Embracing the Vision of Citizen Science: An Historic Opportunity for Science Centers

March 31st, 2015

The following blog post continues the discussion initiated by author Walter Staveloz, Director of International Relations at the Association of Science-Technology Centers, ASTC, on Paul Orselli’s blog, ExhibiTricks. In that post, Staveloz posits that we are “always learning,” and that learning is a social experience; hence, science centers and museums should facilitate interactions among and between visitors to enhance and deepen learning. This notion extends to science centers and museums who have a unique opportunity–and even a responsibility–to engage visitors in science issues and topics, ranging from the international to the local, and contribute to the creation of a scientifically-literate society. The views expressed here are those of Water Staveloz, and do not necessarily represent or reflect those of ASTC or CAISE. This piece builds on some ideas first expressed in my blog post on Paul Orselli’s site that was looking to new ways of learning in science centers based on changes that occur around us in other places of society that are relevant to our field. Amongst other things, I made the point that we could no longer see science education and public engagement with science as two separate things, mainly because the best way of educating the public from young to old about science is to put them into the role of a researcher and educate them about the scientific method. This will only work however if there is a situation of dialogue and trust between the scientific community and the public. The “Because scientific advances and challenges are influencing an ever-greater share of American and global life, the pace of innovation and the urgency of scientific issues have captured a growing share of policy attention and at times are generating more and more dispute.”

This statement is relevant in and of itself, and sharpens even more the image of the gap or absence of creative dialogue that I mentioned above. Especially since the study shows that there are shifts, although modest, over time in the perceived effect of science on health care, food and the environment. Over the last five years (2009 -2014) US adults opinion’s about the positive effects of science on health care has dropped 6% and the negative attitudes increased by 8%. For the quality of food this is respectively – 4% and + 10% and regarding the environment -4% and +8%. So despite, or maybe because of the more prominent part of science in society, the public perception on its positive impact is lower than before. And actually whether it is despite or because of doesn’t really matter. All that we and others have been doing to improve public’s scientific literacy and create a more favorable environment for science doesn’t seem to work that well. Why is that? To continue reading the full article, see here: http://informalscience.org/research/ic-000-000-010-629/An_historic_opportunity_for_science_centers Please feel free to share your thoughts about this article by leaving a comment, e-mailing us at caise@informalscience.org, or reaching out to us on our Twitter, @informalscience.

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