The New York Academy of Science March for Science sign making event was held yesterday in Manhattan.
Workshops to help scientists and engineers pitch their science more effectively were held by 500 Women Scientists organization in a separate room at the same time.
The workshops were expressed as scientists pitching their science and were intended to help communicate more effectively with non-scientists. The one I attended of the three scheduled times was an interesting round table style event with great information and ideas.
As I was there to understand how to more effectively communicate to scientists, the science community, engineers, architects, scholars, researchers, academics and applied science fields, why they should get out and march for science – the ideas that shaped my thinking from the workshop are stunning, to say the least.
I discovered that many people engaged in these fields live in something of a bubble but not because the information about people around them isn’t there, but because it is ignored. Maybe I don’t know how many scientists and engineers that I know or meet, or my neighbors know or meet every day or within our daily lives – neither do scientists and engineers know that beyond the few people they are interacting with daily assumed to know science – they’re ignoring the multitude of people they see and come in contact with – who don’t.
That is a problem.
If I see 50 people today, and 43 of them don’t know much of anything about science or haven’t really made the connection between their own lives and the science / engineering & technologies making it possible around them, then what is the true reality of the situation? Am I really in a bubble because I’m only interacting with the seven of the 50 who had common ground with me? Or only the 3 of those 7 that I already knew? It is an interesting question and I discovered that scientists and engineers / architects and academics may be living in self-constrained bubbles not realizing that the rest of us are here too, didn’t study those specialties and may very well not understand them but need to or want to. Or, at the very least, to we may want and need to understand how those sciences and engineering disciplines are valuable to us, enhance our lives, and that, in fact, we are relying on and using the advantages of them every day.
Without the understanding of the physics of combustion, our cars don’t go anywhere. Without getting the dynamics of that combustion harnessed appropriately, not only do our cars not go, but they become a dangerous combination rather than an effective one for transporting us where we want to go. We marvel at helium balloons for celebrations and birthday parties with its lighter than air quality, but never think about the discoveries from science and engineering that developed them and shaped things we could use from those discoveries. Scientists and engineers can point out those things to us in our interactions with them because they do think that way about it and do know – but they’re not.
In the workshop, I also learned that scientists are apologetic about their intelligence and studying to enhance it – to reach for genius within themselves and within their lives where many of us have not thought that important enough to us to do. I’m ashamed that scientists, engineers, researchers, academics or anyone would need to feel that way. Maybe I’m alone in being proud of them working to bring their mind to greater capacity to learn and to understand what is known, to discover beyond those things to develop things that can be done with it all and to strive for greater use of their intelligence and intellectual faculties. It is more than admirable, it is what we should want as a nation and as a community, for every individual to strive to excellence, to learn, to enhance their mind’s capacity to learn and to grasp what science and engineering has already discovered – and to move that beyond where we are today. It should be cherished and supported – every kind of genius and brilliance, not shamed. And, yet it is shamed in our society and I wish that were not so. It could be celebrated rather than shunned.
So, our science community, scientists, intellectuals, academics, engineers, architects and applied scientists may not be interacting with the solid communities of support around them in real daily life, because we don’t act very supportive when they talk and we feel stupid. Or because we know how smart they are and feel stupid when we as fellow community members come into contact with them. But to me, I’m inspired by them to accept that we are all stupid, including me – on so many things and so many levels with many things yet to learn all the time, and it helps me to want to put the time, the work, the effort and the perseverance in that it takes for me to be smarter, learn and think with greater capacity. And, yes – it still makes me feel stupid, but that’s okay.
The workshop helped the group of people who came to understand how to communicate science and engineering to non-scientists and the public. I heard suggestions that were brought into real terms, like describing the warming and more acidic oceans as a place the fish who live there can’t leave simply because conditions become untenable. Well, they didn’t put it quite like that, but the analogy was perfect for communicating the real problems of changes to our oceans. And, I discovered that the science community has many efforts to try and engage with the public but are not getting the audiences that need to engage with them from the general public and communities within it.
Also, I discovered that scientists don’t understand how many of us just don’t get it when it comes to scientific and engineering things. And, across disciplines – many of the scientists and engineers I’ve met including at the workshop and sign making event, don’t get the science and engineering from the other disciplines around them – whether it is that cooking is literally chemistry, or that people are using technology when they turn the key in their car and it works.
The March for Science on April 22 is hosting a lot of groups that are making efforts to engage the public about why science is important and in support of evidence-based facts, rather than alternative facts altered by the political agenda or business needs of the moment. In the workshop, when I said “evidence based facts”, several scientist laughed and the moderator said, “has it really come to that – we have to call it evidence based?” And, I thought – where have you been that you don’t know that?
It is time for scientists and engineers of all disciplines to take a hard look at what is happening in the real world around them, because it is far more pervasive a problem than budget cuts to science funding. Entire areas of research are being denied, excluded or altered for political purposes and business needs of the short term. Areas and specifics where statistical data had been collected in various forms are being changed to suit making the numbers look better, demographics look better, economic outlooks appear better or to redefine groups of information and statistics entirely.
Not only climate research and ocean research are being de-funded, but allowed focuses of study are being put in place to deny much of the possible research yielding facts that would be unsettling to the current political agenda or to the businesses and corporate interests supporting them. Scientific policy is being made by non-scientists, many of whom do not value science or engineering – even as their lives and business interests rely on them without realizing it. Forensic science tools, programs and research are being discarded in favor of other methods more politically motivated than factual.
And, the US population at a time when to be competitive – must be well educated to a college level or above and have a solid understanding of math, physics, science, scientific method, reasoned and critical thinking, technology, finance, economics, basic engineering, computer coding and business how-to, is lagging behind nearly every other nation in the world. The adult population in the US from elderly to working adults to young adults just entering the job market require these levels of education and skills to be competitive, employable and have the global opportunities that exist in order to survive with a basic sustenance to support living. But, the vast majority of Americans – do not have even the most modest level of those skills, education and applied use of them. And, yet we could – and our science communities can help because they know how important it is.
March for Science / Science March – April 22, 2017