Ironic details

Drinks and advertisements for scientists

Writing about a conference like the world conference on science can be quite exhausting. I just felt the same way. So i took a break and went to the table where the drinks are to quench the thirst of sweating journalists. Well, it was not that bad. But the choice was limited: mineral water or some kind of grapefruit lemonade. Because i had already drunk enough water, i took the other drink.

After sitting at my computer again, i took a cursory glance at the label of the can. The information triggered mixed feelings. On the one hand, i should be honored, because it seems that the people who make this concoction, whose taste, by the way, does not resemble grapefruit in any way, have developed it directly for us. This drink, as it is written on the can, is recommended "is recommended mainly for dynamic people who are under constant physical and mental effort."

On the other hand, i shake my head unbelievably. "Not recommended for children, pregnant women and caffeine sensitive people", one reads then further. I am especially disappointed by this part of the product information. Not because it shortened my life, but because you’d think people at a science conference would know better. Most scientists know the effects of aspartame and phenylalanine, which are listed as ingredients, and yet they stand around drinking this stuff.

As i walked out of the room to regain my clarity of thought, i began to notice other small ironies, primarily in the form of advertising posters from companies that, i presume, were in some way supporting the conference. On a wall next to the men’s room there were huge posters of gedeon-richter, mol and matav. Gedeon richter ist, wer dies nicht wissen sollte, eine der grobten chemischen firmen in ungarn – und auch ein schamloser umweltverschmutzer. Mol, the hungarian mineral oil company, is known throughout the country for its bad gasoline. Many car dealers recommend people not to fill up with mol gasoline. And matav, the hungarian telecommunication giant, is not only notorious for its poor service, but also for its toll-free telephone charges, which directly hinder the growth of the internet in hungary, thus narrowing the demand of scientists at the conference for free and universal access to scientific information.

It could be argued that this is a bit exaggerated, since scientists are also human beings and have the same rights to choose what they consider appropriate. After all, many also hold religious views that are contrary to their own knowledge. Does this mean that at least scientists working in certain disciplines should become atheists??

Of course not, but at the same time scientists should act in accordance with the opinions they so lightly throw around and in which they must show a greater responsibility towards society. Personal views such as religious beliefs are one thing, but silently supporting products or services that have significant environmental consequences – in this case from polluting companies – or social costs, for example to the public health system due to people getting sick from certain chemicals in our food, is quite another thing. And it does not matter whether this is done out of ignorance or interest, for example, out of the need for secure funding for research.

Many are probably unaware of the ironic subtleties. In the case of this conference, most of the responsibility lies with the organizers, who are also scientists. This is a problem that must be addressed and expressed so that a declaration that will be approved by the conference does not contain hidden inconsistencies similar to the following.