Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Macro Science Communication

Rob, over at the Big Monkey Blog, put together an interesting chart to examine science communication from a macro-perspective. Though his original intention was to highlight the role of science blogs in fostering a more scientifically informed general public, it also turns out to be a nice framework upon which to illustrate a key limitation in today's current educational framework.


Looking at the above chart, it is very easy to note that there is quite a distance between the average citizen and the scientists. So really, it isn't all that surprising that we have a largely scientifically ignorant general population. Neither is it surprising that the "scientific" communication that penetrates so many intermediaries all the way to the popular press and the average citizen arrives encumbered with polarizing spin and significant bias introduced by non-scientific agendas.

Admittedly, this is no great intellectual breakthrough, but it is a great mechanism to highlight the role of education in helping bridge that gap. When I have a few free moments, I might even whip up a new version of the chart that includes an educational framework as well. In it, I would expect to highlight the fact that precious few science teachers have even taken a graduate or even and undergraduate course in the subject they are teaching, and even fewer interact on even a monthly basis with scientists. Even fewer actually perform any kind of science research on their own.

As I see it, our job is to shorten the distance (and reduce the number of links) between the science community and our students in the schools. Better yet, we should be integrating the two communities so that the teachers themselves become scientists, and help the students enter the community directly.


Anonymous said...

Given the impact of this divide on the current administration's agenda, what do you think about fostering some sort of exchange program between scientists and those of a more spiritual bent? I think that each community could benefit from a judicious and sensitive interaction with intelligent and open-minded members of the other. (I admit that the intelligent and open-minded members of the spiritual community may be deemed hard to come by, but I'll bet they feel the same way about scientists.)

Phillip Alvelda said...

Hey, cool idea. You coudl extend the chart to offer the mirror (reflected around the average citizen) for the theological and spiritual establishments and we could look at graph theory hacks as to how best to bring the communities together!