[Portrait] Emmanuel Laisné, from the infinitely small to the city of the cosmos – Echosciences Grenoble

During a preview visit to Cosmocité, we were able to meet Emmanuel Laisné, project manager at Territoire de Sciences. We were able to get to know his professional career and his work in the new science center in the town of Pont-de-Claix.

From subatomic physics to scientific communication

With a scientific background, Emmanuel Laisné obtained his PhD in subatomic physics at the LPSC (Laboratory of Subatomic Physics and Cosmology) in 2012. However, he does not fully fit into the model of hyperspecialization of research that he is confronted with: he loves science in the broadest sense, he wants to be able to be interested in everything. It is important to him to also deal with other social issues and topics.

Emmanuel sees human moments as central elements of his journey, with “people who either inspire you or introduce you to their profession or their approach”. By participating in the Fête de la Science as a doctoral student, he quickly realized that scientific communication is more complex than simply letting researchers talk about their research topic: his scientific background is not enough to be a good communicator. A year after his final thesis, he decided to continue his studies in Master 2 in Scientific and Technical Communication and Culture (CCST) at the University of Grenoble-Alpes.

He then worked for a year at Casemate, the only scientific cultural center in Grenoble at the time. His task is then to create an inventory of digital practices for future application in the field of mediation.

After three and a half years as director of the Pôle des Étoiles planetarium in Nançay, he returned to Grenoble in 2019 as project manager in the new structure of the Territoire de Sciences. Today his mission revolves around Cosmocité, the new science center in the town of Pont-de-Claix. Initially responsible for starting this center, he is now responsible for continuing the project.

“The aspect of my job that I like best is that there isn’t just one.”

His role as project manager is to manage and support scientific outreach projects related to Cosmocité or Territoire de Sciences. He introduces the axis of mediation, the operation and experience of mediation systems, but also more technical aspects such as programming or pricing. An example of one of its missions is supporting film productions for the Immersive Room and the Cosmocité planetarium with the Théoriz studio. He provides his expertise regarding the scientific message being conveyed, but also participates in the writing and testing sessions.

According to Emmanuel, versatility is the essential skill of this profession. It requires curiosity about science, knowledge of the world of research and how it works. But also know how scientific controversies are organized and what place they have in society. From a technical perspective, project management skills appear to be required, as well as knowledge of the communities involved in the field of mediation. Emmanuel also emphasizes the need for a “little geek side”, that is, an appetite for the various digital technologies that are now essential in the world of communication.

However, he distinguishes a main axis in this multidisciplinary profession: the exchange of sciences to gain knowledge or the balanced approach to a sensitive issue and the support to position oneself as a citizen. The “cult evenings” organized at Casemate demonstrate one of these aspects of mediation, examining works of popular culture to examine more serious social issues.

Strong messages for the future of scientific culture

For Emmanuel Laisné, the creation of the Territoire de Sciences and the construction of a place like Cosmocité allow us to convey a message of sharing science by presenting ourselves as actors in current issues. Another message highlights the role of citizens in building science: they instill a critical spirit, for example to help distinguish hypotheses from fake news. But also create a place where citizens can question themselves. There is the dimension of leisure, the curious pleasure of discovering certain scientific topics. Finally, the invitation to leave the house and look at the world in a different way with more context to understand it.

The creation of the Cosmocité scientific center in the city of Pont-de-Claix arose from the fulfillment of several desires, particularly at a cultural and social level. This project is also the result of the participation of the scientific community, we can cite, among others, the Grenoble Science Observatory. Finally, one of the goals was to renovate an industrial site: the old Villancourt mills.

A central point of the project was also the idea that scientific culture needs to be spread throughout the area. The aim is to provide everyone with a cultural offering close to home. Until then, access to scientific culture was reserved for a privileged audience with the casemate in the city center. Today Cosmocité is located in Pont-de-Claix, in the heart of the city’s most important districts.

Scientific culture does not only take place in the center of the metropolis.

Article written by Lisa Binoche and Fabio Croce