Leave the conference room and head straight to the local tap room.

When irony is just too much.    In my never-ending effort to help “average” citizens get involved in science and science policy matters, I had quite an eye-opening experience Saturday night.
Local bartender (granted he was drunk) said to me ” I defriended you on Facebook you know. I got tired of what you were posting. Science this and science that, waa, waa, waa.”
Me: “Why, I never grow tired of your posts about your new baby’s pooping schedule.”
Him: “Seriously, you shouldn’t be writing about stuff like that. We need to stick together. Let those people [finger quotes] write about and think about that and let us talk about stuff we should be talking about. You need to remember your place in this world.”
Me: “Hmmm. I may need to find a way to filter certain [finger quotes] voices from any crowdsourcing, participatory activities I’m planning…(thinking back to people telling me why we shouldn’t have the public weigh in on science policy issues…  “you haven’t met enough people if you really think everyone should be invited to weigh in.”)
Him: “Well now that we have an understanding, I’ll refriend you on FB.”

Clearly Joe doesn’t feel worthy of taking a seat at the “participatory” table. It’s unfortunate and surely Joe’s not alone. He doesn’t want to learn about issues he feels he has no business talking about. Joe has no shortage of opinions. He’s also an influencer (he made a point of telling me he has more friends on facebook than I do…nice). By enlisting people like Joe, real change can start to take place. But Joe needs to be convinced that he’s entitled to participate. I’ll work on Joe but anyone involved in science and policy should consider having these types of conversations outside of their labs, offices, classrooms and conferences. Go to your corner tap room from time to time to take the pulse of the American public. I promise you , you’ll learn something.

For those of you who may be wondering what’s become of the effort to Reopen the Office of Technology Assessment, with public participation, I’ll have something to report in a few weeks!

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  • Jim Fisher

    “You need to remember your place in this world.”

    You displayed a incredible amount of restraint by not introducing this guy to Newton’s Third Law using your palm and his face in the experiment.

  • Jim Fisher

    “You need to remember your place in this world.”

    You displayed a incredible amount of restraint by not introducing this guy to Newton’s Third Law using your palm and his face in the experiment.

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  • Buzz Ryan

    My initial response was “screw ’em if they can’t take a joke” but then I got to thinking about this….

    Science for the “common man” will never ever progress if one preaches to the choir. We get it. The trick is to get other people to follow suite.

    The last couple of weeks I have been in a class that involves a lot of drilling precision holes and then slamming solid rivits into them. But I took every opportunity to let my “Nerd” fly and I made some compelling arguements for how we were developing a critical skill for engineer. (Truth be told the most entertaining part was explining shark behavior and biology to some of the surfers in the class….)

    The thing is the guys I have spent the last couple of weeks with are not dumb or ignorant but a long shot. They are all highly capable tradesmen who never really stopped and looked deeper at the world around them. Most people I run into are like that. Not stupid. Just never had the chance to sit down between working for a living and paying their bills to wonder why things are the way they are.

    I say “Awesome!” Darlene for bringing the message to the people!

    My best,

    Buzz Ryan

  • Buzz Ryan

    My initial response was “screw ’em if they can’t take a joke” but then I got to thinking about this….

    Science for the “common man” will never ever progress if one preaches to the choir. We get it. The trick is to get other people to follow suite.

    The last couple of weeks I have been in a class that involves a lot of drilling precision holes and then slamming solid rivits into them. But I took every opportunity to let my “Nerd” fly and I made some compelling arguements for how we were developing a critical skill for engineer. (Truth be told the most entertaining part was explining shark behavior and biology to some of the surfers in the class….)

    The thing is the guys I have spent the last couple of weeks with are not dumb or ignorant but a long shot. They are all highly capable tradesmen who never really stopped and looked deeper at the world around them. Most people I run into are like that. Not stupid. Just never had the chance to sit down between working for a living and paying their bills to wonder why things are the way they are.

    I say “Awesome!” Darlene for bringing the message to the people!

