For the second year in a row, the Institut Pasteur was one of the official scientific partners of the Utopiales festival, which took place from October 29 to November 1 at La Cité Nantes Congress Center.
From October 29 to November 1, 2022, the 23rd edition of the Utopiales international science fiction festival was held in Nantes. The aim of the festival is to stimulate the imagination by inviting the public into a world of future possibilities and new technologies through science fiction. What makes the Utopiales special is the opportunity to meet and discuss with people specializing in different fields in a space where the thoughts and ideas of each individual – both the speakers and the public – are taken into consideration and help shape the discussions.
For the second year, the Institut Pasteur was an official scientific partner of the festival. The multidisciplinary event is a unique opportunity for the Institut Pasteur's scientists to speak at a large public gathering and meet the general public. Six Institut Pasteur scientists took part in round tables at the event.
In total, some 140 scientists, authors and comic book writers were invited to speak at the event and to reflect on this year's theme of "limit(s)," providing plenty of food for thought for the general public. The festival has an eye on the future and is constantly looking forward, and issues like the green transition, the emergence of new epidemics and genetics research featured prominently in this year's program. The Utopiales festival once again proved to be a resounding success with the public, with more than 100,000 participants at the 2022 edition.
Main stage © LENSMAN-STUDIO-William-Jezequel
A renewed partnership in 2022
Interview with François Bontems, coordinator of the partnership with the Utopiales and a scientist in the Institut Pasteur's Structural Virology Unit:
How did the partnership with the Utopiales come about?
One of my brothers, a philosopher of science and technology at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), often spoke to me about the Utopiales and he convinced me to go along with him in 2018. As he predicted, I was totally bowled over by the festival, the atmosphere and the quality of the discussions and debates. I was particularly struck by the fact that bringing together scientists, authors, artists and members of the public provided an opportunity for discussions not just about science but also about essential ethical, societal and political questions. I was immediately convinced that it would be a great idea for the Institut Pasteur to take part. So I contacted Roland Lehoucq, President of the Utopiales association, and I suggested the idea of a partnership. Initially in 2019, I attended by myself and spoke at some round tables. That helped me understand what it meant to be on the other side of the stage. We then wanted to launch the partnership in 2020 but the pandemic dictated otherwise. So 2021 was the first year of the partnership between the Utopiales and the Institut Pasteur, and we were able to renew the partnership in 2022.
What part do you play in putting together the round tables?
Each year the Utopiales chooses the general theme for the edition and the related sub-topics. We are not involved in this process. This year, once the theme and the sub-topics had been decided, we made proposals for round tables by choosing subjects that resonated with the Institut Pasteur's specialist fields and activities. We suggested titles, angles and the names of speakers from the Institut Pasteur. This was followed by a discussion with the Utopiales organizers to adapt our proposals. We then contacted the prospective speakers to ask them whether they were happy to take part. The Utopiales chose the other speakers for the round tables we were participating in and finalized the title and pitch for each table. They also asked the Institut Pasteur's scientists if they were interested in taking part in other round tables or events (classes for the general public, interviews, etc.).
Program of the Institut Pasteur's round tables in 2022:
- "Little vampires" with Valérie Choumet, group leader in the Environment and Infectious Risks Unit.
- "The pride of science" with Guy-Franck Richard, group leader in the Dynamics of the Genome Unit.
- "The enemy vs. the first line of defense" with Sandie Munier, a scientist in the Molecular Genetics of RNA Viruses Unit, and Philippe Afonso, group leader in the Oncogenic Virus Epidemiology and Pathophysiology Unit.
- "Flowers for Algernon" with Thomas Bourgeron, Head of the Human Genetics and Cognitive Functions Unit.
- "Brave New World" with Guy-Franck Richard, group leader in the Dynamics of the Genome Unit.
- "Desires from elsewhere" and "The limits of thought" with François Bontems, a scientist in the Structural Virology Unit.
The podcasts will shortly be available online.
- "Professor Zutop's School" with Marina Caillet, REVIVE & DIM ELICIT Programs Manager.
The podcast will shortly be available online.
Check out all the Utopiales round tables available as podcasts: https://www.utopiales.org/
Table ronde Des fleurs pour Algeron et table ronde L'orgeuil de la science.