ESOF2020 Trieste Science Programme

Science Programme

Trieste has a long tradition of being a hub of science, research and innovation. A border city, a crossroads between east and west, in 2020 Trieste will host the major event of European Science. Our motto, “Freedom for Science, Science for Freedom” reminds us how we can face the open-ended questions science is facing with method and curiosity, but also about the inclusiveness of science and its language, going beyond conflicts and borders.

There are nine major themes running through the ESOF2020 Science Programme, spanning from quantum computing to climate change, science policy to high energy physics, from precision medicine to gender and social inequalities in science. The nine themes are:

Blue Planet

Water covers roughly 72% of the surface of the planet; 96% of this water is found in oceans. it should be obvious that any damage to the state of health of oceans can have a tremendous impact on the world. This is made particularly evident by the effect of the rise in the average temperatures caused by anthropic pollution, which is causing severe harm both to marine ecosystems as well as to terrestrial communities, both human and non-human. At the same time, freshwater makes up only roughly 6% of the total, which means that our most precious resource is in very limited supply. There is a pressing need to not just discuss these themes but to start acting on them. For this reason, alongside the latest technology to monitor the state of the earth’s waters, contributions are welcome that highlight innovative approaches and solutions which are being employed to reach a sustainable use of the seas, as well as surface and ground waters.

Suggested issues to explore: water remediation; water scarcity and migrations; environmental monitoring; ocean exploration; plastics in oceans; sustainable use and management of coastal areas; freshwater resources; marine ecosystems; healthy oceans, seas, and fresh-water bodies; diplomacy and cooperation for the health of the Mediterranean; desalination; zero-carbon ports; offshore renewable energy; deep-ocean mining, water vapor and climate change; seawater encroachment in coastal areas.


In just one century, computing has completely revolutionized our world. From financial markets to scientific experiments and space missions, an increasing number of activities which were impossible just a few decades ago, are being made commonplace: the main enabler of this revolution is computing speed, the steady increase in computational power which allows to handle ever increasing quantities of data. With the prospect of quantum computing being realized in the near future and artificial intelligence challenging humans at their own game, there is no telling how a further leap in our computational resources will change our world, with challenging implications. From distributed computing to big-data acquisition and processing and the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, contributions are welcome that show how advancements in hardware and software are being applied across all fields of knowledge, as well as perspectives of where they will lead us. Particular attention should also be devoted to emerging issues in law, such as the problem of liability in a world where decision-making is increasingly automated.

Suggested issues to explore: quantum computing; the future of cryptography; neuromorphic computing; artificial intelligence; statistics and big data; ethics and law in big data; distributed computing; public perception of technology; human-machine interaction; blockchain and post-blockchain technologies; virtual reality; the future of telecommunications; high-performance computing; in-memory computing; photonic computing; algorithms as decision-making entities.


Science is not merely a tool to solve technical issues, but a way to change the way we see and interact with the world around us. By continuously shrinking the realm of the impossible, the question of whether something can be done, is rapidly changing to if something should be done. This puts science in a special relationship with humanity: it can be a wonderful educator, invaluable in opening our minds, while at the same time it can clash with accepted social and cultural norms, and therefore needs to be kept under scrutiny in order to not be at odds with ethics. Moreover, these questions are tightly coupled to the diverse socio-cultural backgrounds in which they emerge, thus giving rise to a large variety of scenarios. Contributions are welcome that focus on the multi-faceted interaction between science and society.

Suggested issues to explore: philosophy of science; science in court; anthropology of science and technology; ethics; information society; science in education; vocational training; perspectives on migrations; wealth inequality; responsible research and innovation; public engagement; linguistics; fostering gender mainstreaming; sociology of knowledge; science in the public discourse; sociocultural anthropology; cooperation across borders; science-art interaction; scientific communication; behavioral sciences.


By continuously breaking the limits of what is deemed impossible, science and the advance of knowledge more generally are challenging the way we see and interact with the world. By focusing the attention on new issues as well as by providing paradigm-breaking solutions to long-standing problems, science is at the core of our ability to advance human understanding and capabilities. This panel is dedicated to all contributions which aim at highlighting how science is pushing the boundaries of human knowledge. Moreover, contributions are welcome that highlight how the knowledge and innovative thinking stemming from cutting-edge research could contribute to shaping our future. From the theory to groundbreaking experiments in all sciences from physics to biology, to disruptive thinking in the social sciences and humanities, discussions should be embodied by the quote “Things are only impossible until they are not”.

Suggested issues to explore: high-energy physics; exotic states of matter; ultrafast imaging at the nanoscale; cosmology and deep space; dark matter; nanotechnology; new discoveries in biology; theoretical physics; the nature of the reality in science and the humanities; physiology in extreme environments; the future of biotechnology; non-equilibrium systems; frontiers in mathematics; simulation of complex systems.


