How it works

the cafe scientifique network

Cafe Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to have a conversation about the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings have taken place in cafes, bars, restaurants, theatres, libraries and even out of doors, but always outside a traditional academic context.

The first Cafes Scientifiques in the UK were held in Leeds in 1998. From there, cafes gradually spread across the country. Currently, some seventy or so cafes (in the UK) meet regularly to hear scientists or writers on science talk about their work and discuss it with diverse audiences.

Cafe Scientifique is a forum for debating science issues, not a shop window for science. We are committed to promoting engagement with science and to making science accountable.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cafe Scientifique? Cafe Scientifique is a forum for the discussion of current work and interesting scientific issues. Cafes are informal and accessible.

Who else will be there? Cafe audiences are people who are interested in science. Anyone can participate; speakers are there to be questioned and talk about their work at all levels.

What happens at a Cafe Scientifique? Cafes start with a short talk (usually no more than twenty minutes) by the speaker, to introduce the topic. After this there is usually a short break to allow glasses to be refilled and conversations to start. This is followed by an hour or so of questions and answers and general discussion. Anyone can ask a question, and we positively welcome those which begin “This might be a stupid question, but …” These questions are invariably not stupid and often rather insightful.

Where and when? Cafes Scientifiques are hosted in a range of venues. Most are in bars or cafes, but some use bookshops, theatres or community spaces. Cafes Scientifiques are held regularly (e.g. the last Tuesday or the second Monday of the month) and take place in the evening.

What subjects will be discussed? Cafes Scientifiques cover a wide range of issues relating to science and technology. Since 1998, cafes have covered almost every conceivable scientific topic: AIDS, the Big Bang, biodiversity, cancer, code-breaking, consciousness, Darwinism, ecology, evolution, extreme life, foetal experience, genetically modified organisms, global warming, infertility, nanotechnology, architecture, sports science, superconductors and more.

All Cafes Scientifique welcome suggestions from the audience about their programmes. If you want to find out more about a particular topic, go along to your local cafe and suggest it to the organisers.

Do I need to buy a ticket? Some cafes, especially those held in smaller venues, ask participants to register to attend but in most cases, you cna just turn up on the night.

Cafes are generally free. However, in some venues a small entry charge is made to cover venue costs and many cafes pass a hat round on the night for contributions towards the speaker’s travel expenses. These are always voluntary.

Does Cafe Scientifique make a profit? Cafe Scientifique does not make a profit from events.