"Health and quality of life" one of the thematic paths of the European City of Science

10 aug 2023

In just a few months, celebrations will begin for Katowice to be awarded the title of European City of Science (EMN 2024)! This honour is awarded by the EuroScience organisation in cooperation with the European Commission. As part of EMN 2024, the capital of the Silesian Voivodeship will host events to promote science for 12 months. Each of the 50 planned weeks of the year will be dedicated to an important problem, the solution of which will have a direct impact on life. To jointly prepare for the 2024 events, the rectors of Katowice's public universities, including the Medical University of Silesia, have formed the Katowice City of Science Consortium. It comprises seven universities, more than 59,000 students, almost 1,800 PhD students and 747 fields of study and specialisations. In the context of the entire event, the region's universities agreed on six thematic paths that respond to the most important challenges and problems of the modern world.

Among the thematic tracks were:

Health and quality of life
Health, both physical and mental, is one of the core values we strive for. Good health and quality of life is also the name of the third of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are interested in how to take care of quality of life, especially in times of crises - pandemics, war, increasing economic tensions. Increasing access to health services and health education is a cornerstone of the region's sustainable development and one of the goals of the European City of Science 2024. Within the pathway, we focus, among other things, on the revitalisation of brownfield sites to best serve the local community. Good planning of public spaces and greening of areas, will enable outdoor leisure activities. Health and quality of life are also affected by our work. The creation of new, attractive jobs will not only keep young people in the region and contribute to the influx of people from other parts of Poland or abroad, but will also have a positive impact on their quality of life. Among other things, we are also working together to plan the future Green Science Zone as a place dedicated to contact with knowledge, but also as a place for leisure activities.

Climate and the environment
The anthropogenic climate changes observed worldwide are the greatest challenge facing humanity today. Their consequences will include population migrations, armed conflicts (e.g. over access to drinking water sources), devastating droughts and violent weather phenomena and new diseases. This is why it is so important that we are already putting measures in place to halt these changes and adapt to the changing reality. The pathway focuses on research related to, among other things, the low-carbon economy and its effective implementation, energy transition and green energy, closed loop economies, water and air quality, and sustainable cities and communities.

Industries of the future
Recent years have seen the advancement of modern technologies, including those related to artificial intelligence or robotics. The 21st century is a period of marked technological change that has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for many people. But how do we ensure that these advances reach everyone without leading to further social inequalities? In this track, we look at the digital economy, artificial intelligence and the internet of the future, among other topics. We are also interested in ways to create transformative solutions and new economic practices, including for traditional industries, as well as the development of creative sectors such as e-sports and gamedev.

Social innovation
Katowice and the entire Upper Silesian region have undergone a remarkable metamorphosis in recent years - from an area clearly associated with heavy industry and mining, we have become a centre with a dominant role for culture and knowledge-based industry. The most significant manifestations of this transformation include the creation of the Culture Zone with the new home of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the hosting of three music festivals from the absolute national top (OFF Festival and Tauron New Music, as well as the relatively "young" Fest Festival), and the success of the KATOWICE Silesian Science Festival. We also ask ourselves how the City of Science should strengthen and develop cultural life around the above-mentioned institutions and initiatives and how to accentuate the culture-forming role of science. Among other things, we are interested in relevant developments for the development of the city and the region and in the analysis of social needs. We are also involved in citizen science activities - citizen science provides an excellent opportunity for the citizens of the City of Science to have a real impact on the work of scientists and to enable them to decide what the process of change should look like.

Industrial and cultural heritage
One of the topics we deal with in the European City of Science is the socio-economic transformation processes in regions where heavy industry was present. Coal still plays a major role in our region - it is worth looking at it in a multidimensional way, and not just from the perspective of the black lumps extracted in the mines. Looking towards the future, however, we must not forget our past. It is important that the region's inhabitants learn as much as possible about its mining and industrial heritage and the specific culture created around the mines and steelworks. We are also interested in cultural heritage. Ancient cultural artefacts are a source of information about how previous generations lived, and they also show the history of places and people who lived before us. As part of this pathway, we are also looking to the future. Prototyping the future will allow us to better understand future products and services. With the foresight method, we can forecast the future in the medium and long term. The modern world requires us to acquire and develop new skills. Among other things, we are involved in developing the competences of the future, such as critical thinking, analysis and problem solving, entrepreneurship, creativity or digital skills.

Creation and criticism
We all like good stories, we all like to be transported to other worlds in which these stories take place, we all need someone to tell us these stories in an interesting way. Although building a Science City is primarily about discovering and connecting together what already exists, the whole process also has something of the creation of a 'new world' in which a good and well-told story is to take place. Among other things, we are interested in issues of creating and guiding narratives, but also in critical reflection on the activities undertaken. We also insist on interdisciplinarity, as only by looking at things from many different perspectives can a complementary and internally coherent reality be created. We are also concerned with state-of-the-art teaching methods. Shaping not only pupils and students, but society as a whole, in terms of critical reflection and openness towards others is important in view of the changes we see in the modern world, which is saturated with all sorts of false information. For this reason, the ability to think critically is important.

The European City of Science celebrations will be held under the themes 'Science will give us the future' and 'Life changes science'. The opening weekend of the event will take place from 9-11 December 2023 during the 7th Silesian Science Festival Katowice.

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