Anyone involved with the Public Understanding of Science movement will tell you that:
1) P.U.S. is complicated and has problems defining things like: what should be taught? how should it be taught? who should learn it? who should teach it? All of this is labeled by words like content, indicators, deficit model, goals, audience, and messaging. Oh, messaging is a BIG challenge. Take, for starters, the movement’s acronym.
2) Striking a chord with our target audience (“average” people) is tricky when, well, many of the messengers aren’t all that average. Many “experts” argue we should require scientists to do more public outreach. In some cases that may work wonderfully. But in too many of the examples I’ve witnessed, it’s more like sending Prince Charles in to sub for John Stewart.
3) Too often, the most creative approaches are discounted because they are not P.C. (enough). It’s not that there aren’t plenty of creative people working to increase the public’s understanding of science. In fact, most of the players I’ve met are dynamos. But their funders are, too often, unwilling to try new approaches for fear of sullying their good names, like I’m doing. Consider this a direct challenge to foundations, corporations and other supporters to shake things up a bit. We’ll help.
So we often fail to connect with the masses and are left preaching to–not the choir, that would be slightly more acceptable–preaching to other preachers. It’s just silly sometimes.
Preaching science; reaching the masses.Philly Metro, a free city paper, caters to just the type of audience we say we want to reach: real (or “average”) folks including public transportation commuters, students, professionals, City Hall staffers and other residents of the City of Brotherly Love. I was thrilled last week, when they ran a piece about the Science Cheerleader. The Brain Makeover project has broken through some of the barriers described above, and, as anticipated, ruffled some feathers along the way. Good. It means it’s making a difference. When Fox National News, radio shock jocks, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Toronto Star, CBS 3 and many others–including prestigious professional science magazine, The Scientist–are talking about the Science Cheerleader and our three big goals (adult science literacy, citizen science efforts and participatory science policy developments), we’ve scored. And now this…
The Eagles fans are notorious for a number of reasons. Let’s just say “passion” runs through their veins. The popular Philly sports blog, 700level.com just ran this piece on the Science Cheerleader. Sure, the first comment posted was “take off your top!” which was no surprise to me. I’m more surprised that they posted this article and, by default, put science in the minds of more than 20,000 Philly sports fans, if only for a moment. We have some more tricks up our sleeves in terms of penetrating* that seemingly impossible audience we’re all aiming to reach. Stay tuned and consider getting involved. It’s the most fun you can have with science 🙂
*yes, 700 level fans, I know what you’re thinking.