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Scientific Tourism as a Tool for Tourism Development in Mountain Regions:
Challenges and Issues for Regions in T

Call for papers: Deadlines : May 31, 2021 (abstract) and October 1, 2021 (full article). Editorial board : Mikaël Chambru (Labex ITTEM / GRESEC, UGA),, Cécilia Claeys (LPED, AMU) et Nathalie Lewis (DSTP, UQAR),, as well as Coralie Mounet ( and Olivier Vallade ( for JAR.


In recent years, humanities and social science research has renewed interest in the development of scientific tourism in mountain regions. Several theses and research programmes focused on alpine areas are underway within the Labex ITTEM (Territorial innovations and transitions in mountain regions) research network. Study days entitled “Scientific culture and tourism transition: what challenges for the Alpine region?” were organised jointly by the University of Grenoble Alpes and Aix-Marseille University at the end of 2020 to undertake a preliminary summary of this trend. International networks, based on the work carried out in Latin America via the International Network for Research and Development in Scientific Tourism, are also taking shape.

Developing scientific tourism reveals distinctive forms of tourism practices and products that mobilise the scientific dimension in different ways and to varying degrees, and these are today grouped under the term “scientific tourism” (Mao and Bourlon, 2011). Within mountain regions, this scientific tourism has met with relative success by becoming inextricably linked with the ongoing dynamics of transition and with the socio-environmental issues that these reveal: forms of regional governance, the accessibility of scientific culture and the eco-compatibility of projects (Chambru and Claeys, 2021). This form of tourism is often presented as the expression of an alternative tourism system and of an “after-tourism” model, allowing the reinvention of a regionalised tourism grappling with the social challenges facing mountain regions in the 21st century (Bourlon et al., 2017). Projects promoting the development of scientific tourism, led by local actors providing varying degrees of support to ecological transition dynamics, have (re) emerged in all the massifs and, thanks to various forms of scientific tourism, as specific tourist activities. This has been the case, for instance, for astrotourism within protected natural areas in low mountain ranges with (multiple) labels (Charlier, 2018), or of glacier tourism, perceived as “last-chance tourism” in the face of the challenges of climate change in high mountain ranges (Salim and Ravanel, 2020). It has also been the case with geotourism which attempts to provide a combined response to the challenges of tourist diversification, the challenges of disseminating scientific knowledge and other challenges associated with the region (Duval and Gauchon, 2010). In the mountain environment, scientific culture thus appears as a driver of regional development in local development projects, first within a perspective of sustainable tourism development (Venzale-Barde, 2006), then within one of “soft” tourism (Kramar, 2012), and then, lastly, within the perspective of ecological transition dynamics. As a result, the development of scientific tourism seeking some form of environmental ethics comes up against paradoxes similar to those concerning the reception of the public in protected natural areas. The first paradox concerns the potential ecological impacts of increase frequentation of ecologically sensitive spaces (Leung and Marion, 2000; Claeys et al, 2011). The second is the socially and culturally selective nature of access to these spaces, which may lead to, or aggravate, situations of environmental inequalities, i.e., social inequalities regarding access to nature (Taylor, 2016; Deldrève, 2015).

Indeed, scientific mediations have long been present in mountain regions and are reflected in the multiple mechanisms used to disseminate scientific information, one of whose stated purposes is to promote and develop scientific culture. The latter may be defined as “a set of public policies, professional and activist structures and mechanisms” with converging but increasingly numerous objectives: “to disseminate knowledge, share science, make visible the cultural dimension of scientific activity and its productions, change how science is transmitted and taught, participate in regional and economic development, etc.” (Bordeaux et al., 2021). This development of scientific tourism in mountain regions thus contributes to the creation of emerging sites set up as areas supporting an emergent scientific culture (Schiele and Jantzen, 2003). It can be seen as one of the methods of publicising science and scientific culture, and it is specific in that it unfolds within territories whose vulnerabilities and resources – in terms of responding to climate change consequences – are themselves specific compared with non-mountain areas. This tourism development thus helps to renew and diversify the established forms used in disseminating science and mediating knowledge, i.e., “to exhibit, debate, publish, disseminate, communicate” (Walter et al. 2019). By establishing mountain spaces for a “science/society encounter”, it also questions the communication paradigms that shape the roles of, and relationships with, the public in scientific mediation actions (Chavrot and Masseran, 2010). This scientific mountain tourism, which may be of a heritage, industrial, technical or environmental nature, relies on the region’s cultural and natural resources and on the knowledge produced by the natural sciences, humanities and social sciences, which are all grappling with mountain-related challenges. In this “open-air laboratory”, scientific mediation is assigned different missions: to share knowledge, promote science, popularise specific regional features, recruit future scientists, diversify the tourist offer, involve the public in research, justify socio-political decisions, protect mountain areas, change behaviour, etc. In this sense, the development of scientific tourism in mountain areas helps to reinforce the ambiguity of the concept of scientific mediation and the associated social challenges (Bergeron, 2016).


The objective of this issue of the Journal of Alpine Research / Revue de Géographie Alpine is to open debate on this development of scientific tourism in mountain regions and on associated forms of regional innovation. It seeks to document the public issues that emerge between scientific citizenship, ecological transition and tourist diversification. We are accepting contributions around three non-exhaustive and non-exclusive themes:

Theme 1: The diversification of mountain tourism through the development of scientific tourism?

