Science Centre World Summit 2014: a success beyond expectations

From Monday 17 until Wednesday 19 March 2014, the Science Centre World Summit took place in Mechelen, Belgium. This international summit brought together CEO’s, managers, decision makers and experts from within and outside the science centre field. In total, 464 participants from 58 different countries attended the World Summit. Among them, there were three astronauts, two Nobel prize laureates and one member of the royal family: His Majesty King Philippe, King of Belgium.

Technopolis®, the Flemish Science Centre in Mechelen, Belgium, hosted the Science Centre World Summit 2014. The official opening session was attended by His Majesty King Philippe. Belgian Nobel prize laureate professor François Englert addressed the attendees sharing his vision about the importance of science and technology and of communicating about it.

Other key speakers during the opening session were professor Tissa Vitarana (Senior Minister Scientific Affairs, Sri Lanka), Mrs Marie Levens (Director Human Development, Education and Culture at the Organisation of American States) and professor Anne Glover (Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso). Professor Glover emphasized the importance of communicating research: “Research not communicated is research not done.”
The World Summit programme was built up around three main themes: ‘Research and communication of research’, ‘Engaging learners in all settings’ and ‘New technologies for learning and engagement’.

One of the outcomes of the World Summit is known as the Mechelen Declaration. In this document, the science centre field and its strategic partners commit to concrete actions. The document was signed by delegates from within the science centre field and their networks: ASPAC (The Asia Pacific Network of Science & Technology Centres), ASTC (The Association of Science-Technology Centers), ECSITE (European network of science centres and museums), NAMES (The North Africa and Middle East Science centers network), NCSM (National Council of Science Museums), REDPOP (Network for the Popularization of Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean) and SAASTEC (Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres).

Furthermore, also delegates from outside the science centre field signed the Mechelen Declaration to give their support: Kris Peeters (Minister-President of the Government of Flanders), Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz (President of the International Council of Museums), Tissa Vitarana (Senior Minister Scientific Affairs, Sri Lanka), Anne Glover (Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso) and Marie Levens (Director Human Development, Education and Culture at the Organisation of American States). By signing the document, they agree to promote the Declaration to their organisation and to respond to future invitations to discuss potential partnerships.

Another result of the World Summit are the new partnerships that are initiated and formalised.
The agreement between the Chinese Association of Natural Sciences Museums (CANSM) and the Association of Science-Technology Centres (ASTC) for the translation of its award-winning magazine “Dimensions” in Chinese was officially signed.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) expressed their interest in partnering with the science centre field.
Also the Human Brain Project (HBP), the new Flagship EU initiative, announced a global collaboration with science centres. This co-creation approach will bring the public along a scientific journey through thousands of science centres around the world.

The Science Centre World Summit 2014 was organised with the support of several partners. Diamond Partner of the SCWS 2014, was Evonik, a well-known international chemical company. Evonik demonstrated its Cyber Classroom, a unique tool to learn about complex science subjects using 3D-technology. The Cyber Classroom makes it easier for students to understand for example 3D-molecules in chemical reactions. Furthermore, the Science Centre World Summit enjoyed the kind support of Archimedes, Bruns, Hüttinger and Solvay as Golden Partners.

The Science Centre World Summit was a topic in many national and international press titles. The opening session was attended by more than 30 journalists.