I have heard that many academic campuses, ICTS, for example, are equipped with abundantly many chalkboards in all public places. I wonder what the reason behind this is and how it helps foster academic discussion, especially in science. Moreover, is there a means of keeping the chalks and dusters safely available to all without them being misplaced, wasted or otherwise stolen?
Yes, chalkboards and similar are a good way to capture quick thoughts, both for individual use and for small group discussions. They have been ubiquitous for a long time, a hundred years, at least. They are/were very common in a coffee lounge, near the main table, for example.
I once visited Cambridge, quite long ago. One cute trick there was a camera pointed at the chalkboard that would capture what was written there to save it. I think it was automatic. There might have been some technology behind it to give what was there meaning, not just pictures. I'd guess that it now formats things quite nicely.