Public Understanding of Science

The international peer-reviewed journal Public Understanding of Science, has a mission to:

"cover[ing] all aspects of the inter-relationships between science (including technology and medicine) and the public. Topics Covered Include: popular representations of science, scientific and para-scientific belief systems, science in schools, history of science, education of popular science, science and the media."

I'm embarrassed to admit that as a professor in a (then) Faculty of Science of Engineering, I had not heard of this journal until 2004.

Nevertheless, I believe that it's essential to ensure that people outside of STEM departments have a good understanding of science is about. In my opinion, it is the duty of all scientists who receive taxpayer funding, no matter how introverted or lacking in social skills (i.e. basically, geeky) he or she is (though it's more likely to be a he), to make an effort of some kind to reach out to the public. This might be as little, as introducing him or herself to the neighbours, as "a scientist".

Surveys show that the number of people in North America, a highly technological society, who believe in what scientists are telling them - whether about evolution or climate change - is declining.

In Britain, there are university chairs in the Public Understanding of Science and Public Engagement in Science, and in the USA, societies like the Ecological Society of America have very active and well-funded outreach programmes. It's pretty clear to me, that in spite of the best efforts of many committed colleagues, that from a system-wide (national) perspective, Canada is a laggard when it comes to promoting, funding and supporting the the public understanding of science. I have thought about how this might be addressed, in a talk called "Why don't scientists get more respect?" which I have given at several universities in Canada and the USA. This version of the talk is titled "Why don't ecologists get more respect?"