog is measured."

05-11-2003