Science Cafés

Science Cafés

The purpose of the Science Café program is to strengthen science literacy by engaging the community and translational scientists in an informal setting through bi-directional dialogue of current scientific and medical issues and their translational impact on our culture and society.

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About Science Cafés

The very first Science Café (also know as Café Scientifique) was held in Leeds in the United Kingdom in 1998.The founder of this grassroots movement, Duncan Dallas, describes a Café as “a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, people meet to discuss the latest ideas of science and technology which are changing our lives.” Since then, the Science Cafés have popped up all over the globe, with over 200 worldwide in more than 40 countries and at least 50 in the United States alone. Our Science Café series is the first in Southeast Wisconsin.

According to the website www.sciencecafes.org, a Science Café resource site maintained by the WGBH Educational Foundation, there are several ways in which Science Cafés can have educational impact:

  • Conversations increase understanding. Participating in a discussion gives people the chance to think through new ideas and reformulate them in their own words.
  • Conversations increase interest. The open-ended nature of a science café enables people to explore whatever aspects of a topic, or the scientific process in general, interest them most.
  • Conversations lead to more conversations. People enjoy talking about issues at a science café and are therefore likely to discuss the topic outside of the café with friends and family.
  • Conversations are equalizers. Face to face conversations help to dispel misperceptions and stereotypes of scientists and their work.

For our Cafés, the primary focus will be on translational science. We will be able to utilize translational scientists affiliated with the CTSI partner institutions, which affords us a very wide range of topics.


Our approach is similar to the first Science Café. The format involves an expert from a given scientific field who interacts with an inquisitive public in an informal, non-academic environment.

  • The scientist/medical professional will speak on the evenings topic for about 20 minutes.
  • There is a short break to allow participants to mingle and begin discussing the topic with one-another and the presenter.
  • The speaker, with the help of a facilitator, engages in 45-60 minutes of informal discussion with the audience.

Participants are encouraged to ask the speaker anything that they like. The casual atmosphere is conducive for a relaxed and comfortable audience and as a result, participants generally are more likely to ask questions and engage in public conversation.


  • Strengthen science literacy.
  • Transfer knowledge between a translational researchers and an inquisitive public.
  • Demonstrate the important role science plays in society.
  • Demonstrate the important role the community plays in science.
  • Create opportunities for CTSI of Southeast Wisconsin faculty, staff, students and public to engage one another on health related issues in an environment outside an academic setting.
  • Inspire the public to be more comfortable interacting with scientific and/or medical experts.
  • Inspire scientific and/or medical experts to be more comfortable discussing science and health issues with the public.
  • Create environment for community to teach CTSI faculty about issues around community literacy and applicability.

Health and Scientific Literacy

Our foundation is built on two specific concepts: health literacy and scientific literacy.

We choose to define health literacy as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.1 And scientific literacy as the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.2

1 Ratzan SC, Parker RM. 2000. Introduction. In: National Library of Medicine Current Bibilographies in Medicine: Health Literacy. Selden CT, Zorn M, Ratzan SC, Parker RM, Editors. NLM Pub. No. CBM 2000-1. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
2 National Science Education Standards, pg. 22 http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/nses assessed on 1/14/2013.

Supported By

Science Cafés are supported by the CTSI Community Engagement Program within the Institute for Health and Society and is funded in part by Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Research and Education Initiative Fund, a component of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Spring 2015 Series Schedule

The theme of the Spring Series is Focus on Health Disparities in Overall Health Outcomes.

Health disparities refer to differences between groups of people. These differences can affect how frequently a disease affects a group, how many people get sick, or how often the disease causes death.

Many different populations are affected by disparities. These include:

  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • Women, children, the elderly
  • Residents of rural areas
  • Persons with disabilities

NIH: National Cancer Institute

March, 2015

Science Café – Do you understand me? Looking at Depression in Racial and Ethnic Minorities
March 10 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

sc-2015-03-10Have you ever had a day where you felt extremely sad and disheartened? Imagine feeling like this all the time and having no one to talk to. Many people, across a wide spectrum of racial and ethnic groups, fear addressing mental health issues, which makes it difficult to find help. Locating a doctor that speaks a patient’s language and understands his or her culture may also be intimidating. Join us on March 10th, and learn about depression and how racial and ethnic minorities experiencing depression are receiving…

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April, 2015

Science Café – Oral Health Disparities and General Health: Taking Care of Your Teeth Helps Take Care of You
April 14 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

sc-2015-04-14We tend to take our teeth and smiles for granted. However, millions of Americans still experience a disproportionate burden from common oral diseases. A majority of these issues are preventable with access to fluoridated water, regular dental visits, and sustainable home care that includes cleaning the teeth. Common dental diseases, such as dental caries (cavities) and gum disease, impact general health and wellbeing and lead to pain and huge financial burdens for individuals and society. Recent evidence also demonstrates that…

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May, 2015

Science Café – Lifestyle Changes & Cancer Survivorship in Underserved Populations
May 12 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

sc-2015-04-12Cancer survivors are living longer as early detection and treatments improve. However, even among survivors, there are populations who remain underserved. For example, African-American women who survive breast cancer are more likely than Caucasian women to die from a recurrence or from other health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. Access and other social conditions obviously impact survivors’ well being, but lifestyle factors are also important. Diet, physical activity, and weight affect cancer survivors’ health and quality of life.…

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June, 2015

Science Café – Why Health Disparities Research is Important
June 9 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

Health disparities are gaps in the quality of health and health care that are often affected by social factors including socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and education level. The Center for Basic and Translational Research at Hunter College of the City University of New York is an organization in New York City that works to eliminate health disparities and improve health outcomes. The center supports a group of scientists who focus on health disparities in cancer and mental health. The center’s associate program director, Dr. Rodrigo Valles, will talk about some of the current research that is being done and why learning about and supporting health disparities research is important to everyone, including local communities.

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All Science Cafés are held from 6:00pm to 7:15pm.


Milwaukee Central Public Library, Meeting Room 1
814 W Wisconsin Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Please Note

Photography: A photographer will be taking pictures that will solely be used by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and Community Engagement Program to promote research. By attending the Cafe, your consent is implied.

If you do not wish to be in photos, please inform a staff or faculty member when checking in at the registration table or at any time during the Café.


Mia DeFino, MS
(414) 955-5754 / Email

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important Reminder - Please acknowledge the NIH when publishing papers, patents, projects, and presentations resulting from the use of CTSI resources by including the NIH Funding Acknowledgement.
Zablocki VA Medical CenterFroedtert HospitalMedical College of Wisconsin Childrens Hospital of WisconsinBloodCenter of WisconsinUniversity of Wisconsin - MilwaukeeMarquette UniversityMilwaukee School of Engineering