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October 27. 2013 11:50PM

Science Cafe discussion group to debut in Manchester

MANCHESTER — Science Cafe, the science-related discussion-group movement with three locations in New Hampshire, plans to launch a Queen City group next month.

Organizers said the first event will take place Nov. 5 at the Shaskeen Pub in downtown Manchester, and the Manchester version — Science on Tap — will take place once a month in the back room of the bar. The event will start at 5:30 p.m.

The first month's topic deals with ocean fishing.

"It's kind of an after-work, little bit of networking and mingling. A scientist or expert will give a brief presentation, and then we'll have discussion," said Peter Gustafson, spokesman for SEE Science Center, one of the partners in the endeavor.

He said he expects the series, which is free and open to anyone, will gain a following, given the colleges in the city and the upswing in high technology companies such as DEKA and Dyn in Manchester.

"We think this series could take off," he said.

The first Science Cafe started in Concord in 2011, with climate change being the topic, said Dan Marcek, a former Hewlett-Packard worker who co-founded the group. It has since moved to Nashua, where it is moderated by David Brooks, a reporter and columnist for The Nashua Telegraph.

A typical session will involve a panel of three to four experts in their fields. Panelists include colleges and university professors, corporate researchers and government officials.

Past topics have included genetically modified organisms, post-traumatic stress disorder, digital privacy, the science of polling, climate change, and cats vs. widllife.

Marcek said the sessions generally last about two hours, and then the audience usually talks to panelists afterward. It's not like a classroom lecture. Panelists give brief introductory remarks, and then the audience asks questions, and discussions reflect the priorities of the audience.

"No punches have been thrown to date but we do strive to include a diversity of perspective on our panels," Marcek said.

Other Science Cafes are held in Portsmouth and Hanover. Plymouth has held one but has not scheduled another one, Brooks said.

Gustafson said the back room at the Shaskeen, which includes a stage, can hold about 120 people. The Shaskeen will donate 5 percent of sales related to Science on Tap to SEE Science. The Univeristy of New Hampshire-Manchester and SilverTech are also sponsors.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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