Science and Information Society Forum (SIS-forum); The Science Tree

Summary of the 2003 Instantiation at the WSIS

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Global Knowledge Partnership organized in Palexpo, during the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), an exhibition and a series of events collectively called the ICT for Development platform (ICT4D). In this context, they approached CERN in May 2003, offering free floor space to show CERN and more generally scientific projects and achievements which contribute to the information society. CERN accepted the offer and developed a concept called the Science and Information Society Forum (SIS-forum), also known as the Science Tree.

Neither totally an exhibition nor totally a conference, the SIS-forum capitalized on the conference concept, by inviting projects through a peer-review process, as well as on the principle of exhibitions, where presenters were available during timeslots to respond to visitor questions.

As a result of a call for content issued in July, forty-two projects from thirty two organizations world-wide were invited, all focusing on science's leading role in driving the development of the information society. They were organized into 5 themes: Education and Culture; Health; Development, Environment, Risks; Fundamental Sciences and Enabling Technologies; CERN in the Information Society. Presentations and demonstrations of projects were done exclusively in digital format, using a computer infrastructure set up by CERN, formed of 12 computers and 14 screens. The stand represented metaphorically a tree, formed of a trunk -central pillar where CERN achievements were shown- and branches –thematic pillars to host presentations on the 4 other themes. One tangible outcome of the project was the digitization of hours of existing analog CERN films to create a digital programme now available for further use.

The key messages explicitly conveyed were: “Science is collaborative and transcends borders”, “Scientific communities can be the vector for IS deployment is developing regions”; CERN is playing a central role in the development of the information society”.

In total 32 people from 4 divisions (ETT, IT, HR, PE) as well as 4 persons from outside CERN contributed to the project.

The SIS-forum was designated by the local press as one of the four best stands of the exhibition. It attracted interest from the press and media, leading to numerous articles and interviews including from the BBC, the national Portuguese and Irish televisions. The inauguration in the presence of Mr. Kofi Annan was a major media event. The stand also received visits from numerous VIPs including the Presidents of Romania, Estonia, the Federal Counselor Calmy-Rey and Leuenberg. More than 700 visitors where photographed next to the World's first web server, and their picture to be displayed on the SIS-forum web site. The web site ( has received more than half a million visits at the time of this being written.

The major difficulty lied in the extremely short delay, due to the late proposal by the Swiss government. The project was organized and developed is such a way that its entire machinery (structure, people) can be re-activated for further instantiations of the SIS-forum. The physical stand has been acquired by CERN and can be remounted. Two outside organizations expressed interest for hosting the SIS-forum –scientific content and its physical tree- at the occasion of major conferences. The CERN Globe of Innovation is also considering hosting it at the occasion of the 50th Anniversary.

The SIS-forum was complemented by an on-line stand, where live demonstrations took place, in particular over a fast connection to North America.