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?


7 Replies to “Bridging the Science Gap: A Case for a Peer-Reviewed Science Social Network #science #scicomm #STEM #scichat”

  1. You’re not along. Ive wanted to put together such a site as well, though I would need the scientist pals to make it happen. The overall challenge is pretty great and the success of making science and scientific thinking in anyway mainstream will require an influx of fresh ideas on how to get people excited and motivated about it. My daughter has such a natural interest in wanting to know why things are or happen a certain way. I heard a parent tell me something very alarming the other day, which is that in her experience in Montgomery County MD Schools, the time required for teaching to the standardized tests leaves little or no time for science, and this is her experience in the first three grades. That is bad.

    The one thing that I notice most about what appears to be missing in the arena of media discussion about issues like the environment is the motivation to make connections. This is not a detail to be mentioned at the very end of a segment, but that is how it is often presented. Its very weird, actually. Its as if it was pre-determined the public has no stomach for that concept. Ocean Acidification is a perfect example. You don’t hear about it on the news, but it ought to scare us all horribly.

    I am 44, and I grew up watching nature documentaries. I watched them a lot. This one fact has proven a huge advantage in that I am very well versed in the concepts of interdependence of life on the planet. No one will ever be able to convince me that its ok if mollusks can’t live in the ocean in 10 years, that somehow “the planet will balance things out”. Because of course the planet will “balance out” but in doing so we may be removed from the equation!

    So in short I would say: any effort to galvanize the movement to bring science back to the people has to passionately emphasize connections at the outset. Without that, even the most compelling evidence has no context.

  2. Thank you for the great comments, Susan. I hear you about the nature documentaries. I discuss this a little in my posts about a Nation of Bill Nyes. Also, about teachers not having time to teach science after teaching for the tests. My wife is a kindergarten teacher but has taught 1st and 2nd grade as well. A good thing coming along the pipeline is the Next Generation Science Standards (with regards to the interdependence of organisms and the environment). This is a big aspect of the new standards. However, this concept of interdependence is also part of the current science standards and we see how well that is going. It is nice to see someone else with a passion for science and the involvement of EVERYONE. Thanks!

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