This theme aims to analyse how the development of scientific tourism contributes to the tourist diversification of mountain areas. What are the observable forms of scientific tourism? How does this diversification allow actors to reflect on and anticipate the “après-ski”, and to propose an economically viable alternative to the weakened model of “white gold”? Is scientific tourism an innovative form of tourism? What role does it play in relation to all the other recreational activities proposed in the mountain region? Can one speak of a singularity of mountain regions with regard to scientific tourism? What favours its emergence in these regions? There is also a need to question the regional dimension of this tourist diversification and its inclusion in a regional project. What issues and conflicts does it reveal? What relationships develop between scientific culture and tourism in regional tourism projects? How do these relationships evolve over time? An additional objective is to understand the challenges of regional marketing. Does the development of scientific tourism allow mountain regions to stand out from each other in a context of fierce competition? How does it influence regional identities? Is scientific culture simply one resource among others with which to work on this distinction?

Theme 2: An ecological transition in the mountain region through scientific tourism?

The objective of this theme is to analyse how the development of scientific tourism in mountain areas may promote or dissuade models of ecological transition. Does the development of scientific tourism contribute to adaptation to climate change, the effects of which have been felt particularly early in mountain areas? Beyond raising awareness, or even providing environmental education, does scientific tourism instil in its public, over the long term, more virtuous and environmentally friendly behaviour? Moreover, to what extent does scientific tourism succeed in proposing a model that makes it possible to reduce the ecological consequences of receiving the public, either with regard to how they access tourist sites or during their visits to these sites? This question is particularly significant in mountain regions because of their ecological characteristics and their reduced accessibility. Does the ecological transition model promoted by scientific tourism also respond to the challenges associated with correcting social inequalities, as advocated by Hopkins (2010)? Mountain tourism has historically tended to be quite socially discriminating. In particular, what are the relationships and similarities between scientific tourism and outdoor recreational activities that are already very present in mountain areas? Do the models conveyed by scientific tourism tend to reinforce current socio-cultural inequalities of access to mountain amenities, or can they correct them? Lastly, in terms of access to regional resources, does this type of tourism compete with other activities common in mountain areas, such as agro-pastoralism?

Theme 3: Changes in scientific mediation through mountain tourism?

This theme aims to analyse how the development of scientific tourism in mountain areas changes scientific mediation. How are mediation practices renewed in scientific mountain tourism? What are their target audiences and which audiences are involved? What roles do these actors play in these scientific tourism experiences? What relationships are developed with the scientific field and with the sciences? Which disciplines and which scientific methodologies are used? Besides the knowledge and the procedures, how may one define a mediation in scientific tourism? It also appears important to question the regional dimension of scientific mediation in mountain regions and how it integrates into changing tourist practices. How does scientific mediation make it possible to respond to the challenges of disseminating knowledge and also to mountain-related challenges? Does scientific tourism correspond to a specific form of knowledge circulation that favours its social diffusion? Does it relate to forms and cultural practices specific to mountain areas? How, then, does it differ from other forms of tourism where this regional dimension and the sciences are already present? The objective is, therefore, to grasp the potential novelty of this development of scientific tourism in mountain regions, and to document its specificities and how they relate to ecological transition.

This call for papers therefore seeks articles that propose a critical analysis of the development of scientific tourism in mountain regions from different disciplinary fields of the humanities and social sciences (geography, history, communication sciences, sociology, etc.). The mountain will be the object or field of study, and articles are expected to focus on the forms, processes and effects of the development of scientific tourism, as well as on the mechanisms, practices, actors’ games and strategies, power relations, conflicts, etc. Contributions outside the scope of the Alpine framework are welcome.


The articles submitted must respect the scientific objectives of the journal, the publishing principles and the presentation guidelines. Author guidelines are available on the journal’s website. In line with the journal’s workings, each contribution will be proofread and evaluated anonymously by two experts.

Proposals for articles with no more than 7,000 characters (spaces included) must be sent in French (French-speaking authors) or English (non-French-speaking authors) by May 31, 2021. This proposal should include the following points: approximately ten bibliographic references, the title of the article, author affiliation, brief presentation of the context and objective of the article, the theoretical field, the field analysed, the method specifying the composition of the corpus of data, and the key results if an empirical contribution is concerned and the theoretical field and argumentation if a theoretical contribution is concerned. The authors of the articles selected will be contacted on June 15, 2021.

The editorial board is composed of Mikaël Chambru (, Cécilia Claeys (, Nathalie Lewis (, as well as Coralie Mounet ( and Olivier Vallade (, for JAR.

All full papers must be received by October 1, 2021. The article must be submitted in one of the journal’s languages: Alpine languages – French, Italian, German – or in Spanish or English. After a favourable review, authors must make provisions for the translation of their article into a second language of publication. One of the two versions must be in English. If the initial article is in English, it must be translated into French. Publication is scheduled for early 2022.


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Bourlon F., Bourdeau P., Michel F. et Inostroza G., 2017.– « Le tourisme scientifique, un après-tourisme en Patagonie ? », Études caribéennes, n° 37-38.

Bordeaux M-C., Chambru M. et Polge J., 2021.– « Enjeux et perspectives de la culture scientifique », séminaire de recherche de l’Université Grenoble Alpes,

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