In the last century, technology has advanced at a dizzying pace. In order to make sure we are not on a dead-end road, efforts must be taken to continuously ensure the sustainability of our course of action. To this end, initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals can act as an important source of inspiration to help guide further development towards a sustainable future. Submissions are welcome which focus on means to closely monitor the impact of our actions on the environment as well as on efforts to model the future evolution of climate and ecosystems, biodiversity, renewable resources, optimization of resources and waste reduction, recycling and upcycling, the future of energy production, zero-carbon technologies and all-around innovative approaches to these issues.

Suggested issues to explore: energy storage; energy harvesting; doughnut economics; pollution; upcycling; environmental monitoring; 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle; environmental monitoring; present and future of nuclear waste; technological forecasting; public understanding of environmental issues; the legacy of fossil fuels; the future of transportation; adaptation to climate change; social effects of climate change; resource management; renewable energy sources; climate change; zero-carbon technologies; biodegradable materials.


Urban sprawl and pollution are all contributing to the erosion of agricultural land. Climate change is putting further pressure on our ability to produce food of consistent quality and in consistent quantity. At the same time, there are increasing asymmetries in the production and consumption of food, which contribute to the generation of large quantities of waste on one end of the spectrum, and famine on the other. Consequently, the lack in quantity and quality of food in many parts of the world has important effects on both health and social issues. Science has a fundamental role in the optimization of the use of land, in the rational use of resources and in the emergence of innovative approaches to eradicate both hunger, waste and unbalances in the distribution of resources.

Suggested issues to explore: genomics; food waste and the circular economy; food processing and preservation; insects in the kitchen; land degradation; the future of meat and alternative protein sources; pesticide-free agriculture; 3D printing and synthetic food; innovation in beverages; traceability and the blockchain; GMOs in science and law; soil health; sustainable strategies in Africa; food production and global warming; nutrition and health; biodiversity; hydroponics.


Medicine has increasingly become an interdisciplinary, translational subject. Science and technology have brought a tidal wave of novelty which put synchrotron facilities and nanotechnology at the bedside with classical anatomy. From proton accelerators to robotics, virtual reality and bioinformatics, techniques which were associated exclusively with advanced fundamental research in physics and computer science are becoming increasingly common place in clinics. In the spirit of article 25 of the UN declaration of Human Rights, there also lies the question of how to allow these advancements to be at the service of everyone’s well-being. Contributions should highlight how science, both through technological advancement and through paradigm shifts, is radically innovating the way medical conditions are approached, cured and prevented. Moreover, issues related to the interaction between modern medical technology and society, such the democratization of healthcare and the steady increase in life expectancy, are extremely welcome.

Suggested issues to explore: translational medicine; genomics; nanotechnology; big data for health; physics and math for medicine; prevention; patentability in the pharmaceutical sector; new frontiers in oncology and immunotherapy; communication and awareness in medicine; precision medicine; neuroscience; computational medicine and biology; robotics, modelling in diagnosis and treatment; prosthetics and bio-engineering; active aging; ambient intelligence; the cost of high-tech medicine.


We live in an era in which, more than ever, humans face issues that have a global impact: the only way to tackle them effectively is to do so in a concerted, cooperative manner. Science has the potential to overcome differences in culture and religion by uniting people through shared interests. Contributions should highlight how science provides a unique framework and approach which can be used as a powerful diplomatic tool, able to bring together people of different world views for the common good, creating bridges where conflicts cannot be easily solved by diplomats and politicians.

Suggested issues to explore: science as a universal language; past and present in scientific diplomacy; research evaluation; reproducibility and integrity of research; academic freedom; smart specialization in emerging countries worldwide; fostering networks; regional and inter-regional cooperation; evidence-based policy; gender and social inequalities in science; public engagement; science funding models; accessibility of scientific results; open research infrastructure.


Due to their size and more direct connection to their constituency, cities are inherently more dynamic than states. The most forward-thinking and trendsetting initiatives oftentimes stem from mayors or citizen associations, which spearhead a more widespread adoption of sustainable policies and habits based on the interplay between local resources and international networking.

Suggested issues to explore: urban planning; strategies for lowering food miles; cities networks; green cities; improving quality of life in urban environments; inequalities; smart grids; pollution; carbon-neutral cities; science and trade; smart cities; internet-of-things; think globally, act locally; transportation; resource optimization; net-zero impact buildings in order to develop sustainable innovations with and for society.

Download the Science Programme Call For proposals

callForProposals_Science.pdf (412.2 KiB)