Friday, July 10, 2009

public v. scientists

The bloggers over at The Intersection, who have just announced they've moved their blog, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, have just released a new book called Unscientific America.  It is about the "two cultures" that exist, scientists and the public, and what has cause this disconnect between the two. I have not yet read the book, but I plan on it (as soon as I get my rear in gear and open an account at the library).  They blog often about their book and I feel like I have learned a lot since starting to read their blog.  But, just released (amazingly good timing for Mooney and Kirshenbaum), is a study by The Pew Research Center, in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science,  in which they polled the public and scientists and compared their answers of the same questions. Now, this article is rather long, and does get confusing at times (there are a LOT of percentages), but the main message is very clear: the public and scientists view the world and the sciences very differently.  One question that displayed a huge difference was the comparison with science in the US vs. the rest of the world.  49% of scientists say that US scientific advancements are the best in the world (which I tend to agree, but it is stiff competition) while only 17% of the public says that the US is the best in science.  Combine the 'best in the world' category with 'above average' and 94% of scientists polled have put the US scientific advancments in the top tiers while only 75% of the public has done so.  This then makes me wonder, what is the public using to come to this conclusion? And what can be done to better inform the public of how awesome science and scientists in this country are? Rhetorical questions that I cannot answer but I really would like to be able to because answering these questions could be the first step in solving the problem.

I was entertained by the GQ ad posing rock stars with scientists, but that ad did nothing for informing the public about what scientists actually do (not to mention the lack of scientific diversity was extremely disappointing).  The campaign is to convince the next generation to go into science, but the ad is more focused on the rock stars instead of the scientists.  Maybe future ads will focus on what the incredible research is. If they weren't planning on it, maybe they should reconsider. 

I went to visit Adam's work this week and one of his coworkers asked what I do. I responded, "I work in the med school in a lab." One of Adam's other coworkers chimed in, "She's trying to cure cancer, no joke." It was really neat for me to have someone else brag about what I do, I know I don't.  I recently heard that only one in ten people knows a scientist. I find this sad, but I'm glad I can be a scientist for people to know. 

P.S. My attack dog is on a mission to kill the fly in our house - she's such a good girl, and absolutely hilarious.
P.P.S. you can always tell when I'm working on writing a paper cause I tend to blog instead.  :)


Anonymous said...

At any rate, I liked some of the vadlo scientist cartoons!

Beth said...

Yay! You are my scientist!