Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Year of Science

2009 is here, big and bold.

An alliance of scientific organizations has declared this the Year of Science. The ScienceInsider blog (which I would recommend for science policy news) of the AAAS has more information. The Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science is spearheading the outreach, organizing programs at science conferences, new websites for teachers, and other public programs. It's a nice idea. Whatever gets more people interested in this sort of thing, the better. I especially like the idea of providing people with simple, instructive content about the nature of the scientific process (particularly its iterative, ever-changing nature - something few people fully appreciate).

I recently read an article about the increasing disinterest in science seen among US students. As kids grow up, science is presented to them as less fun and more hard work. They lose the Mr. Wizard mentality, adopting a more cynical view. I think this in part explains why we are seeing fewer science degrees in the US, relative to other nations. People that don't find science interesting are more likely to distrust it. If something is viewed as closed off, obscure, or just hard, few will take the time to investigate it and this, over time, erodes the integrity of our science infrastructure. The public's perception of science is a lynchpin for future progress.

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