CONICET working on social inclusion to support scientific efficiency
One of the most ambitious goals of REINFORCE is to explore the potential of frontier citizen science for inclusion and diversity. The project aims to extend the senses used in scientific inference beyond the visual, including sense-impaired people (especially visually impaired) and senior citizens, by providing them with tools (sonification of data for visually impaired people, virtual training workshops for people from rural areas, specialized ICT training workshops for senior citizens) and training to overcome specific barriers. Hopefully these groups will enrich the project by bringing new ideas to it.
The main actor working to achieve this objective will be the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), which is the main agency fostering science and technology in Argentina. This Research Institution is developing software that aims to achieve better and multisensory access to astronomical data; it is called SonoUno and, given some tables of astronomical data, it creates a graphic response and also sound that allows blind people to explore the data.
Beatriz Garcia, the Scientific Researcher from the CONICET leading the work package devoted to increasing inclusion, stresses the participatory methodology that will be used: the objective is to develop a tool with the user, not for the user.
In order to do that, she believes that an appropriate interface is required to involve citizens in scientific projects, and the role of scientists is fundamental in helping shorten the distance between science and the public. For this reason, scientists must have a high degree of understanding and empathy with their interlocutors. To explain her point better, Beatriz Garcia borrows the words of a writer who is a compatriot of hers, Julio Cortázar: “A bridge (…) is not really a bridge while men do not cross it”, which means that science needs to be understood by citizens to be actually helpful for society.
She underlines that science is a cultural activity that can be found everywhere and this must be understood not only by scientists, but by the whole society. To pave the way for this scenario, it is necessary that scientists make their activity understandable, showing that basic and applied science can help all of us to be better citizens.
REINFORCE is therefore expected to have a high impact on citizens, because it will make large-scale research projects accessible, and nowadays improving the access to innovative technologies in the field of science is no longer just a desire of scientists, but an actual social demand. Therefore, Beatriz Garcia explains that, although the project is targeting European audiences, the participation of an Argentinian institution denotes that the output of this project will be relevant throughout the world.