News - April 21, 2011

The first science café in English: in Wageningen

Wageningen's own science cafe will be launched on 12 May in the Loburg cafe. It is the first English-language science cafe in the Netherlands. The topic of the first meeting is the genetic passport.

There are plenty of lectures in Wageningen but up to now, no science cafe. That is about to change. From mid-May, a group of staff and students at Wageningen University will be running a bi-monthly science café in Loburg café.
'The science café concept has been a success in many other places. There is a need for a detached café setting in which to absorb scientific information and engage in debate. With a band in the background and a beer in the hand, people make contact more easily than they do in a lecture room', thinks assistant professor Dolf Weijers, one of the initiators.
The organizers look for themes that will interest Wageningen academics. 'Current issues on which it can be difficult to form an opinion without sound scientific information', explains Weijers. Potential topics include the 'makeable human being', or cyber sapiens, nanotechnology, the use of stem cells and the rise of the Chinese economy.
The first session on 12 May will be about the genetic passport, the establishment of risk profiles for diseases using genetic information. Edwin Cuppen, professor of Human Genetics at UMC Utrecht, will explain what is already possible in this field, and Hub Zwart, Nijmegen professor of philosophy and director of the Centre for Society and Genomics, will elucidate the ethical issues. A nice themes to kick off with, thinks Weijers. 'It is about the question of when technology impinges on the human being.'
This will be the first English-language science café in the Netherlands: a scoop for Wageningen. 'Well, we have more than a hundred nationalities here and we wanted it to be accessible to Master's students' PhD researchers and foreign colleagues', says Weijers. It also makes it possible to invite scientists from outside Wageningen. 'If someone happens to be in Wageningen or in the Netherlands, it might be possible to combine things.'