    My best,

    Buzz Ryan

  • Buzz Ryan

    p.s…. I am really sorry about the spelling errors… pain killers…

  • Buzz Ryan

    p.s…. I am really sorry about the spelling errors… pain killers…

  • I’d have to agree with Jim. You showed admirable restraint.

    That said, there are some folks on FB who get intimidated when I tell them I work for NASA. I then explain, quickly, that I am an English major, not a rocket scientist, and that you really don’t want me touching anything that can go boom.

    But we have enshrined this Cult of the Scientist for awhile…maybe since Einstein, maybe since the development of the atomic bomb. What scientists and engineers do is difficult. Some of if requires math, which schools barely teach anymore. Some of it requires calm, rational thought when some people would prefer to just have their opinions and prejudices handed to them. A republic takes work, it takes an active, involved citizenry. The internet and other technologies give individuals more power than ever to learn what’s going on and to make a difference in the debates shaping our world. However, what they see is an incredibly complex, seemingly overwhelming technocracy ruled by elites and experts and they figure, “What good can I do? I’m just one person.”

    That’s why your site is important, Dar. You encourage people to take action, get involved, and learn something so that they CAN make a difference. Keep fighting that good fight!

    Over and out,

    /b

  • I’d have to agree with Jim. You showed admirable restraint.

    That said, there are some folks on FB who get intimidated when I tell them I work for NASA. I then explain, quickly, that I am an English major, not a rocket scientist, and that you really don’t want me touching anything that can go boom.

    But we have enshrined this Cult of the Scientist for awhile…maybe since Einstein, maybe since the development of the atomic bomb. What scientists and engineers do is difficult. Some of if requires math, which schools barely teach anymore. Some of it requires calm, rational thought when some people would prefer to just have their opinions and prejudices handed to them. A republic takes work, it takes an active, involved citizenry. The internet and other technologies give individuals more power than ever to learn what’s going on and to make a difference in the debates shaping our world. However, what they see is an incredibly complex, seemingly overwhelming technocracy ruled by elites and experts and they figure, “What good can I do? I’m just one person.”

    That’s why your site is important, Dar. You encourage people to take action, get involved, and learn something so that they CAN make a difference. Keep fighting that good fight!

    Over and out,

    /b

  • was the bartender drinking while serving or after? It can be pretty tough, especially in a bar/nightclub/sports game to tackle science topics with people who aren’t knowledgable or interested in it.

    I guess initiatives like the Skeptics in the Pub meetings (also dealing with science sometimes) hope to achieve that, by drawing in outsiders who want to know more about science but don’t know how to do so. As do your own Citizen Science projects!

    The sad thing I see all the time in the UK is the trust that people with less education place in the worst tabloids and their faux-science coverage (coffee/tea/meat causes cancer, aspirin causes heart attacks, climate change is fake etc). There are probably US equivalents but the Daily Mail, Express, Star help to keep people ignorant of the facts.

  • was the bartender drinking while serving or after? It can be pretty tough, especially in a bar/nightclub/sports game to tackle science topics with people who aren’t knowledgable or interested in it.

    I guess initiatives like the Skeptics in the Pub meetings (also dealing with science sometimes) hope to achieve that, by drawing in outsiders who want to know more about science but don’t know how to do so. As do your own Citizen Science projects!

    The sad thing I see all the time in the UK is the trust that people with less education place in the worst tabloids and their faux-science coverage (coffee/tea/meat causes cancer, aspirin causes heart attacks, climate change is fake etc). There are probably US equivalents but the Daily Mail, Express, Star help to keep people ignorant of the facts.

  • JT Lewis

    NYTimes article on sentencing disparities between cocaine and crack use is entitled ‘Bad Science and Bad Policy’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/opinion/03wed3.html?ref=opinion)
    Isn’t that what Science Cheerleader has been saying all along?

  • JT Lewis

    NYTimes article on sentencing disparities between cocaine and crack use is entitled ‘Bad Science and Bad Policy’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/opinion/03wed3.html?ref=opinion)
    Isn’t that what Science Cheerleader has been saying all along?