Bridging the Science Gap: A Case for a Peer-Reviewed Science Social Network #science #scicomm #STEM #scichat « Taking Science to the People

Bridging the Science Gap: A Case for a Peer-Reviewed Science Social Network #science #scicomm #STEM #scichat « Taking Science to the People

’ve been consumed by this topic all day as seen by two previous posts today about the science gap. I believe there is a clear need to improve the general public’s understanding of science and the scientific method. Doing so would make myths like the December 21, 2012 Mayan apocalypse less likely. Understanding science leads to a better informed public that can comment knowledgeably about current issues and policies that will impact the U.S. and globe now and in the future.  Participation is a foundation of democracy, and a logical and rational electorate could help our nation tackle current and future troubles responsibly.
Now comes the huge, overwhelming question: Where do we start? How do we increase public interest and participation within the science community?
I am 34 years old. Growing up, we did not have a computer in our house, and I did not use the internet until college. It was a new, very different world surfing the internet. However, my 4 year old daughter will never have a memory of not owning a computer or iPad or TiVo. Times have changed with most people becoming more and more adept at using the internet and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. We are all connected and have instantaneous information in real time at our fingertips. However, how many members of the general public surf STEM related websites? How many keep up to date on the latest findings within the science community or a particular field of personal interest? Sadly to say, a minority are fluent in the virtual avenues to pursue for these answers.
So, could we have a reliable social media portal where scientists can deposit and share their latests findings or innovations for the mass public to be informed? By reliable, I mean a portal or site in which only the most sound and accurate science will be taken seriously and pseudoscience can be weeded out. One way I can think of doing this would be if other scientists reviewed data or claims made, using their training and expertise, and serve as judges or examiners on behalf of the public. Pseudoscience and the like could quickly be discarded through this process. This would allow members of the public to have a “one stop shop” for reliable, objective knowledge that impacts their lives or will soon.
I am naive, and I’m not usually known to be an optimist. I am only a realist with a dream. To live in a nation of informed citizens based on logic, not ideology or propaganda. Am I alone?

Bridging the Science Gap: A Case for a Peer-Reviewed Science Social Network #science #scicomm #STEM #scichat

I’ve been consumed by this topic all day as seen by two previous posts today about the science gap. I believe there is a clear need to improve the general public’s understanding of science and the scientific method. Doing so would make myths like the December 21, 2012 Mayan apocalypse less likely. Understanding science leads to a better informed public that can comment knowledgeably about current issues and policies that will impact the U.S. and globe now and in the future.  Participation is a foundation of democracy, and a logical and rational electorate could help our nation tackle current and future troubles responsibly.

Now comes the huge, overwhelming question: Where do we start? How do we increase public interest and participation within the science community?

I am 34 years old. Growing up, we did not have a computer in our house, and I did not use the internet until college. It was a new, very different world surfing the internet. However, my 4 year old daughter will never have a memory of not owning a computer or iPad or TiVo. Times have changed with most people becoming more and more adept at using the internet and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. We are all connected and have instantaneous information in real time at our fingertips. However, how many members of the general public surf STEM related websites? How many keep up to date on the latest findings within the science community or a particular field of personal interest? Sadly to say, a minority are fluent in the virtual avenues to pursue for these answers.

So, could we have a reliable social media portal where scientists can deposit and share their latests findings or innovations for the mass public to be informed? By reliable, I mean a portal or site in which only the most sound and accurate science will be taken seriously and pseudoscience can be weeded out. One way I can think of doing this would be if other scientists reviewed data or claims made, using their training and expertise, and serve as judges or examiners on behalf of the public. Pseudoscience and the like could quickly be discarded through this process. This would allow members of the public to have a “one stop shop” for reliable, objective knowledge that impacts their lives or will soon.

I am naive, and I’m not usually known to be an optimist. I am only a realist with a dream. To live in a nation of informed citizens based on logic, not ideology or propaganda. Am I alone?

Next Generation Science Standards: A ‘do over’ in teaching #STEM #science #Scicomm

I just read a great guest blog post by Michael Wysession on the Scientific American Blogs page. I will start with the quote that got me:

It was 7:45 a.m. on December 21, 2012, and I was in the studio for St. Louis TV Channel 2 News. “Why are so many people convinced that the world is going to end today?” the anchorwoman asked, referring to the supposed ancient Mayan doomsday prophesy. I thought of talking about how precarious human civilization was – as Will Durant said, “Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.” I thought about the five major extinctions of life over the past half-billion years, the most recent being the end of the Cretaceous, when a rogue object from space DID hit the Earth, on the Yucatan peninsula, which, incidentally, was the home of the same Mayans whose calendar was ending today.

Then I thought about the eruption of Toba volcano 74,000 years ago, which may have nearly wiped out the human species.  And I thought about the long string of volcanic eruptions, rapid climate swings, tsunamis, droughts, floods, and other geoscience catastrophes that have routinely devastated the human population and prevented any one civilization from lasting very long. Then I thought about the nearly unbelievable changes that we humans were making to our planet, most certainly replacing the 10,000-year-old Holocene Epoch with the new Anthropocene Epoch. And I wondered how we would know at what point these human impacts would be severe enough to justify replacing the 65-million-year-old Cenozoic Era with a new era, the Anthropozoic Era, the sixth major extinction of life, brought about by the current dominant agent of geologic change on our planet (which is us).

But the smiling commentator who was interviewing me did not want to hear about geologic catastrophes, and I wondered how many viewers would have had the background to understand my answers. Americans get almost no high school education in the areas of Earth and space science. At that moment, the best thing I could talk about was how badly America needed the Next Generation Science Standards, , which are due to be released this spring and whose second public draft was released today. Americans have been duped by too many scams concerning our planet for too long. We need better science education.

When Dr. Wysession was asked a simple qestion, he was unable to answer in fear no one would understand him. This is the same feeling I get when people I meet ask me what I do. I think to myself, “how do I put this?”. When the person’s eyes glaze over, I know to stop explaining. The next thing out of their mouths is, “you must be smart”. I utterly hate this statement and cringe in disgust inside (and outside sometimes). I’m no smarter than the average person, in my opinion. I’ve only had the curiosity to want to understand the mysteries of Nature and the training to do so. There is no reason anyone else can not do the same. This reminds me of a graphic I posted a few hours ago from Jorge Cham‘s TEDx talk at UCLA:

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There is a huge disconnect between science and the public. That is where the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) come in. If implemented correctly, students that will enter adulthood and the mass public at large will be better equipped to understand FACTS that scientists are speaking of and not have to take the world of a media outlet giving a bit of information they deem newsworthy from second or third hand sources. So, NGSS is a ‘do over’ of sorts for the U.S. And, it can not come a moment too soon.