Friday, June 20, 2008
Goin' Poll to Poll
Some more from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology survey:
The pollsters conclude that the public respects scientists, science teachers, and medical professionals on issues of science:
- 69% percent of respondents had favorable feelings toward scientists, and even more viewed medical researchers (72%) and doctors (76%) favorably. While fewer people (59%) rated public school science teachers highly, public school teachers in general were the most widely favored group (79%).
The public wants to hear from scientists and other professionals on issues of science education. When presented with a list of people who might explain science to the public:
- 88% expressed interest in hearing from a scientist, and almost as many were interested in hearing from a science teacher (85%) or a doctor or nurse (84%).
When it comes to evolution, creationism, and intelligent design, the respondents' preferences for people to explain the issues were:
- Scientists (77%), science teachers (76%), and clergy (62%). Fewer people were interested in hearing from Supreme Court Justices on evolution (37%) or from school board members and celebrities on science (34% and 16%, respectively) and evolution (30% and 11%, respectively).
Which, of course, is why creationists are desperate to portray their claims as scientific and themselves as scientists.
The survey authors conclude that: "These data indicate that Americans respect the expertise of science and education professionals and also look to clergy for guidance on scientific issues of potential relevance to religion."
Finally, the authors have some advice on "framing" that sounds pretty sensible:
In communicating the value of science, scientists must emphasize the outcomes that matter to people -- advancing medicine, improving health, fostering critical thinking -- and they must do so clearly and understandably. Technical expositions on scientific topics will not get the attention of the public or policymakers who lack relevant expertise. If researchers cannot communicate their findings in ways that are comprehensible, meaningful, and relevant to non-scientists, their message to the public -- and their effectiveness as spokespeople for science -- is lost. There are ample opportunities for scientists to develop and exercise their communication skills, and whether writing letters to local newspapers, speaking with school boards or community groups, or partnering with educators to design curricula, many scientific and professional societies have trained staff or other resources to help.
There is a clear need for scientists to become involved in promoting science education. Challenges to teaching science undermine students' understanding of the scientific method, how scientific consensus develops, and the distinction between scientific and non-scientific explanations of natural phenomena. If our nation is to continue to develop the talent necessary to advance scientific and medical research, we must ensure that high standards in science education are maintained and that efforts to introduce non-science into science classes do not succeed. Failure to reach out effectively to a public that is supportive of science and open to information from the scientific community is not just a missed opportunity, it is a disservice to the scientific enterprise.
Absolutely true. It's human nature to ask, "What's in it for me?"