Crosstalks: Where great minds from around the world meet

“Fantastic, professional, fun and inspiring! A great thanks to you! I will continue watching Crosstalks and spread the word!”

That was Nina Kirchner, a senior lecturer in numerical ice sheet modelling at Stockholm University, telling the Crosstalks team what she thought after taking part in one of its monthly programmes called “Into the deep: The unknown territories and resources of the sea”.

Crosstalks is an international academic forum broadcast as a talk show. It claims to gather “the brightest minds to share their knowledge and insights on the basis of world-leading research”. University World News readers can listen to the latest broadcast on Thursday this week when the subject will be “Understanding and mapping the human brain”. Further details can be found at the end of this report.

"The tone of the programme is relaxed, with a twinkle in its eye: just like a good, engaging lecture,” says a description on the Crosstalks webpage. But it is also a platform for discussion of global challenges in an open and ongoing dialogue with viewers around the world.

The programme is broadcast live from two of Sweden's top universities – the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University. Each broadcast runs for 50 minutes and deals with a current global research subject, with three participants in the studio and additional experts from around the world taking part online via Skype.

Viewers worldwide have the option to send in questions beforehand or to interact with the programme’s presenters during the broadcast. An audience in Stockholm watches the programme which is produced by Tomas Axelsson and hosted by journalist Johanna Koljonen, a Swedish broadcaster, writer and critic.

Every third show is broadcast live, the others are recorded and released later. The shows are aired once a month on the website crosstalks.tv, itself a platform for discussion of global challenges in an open and ongoing dialogue with global viewers.

Each programme is also streamed and made available on video afterwards on the website and is further internationally distributed via Twitter with its own hashtag, and on Facebook and YouTube.

Since Crosstalks was launched in 2012, 29 programmes have been broadcast and are stored in the show’s archive. They cover traditional science fields such as mathematics and biology, but also mix several disciplines such as brain research, crime, entrepreneurship, online education, the Arctic, the universe and urban planning.

The programme titles are often challenging and sometimes even provocative. Some examples:
  • • Can today´s scientists grow food better than farmers?
  • • Compensation for our lifestyle – how shortsighted can we afford to be?
  • • Power to the people: Facing the global energy challenges
  • • Global biodiversity – Species on the verge of extinction or (re)creation.
“The objective of Crosstalks is to create interest in scientific issues among potential students and to provide a platform for open academic discussion,” Tomas Axelsson told the Stockholm university magazine Universitetsnytt at the launch of the broadcasts in November 2012.

“We want to demonstrate that scientists are the real ‘rock-stars’ that these super-talents certainly are. Leading universities have been lost in the media-hype today, and we want to redress that situation,” Axelsson said.

Crosstalks was nominated for the Digital Communications Awards in Berlin in 2013. It was listed in the category ‘institution’ where the competition was tough and Tourism Australia's digital campaign took home the top prize. But Crosstalks was well received by a jury consisting of eminent persons from academia and industry.

A member of the jury, Dr Paul E Ketelaar from the communication department at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, says Crosstalk is an effective programme that successfully achieves its high potential.

“It is also a great example of how to bridge the gap between academics and society in general,” Ketelaar says. “The programme was a great runner-up in a highly competitive category in the awards.”

The next broadcast, “Understanding and mapping the human brain”, will be broadcast live on Thursday 23 April from Aula Magna at Stockholm University. Three future talks will also be recorded: “The dilemma of human enhancement”, “The promise and threat of artificial intelligence” and “Beyond timber – the new forest products”.

To find more about the topics and how to register to participate click on this link.