Science communication should be better, expert says

2014-03-20 09:40
Science education is a key priority at the Cape Town Science Centre. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Science education is a key priority at the Cape Town Science Centre. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - More effective communication from scientists is key to help dispel the negative perception of the scientific method, a top science educator has said.

"There certainly are scientists who do it well, and there are scientists who could do it better, like any discipline," Dr Graham Walker from the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University told News24.

Walker has been performing science shows for the past 13 years and is one of only two people in the world with a PhD in science show performance.

He argued that in some quarters, the public was moving closer to science as global issues drive a greater understanding of scientific evidence.

"One of the things that is changing in the world at the moment - issues like climate change; human health - they're bringing the general public closer with science."

Belief

It is also possible that pop culture has played a role in the popularisation of science and technology.

Movies like Gravity and Superman have captured the public's imagination in much the same way as Star Trek and Star Wars did a generation ago.

However, science can also threaten belief systems.

"We all have fundamental beliefs of one sort or another and it is very threatening if somebody is saying they're wrong," Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell told News24.

A recent poll found that South Africans are worse than Americans when it comes to basic scientific concepts.

The survey, conducted by Media24's online Forum24, found that only half of South Africans were aware of basic scientific concepts like the Earth revolving around the sun and the evolution of man.

The UK faced a similar problem in the 1980s when one third of Britons believed that the sun circled the Earth, but government policy was enacted to expand science education.

However, despite this, Jane Gregory of the University of London, wrote on SciDev.Net that research has ignored how knowledge about science has affected people's attitudes.

Walker said that the need for improved science education was key, particularly to help children understand that concepts that will better prepare them for an increasingly technological world.

"There's an emerging role for more communication - the fact that the discipline that I'm a part of science communication has grown out of this need. It's critical that we communicate science better; especially to young people."

Renowned science educationalist Bill Nye recently debated creationist Ken Ham and their discussion highlighted the political nature of science in the US, where some commentators have disregarded established science such as evolution and climate change.

Sentiment

"There is a debate going on, and in some cases, I think the debate is productive; in other cases, not productive," said Walker.

He said that it was unfair to expect that bombarding the public with facts would generate positive sentiment for science concepts and scientists.

"I think science has to work just as hard as people who may be opposed to those views to get the ideas across and get not just the hard facts across, but also bring the general public along on that journey.

"Issues like climate change; stem cells, it can get very emotionally charged and I think scientists have to acknowledge that in the way they’re communicating it," Walker said.

Walker will be performing two science shows at the Cape Town Science Centreon 20 and 21 March 2014.


- Follow Duncan on Twitter
- News24
Read more on:    science  |  technology
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
21 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland
The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

HOUSES FOR SALE IN Paarl

Houses R 2 690 000

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

At last you are able to see the light. You are able to break through obstacles in an innovative and original way. Visualisation is...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.