A stressful system
One U.K. professor's death has
sparked a wider conversation
on academic bullying and
visits to other science centres in Canada, that
people are generally very excited by science and
how things work – and not just children. Canada’s
science centres see approximately eight million
people a year and 75 percent are adults.
I do think there is often a disconnect between
the excitement of what they see in informal science
activities (like science centre visits) and uptodate
information about the real research happening
in the field. I would love to see informal science
communications professionals, like those in science
centres, and scientists working together to find
more ways of connecting directly with Canadians.
Science lectures draw crowds in Whitehorse
my experience is skewed, to a degree, by the fact
that I write science books for kids – and kids gen
erally love science. However, the parents, teachers,
and librarians I encounter are also enthusiastic.
Science centres are full of enthusiastic kids and
adults, as are sciencebased museums.
Granted, science centres cater to children
first, but I think we should be offering adults the
same level of access. I have lived in Whitehorse,
Yukon, for most of the last 30 years – the home
of the Yukon Science Institute lecture series. It’s
an annual series of free talks by scientists (both
local and visiting) that’s been going on for the
last 20 years at least. Audiences range from a
handful to several hundred, depending the topic,
and they are always wellinformed and enthusi
astic – all in a city of roughly 23,000. If it can
happen in Whitehorse, it can happen elsewhere
in Canada (and probably does).
Persuade them of science’s value
it seems that the real question isn’t whether
most Canadians like, or are excited by, science;
it’s whether they want their tax or charitable dol
lars to fund bluesky research. This ultimately
hinges on the perceived (material) benefit of the
research (those driven to fund government pro
grams for aesthetic benefits will gravitate towards
arts funding, not science).
The fundamental challenge is to persuade
Canadians that funding bluesky research has a
high longterm probability of delivering scien
tific and technological breakthroughs, even if
most lines of inquiry hit a wall and if the appli
cations of individual projects are unclear. Public
excitement about and interest in science is prob
ably necessary, but definitely not sufficient to
as a canadian with experience as a science
teacher in the U.K. as well as in Canada, I feel
that Canadians have no less innate interest in
science than people elsewhere, they simply lack
structure for their interest. In the U.K., robust
institutions with adult programming act as a
uniting factor which both feed from interest in
science and also (importantly) transmit it back
to the public, and in doing so win over new audi
ence members with positive science experiences.
It’s a loop. We cannot expect Canadians to
show united passion about something fewer and
fewer institutions attempt to engage them in. We
cannot simply assume that because they are not
already engaging in existing programming no
additional (better?) programming is possible.
Instead, we must work to win interest and rele
vance and consequently funding, particularly
Kristin Snoddon is an assistant professor of applied
linguistics and discourse studies in the school of
linguistics and language studies at Carleton Uni
versity. Dr. Snoddon’s discipline was misstated in
the January 2015 issue of University Affairs.
Kristin Snoddon et assistanteprofesseure en lin
guistique appliquée et en études du discours au
département des langues et de linguistique de
l’Université Carleton. Sa discipline a été rapportée
incorrectement dans le numéro de janvier 2015
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sur le web
au XXIe siècle
Ollivier Dyens propose d’imiter
nos ancêtres et de nous plonger
littéralement dans les arts.
Art can enhance humanity's
Ollivier Dyens wants an over
haul of our education system so
that art penetrates every nook
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