What is science to you?

Here’s a quick round up of the news coverage I came across last week on the public perception of science:

Why is science important? –a film by Alom Shaha

Alom Shaha, a science teacher, writer, and film-maker, asked the question “why is science important?”. By asking this question to those who have dedicated their lives to science (scientists, science writers, science teachers) Shaha hoped their answers could convince students and the general public—especially those who think otherwise—that science is important.

I thought the video provided a good overview of why science is important, and covered a broad range of perspectives to explain its importance—from politics to philosophy. But I also believe the video missed a key point. It didn’t talk about the value of fundamental knowledge (and I don’t just mean physics and mathematics). There’s basic science to be studied in other areas as well, in materials science for example.

Being trained in materials science and engineering (MSE), it’s an area I’m passionate about. But I notice that typical news coverage of MSE revolves around the applications of new/improved materials. Rarely is the science behind the behaviour or properties of a material discussed. Maybe it’s because we assumed we already know everything there is to know about common materials like steels. But understanding the reason why a material behaves a certain way is important to help explain and predict its behaviour for current/future applications. Fundamental sciences can provide us with guidelines, rather than just go through a trial and error approach.

So, that’s my two cents on why I think science–especially fundamental science–is important.

How do you see science? – a photography competition by the Network of Valencian Universities

Photographs by Sergio Fernández Calvo, Silvia Andrade Canto, Maribel García Gil, Angel Ros Die, Eva Mª Gil Rodriguez (Source:RUVID)

The actual competition website is in Spanish, so I’ve only been able to read about the competition via the English media release. According the statement,

“The Network of Valencian Universities for the promotion of R&D (RUVID) has organised a new edition of a photograph competition aimed at reflecting on the impact of science and technology on our lives. There are prizes in cash to be won and the best entries will be selected for an exhibition that will travel around the Valencian Region.”

The contest is open to everyone and the images can focus on any aspect of science and technology or scientific activity. The full contest details and instructions are found here.

I had a quick look through the site’s photo gallery. Last year’s winning entries included photos of the head of a fly, the ISS and Endeavour in solar transit, and an underwater shot of a starfish. Snapshots of nature seem to be very popular.

I think the contest would be a great opportunity for science photographers, science writers, and of course the general public to think about science. It reminds us of the science is always around us.

Science, It’s a Girl Thing! Can you Create a Better Video? -a video competition by Curt Rice/ the European Science Foundation

The Science, It’s a Girl Thing! campaign is aimed at convincing young women in high school to pursue a career in science. According to Curt Rice’s website, a video was launched with the EU Commissions’ campaign which was meant to generate traffic and to go viral. But the Commission discontinued the video after reflecting on the critique of the video. Here’s the original video.

Rice wanted to see if crowdsourcing could create an even better video (since the original video is no longer used) to promote the campaign. The contest is co-organized by the  European Science Foundation and the winning videos will be shown at the European Gender Summit 2012 on November 29-30.

I’m sure there are already numerous comments on the original video, but I’m going to put my thoughts out there anyway. Watching the video, I wasn’t sure if the “fashion models” were suppose to be role models for girls–perhaps it was the scientist himself? I almost think the video could have an opposite effect, encourage boys because studying science could put in them in constant contact with “models”.  It just seem to say that science and cosmetics go hand in hand. While there is a lot of science involved making cosmetics, it seems a little shallow to link science solely to cosmetics.

I’m biased towards what science is, having studied it all these years, so maybe that’s why I can’t see how this video would “sell” science to girls. But I’m excited to see what videos people end up creating. I think the original video can definitely be improved to show a more realistic and engaging image of science.

Rice, Curt. The #ScienceGirlThing Contest. Retrieved from http://curt-rice.com/sciencegirlthing/

RUVID. (2012, Sept. 27). How Do You See Science? [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=124397&CultureCode=en

Shaha, Alom. (2012, Sept 21) Why is Science Important? Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/video/2012/sep/21/why-science-important?CMP=twt_fd

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