ESOF: Showcasing science, diversity and inclusivity

I can’t begin a message to personnel without saluting the amazing performance of the LHC as the Geneva summer finally gets under way. Nevertheless, last week, I left CERN behind me to spend some time at the biennial EuroScience Open Forum, ESOF2016, Europe’s biggest public-facing scientific event.


Launched in 2004 in Stockholm, ESOF had the bold ambition to become to Europe what the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting is to the US: a vital forum for science and society. Twelve years on, I think it’s fair to say that ESOF has achieved that goal. Over 3000 delegates attended this year’s event in Manchester, representing the worlds of research, academia, policy, industry and media – not to mention the general public who were treated to a feast of intellectual entertainment from some of Europe’s and the world’s leading scientists.

A keynote session featuring CERN DG Fabiola Gianotti, EMBL DG, Iain Mattaj, and ESO Director for Science, Rob Ivison, chaired by the BBC's Pallab Ghosh, debated the value of European collaboration in science. (Image: Matt Wilkinson Photography/ ESOF 2016)

I have had the pleasure to participate in ESOF meetings in the past. In 2014, the meeting was held in Copenhagen, where we highlighted the upcoming start of LHC Run 2. A highlight for me on both occasions was the very rewarding opportunity to have an informal meeting – “Pi(e) with the Prof”, they called it in Manchester – with young students and researchers at the start of their careers from all across the continent. This year, a few high-school students came along, and I was very pleased that several young women attended the discussion around coffee, tea… and pie.

EuroScience, the founding organisation of ESOF, was established in 1997 as a grassroots organisation with the mission to become:  a voice for and to European scientists; an anchor point for all those who want to interact with a European scientific voice; a platform for policymakers to connect to scientists and scientific institutions at a European level; and a platform where scientists, politicians and other stakeholders can meet, discuss and advance societal, including ethical, issues concerning science and its applications. These are laudable ambitions, and worthy of our support, particularly at a time when the concept of Europe is increasingly being called into question. In science, Europe works. In science, Europe is a world-leading force.  It is therefore vital that European science reaches out to all of its publics, and ESOF is a vital part of this process. In an increasingly uncertain world, it is ever more important that the principles of diversity, inclusivity and peaceful collaboration be upheld.

Fabiola Gianotti

For more information, read the article "CERN at ESOF 2016" published in this issue.