For the third year running, the CNRS is rewarding men and women who share scientific information and knowledge beyond the laboratory walls. Physicist Wiebke Drenckhan stands out for her original use of art as a medium for scientific mediation. Also honored this year were the "Math en jeans" association, which enables schoolchildren to discover mathematical research, the book "Tout comprendre (ou presque) sur le climat", which has been exceptionally successful in bookshops for a scientific work, and Criminocorpus, the first virtual museum on the history of justice in France. Finally, David Louapre is rewarded for his channel, which has become a mainstay of the French scientific YouTube channel.
The aim of scientific mediation is to share available scientific knowledge with non-specialists, in schools, colleges or simply with the general public. The transmission of knowledge is one of the CNRS’s missions, so it was only natural to recognize and reward those who commit themselves to this approach, which requires a particular investment. For Antoine Petit, President and CEO of the CNRS, " talking about science to a wide audience and explaining the scientific process should enable everyone to form their own informed convictions, based on what we know, and what we don’t know, or don’t know yet". " Science is not belief, but a body of knowledge acquired through a rigorous and collective method. Developing scientific mediation is also an essential action in the fight against fake news and all forms of obscurantism. I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the 2023 winners of the CNRS Medaille de la Médiation Scientifique. They are the faces of the open, integrated and shared science that CNRS and its partners build every day."
Wiebke Drenckhan: art as a medium for scientific mediation
" In classic popularization, we often only reach people who are already interested in the subject. With art, design or music, we can talk about science to a public that didn’t come for that." CNRS Research Director at the Institut Charles Sadron (CNRS) in Strasbourg, Wiebke Drenckhan has made a name for herself in science, receiving the bronze medal from the CNRS. But the woman who once hesitated between art and science has managed to reconcile the two. She has coordinated several projects that draw on different artistic disciplines as a means of mediation. In the Polus Meros project, carried out in collaboration with designers Raphael Pluvinage and Juliette Gelli, she devised a racing game with drops of water on hydrophobic surfaces. In "Bulles & mousses : art & science", she staged a show with bubble artist Sébastien Kauffmann, based on the properties of foam and bubbles, where she also played the accordion.
Another string to her bow, she has produced numerous illustrations for books, magazines and various media.
MATH en JEANS and the discovery of mathematical research
" We want to show students that mathematics is a modern discipline, not just for professionals," explains Aviva Szpirglas, president of MATH en JEANS. In the 2022-2023 school year, some 3,725 students passed through 288 of the association’s workshops, 46% to 50% of them girls, depending on the year. 462 teachers and 163 scientists volunteered to supervise the youngsters’ work, enabling them to experiment with mathematical research. Approved by the French Ministry of Education, MATH en JEANS offers middle and high school students the opportunity to work on a mathematical problem in the manner of a researcher. Groups work for a year on a chosen problem, and meet regularly with a researcher and teacher to compare their progress. At the end of the year, the teams present their results in the form of articles and lectures at a mathematical congress.
Climate and its challenges accessible to all
"At a time when everything is being talked about on social networks, we wanted to give researchers, their work and their words a higher profile," explains Anne Brès, head of communications at the CNRS’s Institut national des sciences de l’Univers. In the battle for information on the climate, the aim is to boost the visibility of scientific pages, long diluted in search engine results by the excessive amount of climate-skeptic content. To achieve this, a collective coordinated by Anne Brès brought together blogger Bon Pote and around twenty climatologists to write articles responding to various climate-related fake news. These texts were also transformed, with the help of illustrator Claire Marc, into illustrated sketchnotes. These sketchnotes have since been published in the book "Tout savoir (ou presque) sur le climat", one of CNRS Éditions’ bestsellers.
Criminocorpus: a virtual museum and magazine on the history of justice
Launched in 2005, the Criminocorpus platform sheds light on the history of justice in France. Its vast database of 69,000 references, including digitized historical documents and scientific publications, has become a must for scientists and justice professionals alike. This rich content is accompanied by a virtual museum, the only one of its kind on the web, with exhibitions and themed tours for the general public on subjects such as the penal colony and the abolition of the death penalty. Justice issues often give rise to caricatured confrontations, and when researchers are called upon by the media, it’s usually in a hurry," reports Marc Renneville, director of Criminocorpus. We came to the conclusion that what was missing was a dedicated public space." The platform also hosts initiatives such as the Hugo service, which lists places of trial and execution of sentences in French history. The Criminocorpus YouTube channel boasts over 600,000 views, and the entire site is freely accessible.
David Louapre: when science amazes on YouTube
Every month, a new video explains a scientific concept from biology, astronomy, quantum physics... David Louapre is in charge of the Science Étonnante YouTube channel, which has over 1.3 million subscribers and 110 million video views. " I’m driven by the desire to pass on to society what I’ve been lucky enough to learn during my studies and research ", explains this doctor in theoretical physics, a graduate of ENS Lyon. While working in private research at Saint-Gobain, David Louapre opened a blog, which he turned into a YouTube channel in 2015. In it, he tackles the scientific subjects that fascinate him, meeting with great success online. He has gone on to publish several popular works, including "Mais qui a attrape le bison de Higgs?". David Louapre is also Scientific Director at Ubisoft, where he adapts simulations and scientific models to the world of video games.