Adam Smith, Editorial Director at Nobel Media, is very busy these days, during the Nobel Week. But nevertheless he took the time for this short interview, to give me some background informations about this new event, the Nobel week Dialogue. The good news first. This is not a nine day wonder.
Q: Since 2006 you are the Editorial Director at Nobel Media and the Project Leader for this inaugural event. There exists the tradition of the annual Nobel Week, held each December in Stockholm, with Nobel lectures, press conferences and a concert leading up to 10 December, when the Nobel Laureates receive their Nobel Prize. This year the program has been expanded with this new event, the Nobel Week Dialogue. What is the goal of this new format?
Smith: The Nobel Week Dialogue has several goals, but I suppose first and foremost we wanted to produce a more public-facing event during Nobel Week, something that people could participate in, enjoy and learn from. In doing so, we also wanted to highlight the connections between disciplines and the necessity and value of dialogue between the sciences and society. By celebrating the anniversary of the 1962 Nobel Prize to Crick, Watson and Wilkins we’re also highlighting some spectacular science and showing what discoveries can lead to.
Q: Will this be a one time event, just offered this year – celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Nobel Prize to Crick, Watson and Wilkins and discussing the impact of the genetic revolution on society?
Smith: Certainly not. This is the start of an annual event, to be held on December 9th each year and alternating between Stockholm and Gothenburg. So, come December 9th 2013 we’ll all be in Gothenburg, but we haven’t decided what the topic will be yet. There will be some connection with a notable Nobel Prize anniversary in the sciences, but which one is still be to decided.
Q: Are you even thinking about running such events on different places all over the year?
Smith: Yes, we’re certainly thinking about it, but we want to get this established in Stockholm and Gothenburg first, and then we’ll see.
Q: At the Nobel Week Dialogue there exists the possibility for the broad public to take part and even discuss with some of the leading experts, policy-makers and not at least Nobel Laureates about the genetic revolution. Did you decide to do so, because the impact in society especially in this field is so evident?
Smith: If one wants to focus on the impact of scientific discoveries on society, genetics and genomics is certainly a good place to start. But I think that we’d argue that all the Nobel Prize-awarded discoveries have, by their very nature, a societal impact, and so the relationship isn’t in any way exclusive to this topic. It’s an obvious anniversary to celebrate, and thus a great place to start.
Q: After years of tweeting and providing informations on the official facebook fanpage of Nobelprize.org another premiere with this event is the official blog team. What has led you to this opening?
Smith: Again, this is a good place to start. With this new event we’re specifically trying to create avenues for dialogue, and thus introducing blogging and increasing our social media activity fits into that desire to see more interaction with our audience.
Q: You usually are the person, who does the very brief telephone interviews with Nobel Laureates the morning after their announcement – and then they are bombarded with requests by press. Simply thrown in at the deep end. Did anyone ever complain about this?
Smith: Seldom do they actually complain, but one of this year’s Laureates, Brian Kobilka, is renowned for avoiding press coverage and, by his own admission during the telephone interview I recorded with him, he wasn’t looking forward to the press attention one bit. I think most quickly find the balance that suits them. Anyway, so far no one has hung up on me, although with the name Adam Smith, people tend to think I’m a hoaxer when I call the economists.