Toronto, Helsinki: What's next?

Following the 5th Science Centre World Congress in Toronto in June 2008, and a March 2009 science and society “think tank” in Helsinki, this October 31 ASTC annual conference session asked “What’s Next?” as science centers around the world grapple with how to address the planet’s major challenges.

Session leader Walter Staveloz of ASTC set the stage by emphasizing the important link between informal science education and science and society issues. Lesley Lewis of the Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, provided background on the Toronto Declaration and the evolution of ASTC’s strategic priorities, including a new emphasis on science and society. Lewis was followed by Kathy Sykes of the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, who provided a European perspective, describing Britain’s recent efforts to engage the public on scientific issues. Elizabeth Hoyos of Maloka Science Center, Bogotá, Colombia, spoke about Maloka’s cross-cultural efforts to engage the nation’s leaders on science and society issues.

Emlyn Koster of Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, New Jersey, a member of ASTC’s Science and Society Working Group, presented highlights from the science and society deliberation that occurred during the ASTC board meeting on October 30. He closed the session with a challenge to the field—to work toward establishing science centers as being as essential to education as colleges and universities.

Using this session as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a larger discussion, Staveloz will host a follow-up forum on ASTC Connect in 2010. If you are interested in joining the debate, please contact Walter Staveloz at