The International Conference on Science Communication kicks off today in Nancy, France. Named after the famed French physicist Hubert Curien, “the Journées Hubert Curien de la Culture Scientifique et Technique,” expects more than 600 participants from 67 countries, according to the press release issued last week.

Tonight’s activities begin with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. followed by public talks by France’s first woman in space, Claudie Haigneré, currently the president of Universcience, and the head of the science communication through multimedia division at the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources in India, Gauhar Raza.

Earlier in the week Ph.D. students were invited to take part in a science communications training course.

The poster sessions, workshops, and lectures run through Friday.

I’ll be covering the meeting through Thursday and reporting back with highlights.

The talks tonight revolved around a familiar theme in reaching various audiences in science communications, trust. How can connections be made from the civil to the scientific to the political? Mr Raza discussed the “scientific temper” and how the Indian constitution adapted the idea that a fundamental responsibility of an Indian citizen is to “develop a scientific temper.” This was an effort to reach across a very diverse population to find a common thread in thinking logically and without bias.

This concept, Raza suggested, is the ideological basis for communicating science. The reality of the situation, however, is that the communicating of science does not exist in a ideological vacuum and provides an opportunity to revisit the scientific temper statement.

Dr. Haigneré, whose comments came to me by way of a translator and any direct quotes reflect that translation, expressed that there needs to be open lines of communications between the public, researchers, and scientists. Creating knowledge and translating that knowledge leads to dialogue, which is “important in an enlightened democracy.”

Dr. Haigneré said that people distrust things that are too far away. In order to achieve acceptance, science needs to become relevant to an individual and it needs to become a part of the culture.

“If we do not have conversation where we can translate science we will produce mistrust and a lack of confidence,” she said.

To do that, we need to speak a language that is understood by everyone and one that respects the values of the individuals involved in the conversations.

The conference continues tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know what I hear.

Check out live sketches of the meeting here.