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Keynote - Derrick de Kerckhove

Derrick de Kerckhove, Professor at the Department of French and former Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, gave a speech entitled "Navigating among the shoals and reefs of social, state and business controls in science and technology".

The recent events involving Wikileaks have shown that government control of information has become less tolerable in some unexpected countries. Not that there is a correlation between the “revelations” of the site and rebellions of ordinary people in several Muslim countries. What Wikileaks has achieved – and the theme of this conference may not be entirely innocent of such zeitgeist – is to remind people around the world that they are indeed “free”. However, the free research, circulation and diffusion of pertinent scientific information is just as threatened by parts of the scientific establishment itself as by governmental dicta (for example the veto of the Bush administration against embryonic research). In medical matters, in particular, innovations often run against corporate interests in maintaining the status quo and face rapid excommunication. The good news is that the apparent transparency supported by the Internet brings many new practices to the fore, allowing private citizens to contribute in a valuable way to general knowledge. It could be useful for science centres around the world to support such initiatives and provide tools and an environment in which to do so.