Agora - where science and society meet

Decoding Wireless, image of the installation in Lugano, summer 2019 (source:
Decoding Wireless, image of the installation in Lugano, summer 2019 (source:
Numbed by Numbers - image of the installation in Ascona, 2015 (source:
Numbed by Numbers - image of the installation in Ascona, 2015 (source:

Institutional Communication Service

10 May 2021

Among the several funding schemes for scientific research of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) there is one specifically designed to foster dialogue between scientists and society: Agora. Following the 10th call for proposals, the SNSF has approved a total of 18 new projects, out 51 that were submitted, for a total of 3.4M Swiss francs. Three of the awarded projects were submitted by USI researchers - in architecture, biomedicine and communication. Let's find out more about them.


The many faces of contagion

The pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has prompted many citizens to look to science (and scientists) for answers, raising the complex debate between science, politics and society. The project devised by Santiago González (Group leader at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine - IRB, affiliated to USI) and by L'ideatorio at USI, aims at placing scientific research on infectious diseases in a cultural context accessible to all. And it will do so through an interactive exhibition at Castelgrande in Bellinzona, where a number of activities will be developed together with the other partners involved, in particular the Fondazione Sasso Corbaro, the City of Bellinzona and the Organizzazione Turistica Regionale Bellinzonese e Alto Ticino. Visitors will be able to discover the biology of contagion and at the same time reflect on its social and ethical implications, thus approaching the world of research to understand its role in our society. The interactive exhibition on the subjects of contagion and epidemics will open its doors on April 10, 2022 and will be accompanied by a series of parallel events to address the subject of contagion in a multidisciplinary way and highlight the consequences on all aspects of society as well as its historical relevance. In the spaces of the ancient arsenal of the Bellinzona castle the public discover the stories of contagion, from the past to the present, starting from the doctor of the plague of 1348 up to the current pandemic.


Are you online? Towards a mindful use of the smartphone

Today, the smartphone has become an essential part of our lives, especially for the younger demographic. Its ubiquity has changed the way we live and interact with the environment and people, creating - sometimes - pleasant moments when we share an online experience, or vice versa, moments of conflict. The Agora project proposed by researchers Dr. Anne-Linda Camerini and Laura Marciano of the USI Institute of Public Health, in collaboration with L'ideatorio at USI, aims for a a mindful and responsible use of smartphones, especially among children and adolescents. The project, which will start in autumn 2021, will build on the results o MEDIATICINO2.0, the study supported by the SNSF, and will propose three types of activities to foster a mindful use of smartphones: a weekly Atelier for elementary and middle school students at the L'ideatorio in Cadro; a series of meetings in the "Piazza" in which researchers enter into dialogue with citizens to talk about the main results of their research on young people and new media; and finally a round table, in collaboration with Lugano Living Lab, which will be repeated every year during L'autunno digitale. The Agora project is supported by a number of regional organisations, such as the City of Lugano, the Center for Educational and Digital Resources at DECS, the Cantonal Parents' Conference and Science et Cité.


Ticino, learning about its history to the Ticino region and its history

The project proposed by Letizia Tedeschi, director of the Archivio del Moderno (formerly an institute of the USI Academy of Architecture, now a Foundation established at the Academy), will present to the public the results of her recently concluded SNSF study L’impresa Fontana tra XVI e XVII secolo: modalità operative, tecniche e ruolo delle maestranze. In autumn 2022, a multi-sensorial exhibition will be opened at the Pinacoteca Cantonale Giovanni Züst in Rancate, partner of the project together with the Atelier Blumer at the USI Accademy of Architecture. (More details >>


SNSF supports science communication

The Agora funding scheme of the SNSF was established to foster dialogue between science and society. Agora projects have a maximum duration of three years and are eligible for funding up to a maximum of 200.000 Swiss francs. Applications are evaluated in a competitive procedure by an international commission formed by scientists and experts in science communication. Agora projects are always aimed at a non-specialised audience of people of all age groups - but also at more targeted audiences, including politicians, social workers or teachers in public schools. To date, USI has won six Agora, three of which have been concluded: Numbed by Numbers, proposed by Antonietta Mira, Professor of Statistics at the Faculty of Economics; Decoding Wireless, proposed by Gabriele Balbi, Professor of Media Studies at the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society; and Robots in the Classroom, proposed by Professor Luca Maria Gambardella of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA USI-SUPSI) - a project that also won the "Optimus Agora" award in 2018, conferred by the SNSF in collaboration with swissnex San Francisco. For more information on the Agora funding scheme >>

AGORA - taking research to the public