3 questions for Fred Courant
Fred Courant Science journalist, founder of L'Esprit Sorcier, coordinator of the Report on Risk Culture for the Ministry of Ecological Transition
— What was your main conclusion following the recent Report for the Ministry of Ecological Transition?
Fred Courant — I coordinated the report on risk culture with a number of experts, at the request of Barbara Pompili, Minister for Ecological Transition. Our work highlighted the inadequate risk culture in France. Climate change will only intensify natural, technological and industrial disasters and risks. So the challenge is to raise awareness among the general public.
— What role can an organisation like BRGM play in raising awareness?
F.C. — Science is everywhere. Scientific issues are at the heart of our lives, for example, in health, climate change and the environment, 5G, and so on. It’s vital for the public to be well informed, primarily so that they can make decisions within the framework of our democracy.
So for any research organisation, it’s important to communicate and to inform people about expertise, what areas are covered, and so on. You could say that promoting science outreach and developing the curiosity of the public is a public service.
BRGM is involved in all sorts of areas that have a direct impact on our lives: the coastline, water, soil disturbance and climate change.
This organisation, like many others, is already involved in science outreach. In 2016, for example, BRGM participated in the Fête de la Science national science festival and, with L'Esprit Sorcier, we have been putting together events and creating videos.
We need to go further, and I believe that science outreach should be at the heart of BRGM's activities. For example, the report recommends making Géorisques the reference website for risks in France, opening it up to all audiences (see Géorisques, the reference platform promoting a culture of resilience among all audiences). By making it more user-friendly, increasing vulgarisation or adding 3D, we could make it natural for people to get involved in “where we live”!
— More broadly, isn't there an issue concerning information quality?
F.C. — With digital technology and the explosion of social media, the transfer of information has become a real challenge. There are two ways to prevent fake news. The first is to re-establish the media in their role as fact checkers. The second is to enable those who have certified expertise to disseminate it directly. This is part of science outreach too.