Not everyone is good at science … and that is okay, can you imagine what it would be like if everyone wanted a career in science? However, this doesn’t mean that everyone cannot appreciate science, in the same way that I have developed a deep appreciation of music despite being tone deaf, and unable to play any musical instrument.
So how do we develop a greater appreciation of science?
For school students, I think more exposure to topics on science which focus more on science, society and critical thinking is the way to go. And this needs to be done from an early age. Science for problem solving, not memorizing endless facts, or doing meaningless calculations.
For the wider public, more public science events, particularly of topics of public interest – for example, Mark Quigley’s talks on earthquakes were attended in numbers more often seen at a popular rock concert.
Recently, I have developed a great (bordering on obsessive) appreciation of music/theatre, primarily because I am regularly exposed to the the most amazing performances by our students in the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA). And this I think is an approach that will work for science – regular occurrences of high quality events will slowly capture more interest in science. We already have some fantastic events in New Zealand, for example, Otago’s Science Teller festival. We need stronger interactions between the primary, secondary and tertiary education sectors. And we need scientists to keep blogging, writing for newspapers and other outreach activities.
*Note – when I say “appreciating” science, I mean doing so critically. We need to recognise, as a society, that not all applications of science are necessarily good, and this can only be achieved with a scientifically literate society..