INF SCIENCE 2022 eye-opening and compact. Science for all – in practise,
film and panels.
15 – 18 October 2022
Innsbruck and surrounding area
Nature and science: the open field
Images and simplifications are an important tool in science communication, but should be used with caution. The cooperation between the Innsbruck Nature Film Festival and the University of Innsbruck shows how a scientific framework programme can deepen complicated topics in an entertaining way.
Why is the disappearing rainforest always measured in football fields? After all, there are also DIN A4 sheets, swimming pools, runways, i.e. more than enough surface options to add a little variety. It is not easy to say when the football field became established as a unit of measurement in the context of counting rainforest decimation size, but the image is so evocative that it has since taken precedence as a vocalised rule of measuring thumb.
For us press officers at the University of Innsbruck, the quest for memorable images is part of our job. Although comparisons and metaphors can make scientific results understandable and vivid, this is not without risk. Sticking with our current example: Football fields do vary greatly in size, which is why they are a good image but a very poor unit of measurement.
Therefore, it is also part of our job to make sure that simplifications and beautiful images, as much as we would like to use them, do not distort a fact or take it out of context. Every text we publish is reviewed and approved by scientists. Especially in times of climate and biodiversity crises, a factual classification by scientists is enormously important amidst the flood of images and impressions, which is why collaborations, such as the one between the INFF and the University of Innsbruck are of such great value for scientific communication.
In addition to us public relations officers, the University’s Transfer Office also works to ensure that science finds its way into society. Within the framework of the INFF, Günter Scheide in particular is an active idea generator for the festival: “The science glimpses allow us brief insights into establishing a scientific context before or after a film,” he says. “More controversial topics are discussed in panels, where we offer a scientific point of view.”
Some of the film prizes are also awarded with the participation of scientists, for example the Soil Prize and this year in particular, the Agricultural Biodiversity Prize. At the initiative of Michael Traugott, head of the Mountain Agriculture Research Unit, this prize is sponsored by the vice rectorate for research under Ulrike Tanzer. The occasion is the 100th anniversary of the Tyrolean gene bank, in which over 1,000 seed samples of old agricultural varieties are stored.
Research, classification and discussion
Due to its location, the University of Innsbruck is an ideal starting point for natural science research in the Alpine region. This includes broad topics such as climate, biodiversity, mountain hazards and the nature of glaciers. However, nature topics are not limited to the natural sciences; the relationships between humans and nature are too diverse and complex for that.
This is where the INFF framework programme “Experiences” comes into play. For example, the Transfer Office organises walks accompanied by philosophers and ethnologists. During these excursions, the understanding of nature is discussed and debated, as only a glance at the diverse themes of the festival programme is enough to see that nature as a concept cannot be so easily defined. What nature means, both for us as humanity and individually, and how it can be classified, researched and understood – is a wide open field and difficult to measure. At least not in football fields.
It’s almost as if nature film provokes the viewer to dare a more analytical and profound contemplation. SCIENCE GLIMPSES is the scientific perspective on the contents of selected works, a very special view indeed, of competent scientists from the University of Innsbruck.