During the first morning of the Big Science Communication Summit hosted by ScienceRewired (and what a morning it was!), one of the key points that was repeatedly touched on by the speakers was science in education; educating regarding age, the impression and message given, the approaches taken to education, and the medium used for educating.
Craig Cormick pointed out during the morning’s sessions that with the data we now have at our disposal, the “public” as we knew it now becomes a multi-level, highly diverse arrangement of groups having different “degrees” of engagement with science (let’s call it “the new public”). What does this mean for science education? Moving forward, it is important to educate future generations on how to engage “the new public” with science. Loosely breaking down one of my own perspectives of using the data and evidence we have on engaging Australians in science, and making it relevant to education:
- We need to educate the students; teach them how to engage on different levels as they learn the science itself, in primary school, high school, and tertiary education
- We therefore need to educate the educators; the teachers at all levels of school education and the lecturers and professors teaching in tertiary education
- To be able to accomplish the second point, we have to first engage the educators and the scientists doing the research, in turn getting them to engage “the new public” on relevant and diverse levels regarding their own work or science streams they are interested in themselves
- Point 1 doesn’t happen without point 2
- Point 2 doesn’t happen without point 3 (not effectively anyway)
- If students are brought up having been exposed to point 1 – taking into account the assumption that points 2 and 3 are effectively implemented and managed – then they in turn can continue the development of point 3, and the cycle continues
It paints a generally rosy future for science engagement; one that becomes self-sustaining, monitoring and improving. So, where to from here? Our vision of science engagement, addressing gaps in communication and connectivity such as isolation, culture, media, community involvement etc. needs to be streamlined – this is where IA and partners are doing such great work already. Education curricula need to have this education of science engagement incorporated in parallel with one another to maintain the streamlined vision.
You have to convince scientists who have decades of experience and “were around before all this new-fangled technology” that science engagement is a real thing, and it’s more important than ever (in order to make point 3 a possibility). Yet all of this still doesn’t take into account the difficulty of engaging older generations who have missed the opportunity to be taught the importance of science for everyone, and of science engagement. There are plenty of attitude adjustments in order, and on a number of levels!
Clearly, as science communicators, we have our work cut out for us. The good news is through the work of programs such as the Big Communication Summit we are taking the right steps, and making sure we are all facing the same direction as we do so.