Jan 062012

Dear Reader,

It is my pleasure to present to you the third issue of the Jour- nal of Unsolved Questions, with the topic “Communicating Science”, which is, of course, a topic close to our hearts. JunQ is most and foremost a tool for communicating science, successful or not, either to other scientists or to the non-scientific public. I know that often a scientific article can look appalling for someone outside of the area, but it does not always have to be like that. We can put aside the mystic scientific details and focus on the essence of work: why did they do this? Does it bring anything new and useful for the world? Does it answer any essential pertinent question (scientific or not)? Scientists can only profit from a non-scientific peer review, as the people outside of the scientific community can give a different perspective regarding the impact of the work or regarding the needs of the real world when it comes to new research topics. But the scientific community must also take the other side into con- sideration. What does the scientific community do to get closer to the public? Probably the most common answer will be “not much”. In fact few scientists go through the effort to occasionally simplify their language and divulge their work to the non-scientific crowd. We all know the scientist stereotype, totally absent of any social and communicating skills, trapped in a lab with his lab coat and colorful potions. Thanks to the new media, social networks, and the increase in “popular science” magazines, this panorama is changing at a good pace. In this issue we pay particular attention to a German initiative in science communication, the Falling Walls Conference, which is an annual global gathering of individuals from more than 75 countries. In each edition, 20 of the world’s leading scientists are invited to present their current research. The conferences have been held since 2009 on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall to celebrate this historic day and give a fresh look to the world of tomorrow. The JUnQ team was present in this year’s edition where we also made a live Twitter coverage of the most interesting talks during the conference. (Follow us on Twitter: @JUnQJournal) You can find a summary of the conference’s most important topics in the article “When Walls Come Down, Inspiration is Scattered Everywhere ”.
It was possible to change a few words with the renowned mathematician Cedric Villani, whose opinion about “Communicating Math to the Masses” is printed in this very issue, additionally editorial board member Thomas Jagau gives his opinion about the phrase “sustainable chemistry” in his essay “Can Chemistry be Green?”.
This passing year has been very successful in gathering contributions for JunQ. Approximately 20 contributions were sent to us from all over the world, they were carefully reviewed and selected. Four of these contributions covering a plethora of scientific disciplines can be found in this issue. This year has also been important for the JUnQ team in terms of collaborations with other institutions. Since July we have been working together with the German speaking broadcasting station detector.fm. This includes a monthly podcast, “Question of the Month”, about an unsolved ques- tion in science. You can access the contributions either at our website (http://junq.info) or at http://detektor.fm.
Spreading JUnQ’s message was facilitated by the many in- vitations we got to comment on the importance of negative and null-results and the idea of JUnQ in the media. To name one example, an article about JunQ was published in Times Higher Education entitled “Gems in the research scrapheap”.[1]    Furthermore the editorial board was invited to write the editorial article in the magazine “Nachrichten aus der Chemie” published by the Gesellschaft deutscher Chemiker.[2] Something we are very excited about is the formation of an association (German, Verein) in conjunction with the JunQ project. The bureaucratic process is still in progress, but this will hopefully allow us to organize our actions and collaborations better and will help in making the Journal of Unsolved Questions the tool for communication we have aimed at since our first issue. But that is impossible without your help, as usual we ask readers to participate actively in this journal either by taking part in our organized talks, leaving a comment on our website or, most importantly, sending us your contributions. We are waiting for you!
– Rute Andre
[1] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=417276&c=1

[2] Nachrichten aus der Chemie, September 2011, page 807

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