Pilot Study: Why Academics Should Engage With The Community

Featured

Dr Ian Moffat explaining ground penetrating radar to community members during a survey of the Innamincka Cemetery.
Julia Garnaut, Author provided

By Ian Moffat, Flinders University

Australian academics will soon have a new incentive to get off campus and into the community to engage with the people who ultimately fund their research – the taxpayers.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is currently piloting a new scheme to quantify impact and engagement by academics. It’s part of proposed funding changes under the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Continue reading

What Happens When Scientists Stand Up for Science

Featured

By: Brian Martin, University of Wollongong

The 2017 March for Science was a powerful political statement by scientists. The marchers opposed political interference, budget cuts and lack of support for science at a government level.

More commonly, though, scientists stay in their labs and avoid the public political spotlight.

CSIRO scientist John Church – who initially acted as an individual (not a representative of his research institution) to “stand up for science” in 2015 – is cited as a recent example of the career ramifications that can flow from public activity.

Actually, he’s not alone. For years, outspoken scientists have encountered career difficulties and personal repercussions.

But climate science and the advent of digital and social media shape how scientists speak publicly about science now.

Continue reading

Marching for Science in the Deeply Red – Deep South

Featured

Chattanooga March for Science – April 22nd, 2017 – Courtesy of Shirley Zapf‎

On April 22nd, we watched as the world marched for science. Major media did a fine job covering demonstrations happening across the nation and around the world. However, most of what we saw on television and online focused on the largest events – which took place in big cities. Getting less attention, were hundreds of marches in smaller cities that brought people together in support of science.

With thunderstorms looming, residents of Chattanooga, Tennessee took to the streets to make their voices heard. Chattanooga is located in Hamilton County, where 56% of voters chose Donald Trump (39% chose Hillary Clinton) in November’s Presidential Election. Statewide, Trump topped Clinton 61% to 35%. With numbers like that, you’d think residents would be less inclined to participate in a political march targeting the policies of a person many of them helped elect.

The following is a Q&A with Sara Scott, one of the organizers of the Chattanooga March for Science. She defines herself as a feminist, leftist, and mother who has lived in Chattanooga for four years. I was interested in hearing her thoughts about organizing a pro-science event in the deep south.

Continue reading

Can Bill Nye – Or Any Other Science Show – Really Save The World?

Featured

Will Bill Nye’s new show find a wider audience than Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ did? Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

By: Heather Akin, University of Pennsylvania; Bruce W. Hardy, Temple University; Dietram A. Scheufele, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Dominique Brossard, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Netflix’s new talk show, “Bill Nye Saves the World,” debuted the night before people around the world joined together to demonstrate and March for Science. Many have lauded the timing and relevance of the show, featuring the famous “Science Guy” as its host because it aims to myth-bust and debunk anti-scientific claims in an alternative-fact era.

But are more facts really the kryptonite that will rein in what some suggest is a rapidly spreading “anti-science” sentiment in the U.S.?

Continue reading

People are Taking to the Streets to Defend Science – But it Could Come at a Cost

Featured

By: Joseph Roche, Trinity College Dublin

Scientists protest against proposed cuts against science in the UK in 2010.
Shane/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Scientists around the world are facing a dilemma. A March for Science will be taking place in Washington DC on 22 April, with solidarity marches in more than 500 other locations around the world. Scientists in cities from London in the UK to Tokyo in Japan, Accra in Ghana and Hyderabad in India are all looking to defend the vital role that science plays in society.

The campaign – which calls for science to be robustly funded and publicly communicated as a “pillar of human freedom and prosperity” – is likely to be the largest ever mass demonstration by the scientific community. But every scientist who decides to march will know that, while they are taking part in a powerful movement to protect their discipline, they could also be helping to politicise a field that might be better off remaining as apolitical as possible.

Continue reading