Since the first meetings organised several years ago to present the Gironde research centre, Inria Bordeaux - Sud-Ouest has established a partnership with the Bordeaux Municipal Libraries for the period 2019-2020. “We wanted to promote our scientific research among other audiences, different to the ones we usually reach like researchers, engineers and students”, explains Damien Robert, Researcher in the joint LFANT* (pronounced “elephant”) project team with Inria, the University of Bordeaux and the CNRS.
The aim was shared by the managers of Bordeaux Libraries. “Our action plan includes the promotion of scientific and technical knowledge”, says Yoann Bourion, Deputy Director of Digital Uses and Communication at the Bordeaux Municipal Directorate for Libraries, Public Reading and Cultural Media. “Unfortunately our librarians, despite working in institutions with large scientific collections, often come from literary backgrounds and therefore feel more at ease organising events on topics relating to literature or the humanities than promoting specialist scientific fields.”
Artificial intelligence in everyday life
Two conferences for the general public have already been held in Mériadeck central library, located in the eponymous district and boasting a large space entirely dedicated to digital entertainment, called “Le num”. On 21 December 2019, the spotlight was on artificial intelligence. Nicolas Roussel, Director of the Inria-Bordeaux-Sud-Ouest centre, went over the early origins of the field and reviewed current developments and societal revolutions likely to be caused by machine learning in front of an audience of sixty or so participants.
Cryptology revealed to the public
“What is cryptology used for?” This was the theme of the second conference, hosted by Damien Robert on 5 February in front of some thirty participants from all walks of life. “In my field, it helps demystify the profession and show that we don't work alone but in close collaboration with an international network of experts, as well as arousing interest among younger audiences and high school girls in particular,” explains the researcher.
Another benefit of the presentation was that it helped throw light on a technology that is still enigmatic or little known, even though most of us use it every day when we consult secure websites, such as https, or pay by credit card etc.
The challenge now is to make sure that similar conferences are organised in the coming months or year on topics such as digital applications in healthcare, art and sciences etc, and perhaps even lead to other types of collaborations.
* LFANT is a project-team specialised in the design of algorithms in number theory.