Friday, June 10, 2005

Stop dialoguing and get back to work

End this two-way process
Scientists are too busy discovering hard facts to engage the public in constant dialogue, says John Warren
(Education Guardian)

    As a scientist in the 21st century I am not only expected to unravel the mysteries of the universe, but also to engage the public in dialogue. Unlike my predecessors, who were simply encouraged to go forth and educate the masses - or more politely - "enhance the public's understanding of science", I am told to be involved in a two-way process; so let's kick-off.

    What do you wish to discuss, sub-atomic partials, the human genome or nanotechnology? Sorry, I can't help you there, they are not my field. Before I could get involved in any worthwhile dialogue on these topics, I would need to do some reading or talk to an expert. Yes, I would need to 'enhance my understanding of science'. I don't have any problem with that, but no, that is old hat, we must have a two-way process. The trouble is, for a meaningful two-way discussion to occur there must be at least some understanding on the part of the non-specialist.

    Let me give you an example of the problem. I was recently involved in a government-funded project that was designed to find out how much the public values biodiversity (and hence how much they would be willing to pay to support nature reserves, or more environmentally friendly farming and so on). The problem with this is that many members of the public have virtually no understanding of what biodiversity is. More here

The abstract 'public' is right here
You can trace time

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This brings up a very good point. How do you explain something like stem cell research to some one who did not even understand Biology 101? I think the onus is on the public to at least try to gain some basic scientific knowledge before engageing in the discussion of emerging technologies.

Mr. Smith