Tag Archives: science matters to everyone

MOST OF TODAY’S PUBLIC EDUCATION ABOUT SCIENCE IS WORTHLESS!

 

What  is  Research?
What  is  Scientific Research?     (dr-monsrs.net)

 

            The general public today perceives science as being something much beyond their ability to understand.  Many people actually are afraid of science!  Since science and research seem to have no direct impact upon their daily lives, the simplest solution is for people to completely ignore them.  In today’s world, these conditions have resulted in the enormous estrangement of most ordinary people from scientific research.  

 

On television and the internet, science programs almost always portray science as an amusement.  These programs often feature titillation and try to illustrate science in action (i.e., research) by showing unknown instruments having lots of colored blinking lights and noises, somewhat bizarre men and women wearing white lab coats, laboratory shelves with myriad vials and bottles, and, computer screens filled with a galaxy of numbers.  This caricature of scientific research supports the common fear of science, and directly leads to seeing it as being something quite amusing. 

 

The present “science-of-the-day” format found in many media programs about science almost always features claims that the most recent research finding promises some wildly fabulous advance.  Probably most viewers do not even hear the obligatory follow-up statement that the promised glorious results will be many years in the future.  Any attempt to explain what is being shown is always very abbreviated and superficial; the result is that the audience is amused and always dutifully repeats, “Isn’t that wonderful!”, but really learns and comprehends nothing new.  This entire approach for public education demeans the audience, is grossly unrealistic about what science does and how research advances, and so seems worthless.  These programs and their warped approach will not be helpful to anyone in the public. 

 

 Science would be much better presented via examples of real scientists showing and talking about their research work, particularly when these studies involve some of the current problems we all face.  Actual scientists, not actors and actresses, should be presented and interviewed.  This use of real living scientists will reveal them as neighbors and fellow people, not as mad monsters from some other world.  The message of these presentations should present simple and clear step-by-step explanations showing how the selected question or problem is approached, how the experiments are conducted, what was found, and what conclusions are drawn from the data.  All such presentations must explain what this means for the public, and be produced to be readily understandable by ordinary adults. 

 

Practical matters are more easily understood than theoretical concepts.  Showing some real examples of practical problems where basic research, applied research, and engineering are being conducted will help counter the mistaken general viewpoint that scientific research has no impact on daily life; attentive viewers will come to see that nothing could be farther from the truth.  Probably the most difficult part of my proposal for better adult education will be to get people in the public to watch the 10-30 minute expositions; all too many modern adults have a very limited attention span, thus inclining them to watch sport events rather than any presentation about science and research. 

 

Most ordinary people have never ever talked with a real live scientist, and very few have ever visited a research laboratory.  Ideally, this should occur during education in primary and secondary schools.  By introducing new and more effective formats that are not presently being utilized for media presentations, science will become much more personal and much more human for everyone.  When the public becomes more familiar with scientists as real people, and comes to see how research can benefit everyone, they then will become more understanding and supportive of the long efforts needed to solve the difficult practical problems affecting everyone (e.g., behavior, energy, environment, genetics, health, nutrition, politics, society, water, etc.).  Improved understanding that real science (eu-science) is about finding new knowledge and helping everyone will remove the current emphasis on amusement and pseudo-science. 

 

When the public better understands that science is people, and that scientific research is important for everyone, they will become more enthusiastic about eu-science, and will come to recognize the falsity of being entertained by pseudo-science.  Kickstarter [1] and other mechanisms for crowdfunding [2-4], where hundreds to thousands of ordinary people each make a small financial contribution to a selected project, recently has become popular; in some cases with support for science research projects, the contributors can  become personal participants in the actual experimental studies.  This aspect of crowdfunding dramatically reveals that the hidden large potential interest of the public in scientific research is waiting to be unlocked. 

 

 [1]  Kickstarter, 2013.  What is Kickstarter?  Available on the internet at:  http://www.kickstarter.com/start . 

[2]  Stewart, M., 2013.  With funding becoming scarce, scientists are looking to the public for help.  ASBMB Today, 12:21-23.  Available on the internet at:                                          
http://www.asbmb.org/uploadedFiles/ASBMBToday/Content/Archive/ASBMBToday-2013-11.pdf .

[3]  Rice, H., 2013.  Crowdfunding, Overview.  The New York Academy of Sciences, Academy eBriefings, October 9, 2013.  Available on the internet at:                        http://www.nyas.org/publications/EBriefings/Detail.aspx?cid=82c4e4b4-f200-49b3-b333-c41e1e2f46aa .

[4]  Schmitt, D., 2013,  Crowdfunding science: could it work?  Higher Education Network, The Guardian, Nov. 11, 2013.  Available on the internet at:                                                        http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/nov/11/science-research-funding-crowdfunding-excellence .

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