Whose fault is bad science understanding?

I’ve been forwarded the following from one of our teaching development staff – it’s a transcript of a very recent lecture by Prof Ian Chubb, Australia’s Chief Scientist.


In the lecture, Prof Chubb comments on the lack of science understanding in the country as a whole and how this leads to the country being held back in the long-term. The climate change issue is a big example that he talks about – and is of course an extremely political beast in Australia. (It shouldn’t be – it’s an extremely scientific beast). However, rather than just moaning that this malaise is the fault of short-sighted vote-hungry governments or a failing education system, he throws down the challenge to scientists themselves – it is the responsibility of every scientist (which means me) to get out there and do something about the public’s understanding of what science is and is not about, and what it does and does not do.

That’s what initiatives like Cafe Scientifique and Sciblogs ( www.sciblogs.co.nz  for those not reading this post through that website already) are all about. It’s no use us sitting in our offices and looking back to the good-old-days (if, indeed, they every existed) when governments funded science and universities properly – that’s not going to change anything. Scientists, says Prof Chubb, need to be advocates of science.

…if science is not properly valued – part of the problem is that we have not been vigorous or vociferous enough in our protection of it or perhaps more importantly, in our communication of it. We need to be advocates."

I’m off to the NZ Institute of Physics Congress in Wellington next week where there will be communication of science between scientists and other scientists and also between scientists and non-scientists.  It should be an interesting conference and it will be nice to escape the university for a few days.



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