Interview: Jácome Armas

Science can rival football or music for a fun night out – an interview with Jácome Armas

Science & Cocktails lectures combine scientific knowledge with music, art and dry-ice-filled cocktails

According Jácome Armas, the secret of Science & Cocktails success is idealism. Photo credit: Courtesy of Science & Cocktails
By Marta Apablaza

Science can be as fun as a music concert or a game of football, according to Jácome Armas, the Portuguese physicist who founded the Science & Cocktails (S&C) series of public lectures in Denmark. This initiative, which combines scientific knowledge with music, art and dry ice-filled drinks, offer new ways to communicate science. It has arned Armas a Genius Prize from the Danish Science Journalists Association.

On the 29th of June 2017, a Science & Cocktails party will be held in the Christiania neighbourhood of Copenhagen, as part of the programme of activities of the 4th European Conference for Science Journalists (ECSJ2017). Here, Jácome Armas answers our questions on the duties of scientists and the secret of Science & Cocktails’ success.

What does it mean to be a scientist in 2017? What obligations do they have to society?

In essence, I don’t think that what it means to be a scientist in 2017 is any different than what it meant to be a scientist when the word scientist was first invented. A scientist has the task of immersing himself or herself in research and furthering scientific knowledge.

In that sense, they have no necessary obligations to society or citizens, except for the one that defines them – that of furthering knowledge. With that being said, scientists have several duties which they are free to take. One of the most important is to educate new generations and the public on the scientific method and scientific findings, either through education or through publication engagement.

How does the S&C concept encourage people to engage with science?

S&C completely deconstructs the academic environment and creates a relaxed atmosphere where the audience and the researchers are on an equal footing. It integrates science into the cultural sphere, making it an explicit part of people’s daily lives. When such an atmosphere is created, it makes it much easier for the public to engage with science and discuss findings informally.

Jácome Armas, founder of the Science and Cocktails series of alternative lectures. Image credit: ECSJ2017

 

What limits people’s engagement with science?

The strongest limitation is the lack of the right platforms that can reach the public. Many science communication efforts still take place in the daytime, which makes it difficult for working people to go.

People are eager to engage, but scientific knowledge has to be placed into a context that allows them to do so. S&C is one such platform, combining cutting-edge science with the light-heartedness of being associated with an entertaining night out.

An important aspect of the image of science and scientists as seen by the general public is their status in the cultural domain. If the status of scientists can be raised to the same level as those of artists, musicians and sports players, some of the negative connotations that are usually associated with science and research would be radically changed.

Why do you think S&C is so successful?

S&C has integrity. It stays true to the foundations of science and does not make compromises with the scientific content. Instead of focusing on quick soundbites, S&C believes that research, science, education and entertainment, when combined, are as good for a night out as a music concert, art exhibition, football game or movie night.

The efforts to integrate science into night-time culture have made S&C successful. We have the conviction that one day people will gather around a TV screen to watch the next S&C episode, instead of watching Cristiano Ronaldo kicking a soccer ball and crying for having missed the goal.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.