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Nov 1, 2006

3 rd NATO-UNESCO Advanced Research Workshop


General Information, Summary and Report

Background

Science education is an important element of the recruitment of further generations for scientific research. In this complex process a key point is the science education of high school students, who are in a very susceptible age to ask clear questions about the world around them, and to seek answers in a methodological way, as science does. Scientific research provides a unique and unparalleled opportunity for outstanding achievements even in this young age. The hierarchy-free atmosphere of a good scientific group gives the talented high school student a long-sought freedom and a unique opportunity to break from the original social and economical circumstances of the family. Identification and organisation of these usually highly talented students shows them that they are not alone, and gives a lot of friends for these young fellows who are often considered “odd” and “funny” in a regular school. Moreover, research training makes the social circles surrounding these students (schoolmates, family, relatives, etc.) understand science and breaks the alienation from scientific research in a significant part of the society. All these benefits would be really a treasure in the conflict-loaded, differentiated societies of Central-Eastern Europe, where after the initial social mobility the channels, where young members of the society may find an opportunity to change their social status were significantly narrowed. However, despite existing practices of highly successful science education initiatives in NATO countries of Western Europe and America, there are very few successful examples of research training of high school students in Central-Eastern European NATO and NATO partner countries. The workshop aims to establish more of these research training practices in CEE countries.

The workshop is a continuation of two highly successful NATO workshops in 2002 and 2004 and gives a comprehensive update of existing, highly successful examples of scientific research training in Europe, in the USA and Israel. This concentrated introduction of the best practices in the field provides a unique opportunity of participants from NATO countries to learn successful elements from other initiatives. As a plus to this benefit, an even greater positive outcome is expected to introduce these techniques to influential members of the science and education governmental and NGO scene of Central-Eastern European (mostly NATO partner) countries we invited. Our key speakers represent some of the best examples of such research training initiatives. At the preceding meeting in 2004 the participating science education centres formed a Network of Youth Excellence. The meeting also helps the crystallization of this Network.

The two Co-directors of the meeting know each other from the 2002 NATO Workshop in Budapest. Dr. Csermely leads a highly successful research training program in the last 10 years in Hungary, which enlisted already more than 5000 students not only from this country but also from all the neighbouring countries setting an excellent example of how such a talent-support program may promote regional co-operation. Professor Csermely has been awarded by numerous awards for this activity including the 2004 Descartes Award of the European Union, which he received together with Sir David Attenborough. Dr. Korado Korlevic is a world-wide known expert in comet and asteroid research. His commitment for the education of talented ans motivated high school students set an example for many countries in the region. He has been elected as the chairman of the Network of Youth Excellence at this meeting.

 

Meeting summary

The 3rd NATO-UNESCO Advanced Research Workshop on Talent Recruitment and Public Understanding for Science Education took place from 20-22 October, 2006 in Balatonfüred, Hungary. It was organized by the Network of Youth Excellence (NYEX), an international network of independent organizations devoted to science education of talented students primary between the age of 14-21. The meeting was attended by 45 participants from 22 different countries, including researchers and representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

The conference’s aim was to promote cooperation between existing scientific research training projects by exchanging their experiences and outlining successful organisational and fundraising tactics and establishing contacts for joint research projects and exchanges.

Presentation topics at the conference included introductions to successful research trainings, outlines of national policies and observations on talent recruitment. Roundtable discussion was held to discuss issues such as participation of females in research trainings, evaluating projects and ways to improve co-operation among orgaizations.                                             

THE CONFERENCE REPORT

EMBO-sponsored Roundtable on “How to communicate Talent Recruitment to the polititians and the media?”

The conference was preceded by an EMBO/UNESCO-sponsored satellite roundtable on the communication of research training to politicians and to the media on Thursday afternoon, 19 Oct. at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. The participants of the roundtable were representatives from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Israeli Ministry of Education, FEBS, UNESCO and experts from Albania and Hungary. NYEX was represented by the Executive Board members (from Croatia, Korea and the USA) as well as by a panel of young student researchers.  The conclusion of the roundtable was to induce such a self-reinforcing circle, where the media is provided with outstanding examples of successful young researchers, the increased public interest would attract politicians as patrons, who get positive feed-back through the media.  

Workshop on Science Education: Talent Recruitment and Public Understanding

The Conference itself opened on Friday afternoon. Peggy Connolly, the resigning chairperson of the Network of Youth Excellence welcomed the participants and featured the agenda of the meeting, followed by opening talks of Gilbert Fayl (European Academy of Sciences and Arts), Begoña Arano (DG Research, European Commission) and Julia Hasler (UNESCO), a summary of the EMBO roundtable was provided. During the two days the conference lectures offered not only recommendations and ideas about successful practices for young researches, but further insight to the importance of extra-scholar activities as well. A roundtable discussion was held each day with active participation and raised ideas for networking, better cooperation and mutual support among organizations. Possibilities for joint projects were mentioned, such as exchanges of students, teachers and sharing data and information for common scientific investigations. The formal part of the conference was closed on Saturday evening with a dinner served on the boat in the middle of the Lake Balaton.

On Sunday morning the NYEX Board meeting took place. In the board meeting the members elected Korado Korlevic (former vice-chairman) as chairman and Zvi Paltiel as vice-chairman. An advisory board was established, in which Peggy Connelly (former chairman), Peter Csermely and Szilard Kui (former secretary) will continue their devoted work for the network. The question of priorities in the further growth of the network and possible formation of a legal entity were discussed. Task-forces were appointed to improve communication, feed-backs and also to investigate the adventages and disadvanteges of establishing a formal association. Discussions and conclusions from the meeting are expected to contribute to an improved cooperation among the member organizations of the Network.

The participants of the meeting adopted the following agenda to foster future world-wide collaboration between the scientific research training initiatives:

1.     We need to further strengthen collaboration among the member and partner organizations of the Network of Youth Excellence. Initiatives for joint projects were discussed.

2.     The website of the Network of Youth Excellence (http://www.nyex.info) will continue to serve as source for information and announcments as one of the most effective tools for networking. Both the web-site and the mailing list will be used for the dissemination of new practices as well as for the development of multilateral contacts.

3.     Participants proposed a follow-up meeting two years from now, in 2008. As a result of the intensified networking during the coming two years, the follow-up meeting would be an excellent occasion for the evaluation of Network activities and to propose a “know-how” to help the further dissemination of successful practices


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