25 No. 3
May - June 2003
I first read about the Open Door initiative launched by the
European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) last year (see
article p. 4), memories of my open door days from college
surfaced instantly. These were days of fun, and their anticipation
quite exciting. I studied in a small, mostly regional and
relatively young university, the University of Mons-Hainaut
in Belgium (Hi there!). The open door event was, as I recall,
on Saturday when the labs usually were closed. For that day
however, we cleaned up the hallways a bit, prepared posters,
and arranged for fun displays of chemical experiments and
more serious presentations of our scientific research. It
was our chance to show off. High school and potential students
accounted for a large portion of visitors, but not all. Parents
and relatives of current undergraduate and graduate students
often found their way to the school; among them were always
a few teachers and engineers.
from time to time, there was the unexpected visitor, such
as the professor who worked on another floor, but who, until
then, had never found a good reason to pay us a visit. Alumni
who were now teachers or professionalssome working in
the chemical industrywere often quite inquisitive about
their former lab and school. Then, there was Monsieur et Madame
from down the street or next block; they were just curious
to learn about our topics of research. They didnt know
if we were chemistry or physics students, and to them it made
no difference. Our job was to show them around, and hopefully
to leave them with the impression that the school was a good
and safe neighbor, and the realization that science can be
fun and yet very practical.
read now that the CEFIC initiative is a success is no surprise,
and dont try to tell me that it has anything to do with
the Belgian weather (see M. Devisschers article . .
.)! Before one can understand, or simply appreciate the value
of science, and chemistry in particular, one needs a certain
level of awareness. A guided tour of a chemical plant can
be an eye opener, as can the visit to a research laboratory.
I imagine that for those who work in such places, an open
door event can be a friendly way to share with visitors what
their jobs entail. The same sentiments behind these open door
initiatives can be seen in the issues to be addressed at the
symposia organized by the Subcommittee on the Public Understanding
of Chemistry during the next IUPAC Congress in Ottawa. (See
the program on page 6.) As the organizers note,
"Chemistry cannot flourish in isolation, but must develop
within a context of public understanding and mutual trust."
If you want to participate in such debate, mark your calendar
for 14 August 2003 the symposia will be "open door,"
i.e., open to the public!
last modified 29 April 2003.
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