The role of the Public Understanding of Science in Optimizing the decisions made by Individuals

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In several instances, the public understanding of science has proven to play key roles in informing the decisions of individuals across the globe. This article analyzes the roles that both government and individuals play in optimizing the choices that individuals make specifically in sectors related to culture and health.

The public understanding of science plays a specific role in optimizing choices for individuals in the field of health. As much as the individual may be responsible for the choices they make, the government, via media and other outlets, controls and monopolizes the kind of information that reaches a population. For instance, the information that the government lets out is vital in the kinds of choices individuals make when it comes to blood transfusion. Blood transfusion is often portrayed as the only option that individuals have when they find themselves in a medical dilemma that involves varying levels of blood loss. To the outside world and the layman, blood transfusion is often portrayed as the only way that they could survive such loss of blood. However in the medical world, there are various options that allow an individual to survive a situation that involves blood loss. Alternatives to blood transfusion include medical procedures such as volume expanders, growth factors, intra-operative or post-operative blood salvage and blood substitutes. These alternatives are of course rarely heard of due to politics and other factors involved in the release of such information to citizens. The exception occurs perhaps only when it comes down to a life and death situation.

However in some cases, governments provide individuals with adequate data and information that would enable them optimize their choices. Yet as related to the issue of making decisions, certain factors such as addiction may prompt individuals to still make wrong decisions. For instance as from December 2012, Australia effected a new initiative that was tagged plain packaging. This initiative was geared towards drastically devaluing cigarette packaging and smoking. Despite this, the percentage of adults who smoke in Australia is still an average of 17.  In addition, tobacco companies face a dilemma of a conflict of interest in terms of economic deficiencies due to this new initiative. Thus regardless of the fact that the government clearly makes known the harmful effects of smoking on the human body, these decisions by individuals are still influenced by other factors apart from depth of knowledge and information.

The information the government provides also helps in making decisions on some cultural practices. For instance, in the past years, the HIV/AIDs epidemic has threatened the existence of the Luo tribe in Kenya. The major cause of this has been attributed to the widow inheritance culture that has been practiced for a very long time. This culture commonly referred to as tero demands that when a husband dies the deceased widow is to be inherited by a kinsman. This leads to multiple infections circulated in case the death of a husband has been caused by HIV/AIDs. In defence, the local Luo people explained that the culture is to ensure the continuity of the deceased husband’s lineage and offer support and security to the deceased family. In 2000 the government of Kenya imposed a ban on the culture but faced a lot of friction from the Luo leaders and politicians saying they could not abandon the long practiced culture. The government through the ministry of Health, organized workshops and civil education programmes to educate the Luo people on the dangers of having multiple sexual partners. Amidst numerous challenges faced by the government, certain parts of the Luo people have eventually come to the realization through information provided by the government, that doing away with their long-cherished culture was more beneficial than holding on to it.

The above examples and illustrations show clearly that the public understanding of science does aid in making informed decisions by both individuals and communities. However the essay also raises the question of whether governments are to take sole responsibility of the decisions that citizens make. The example of plain packaging introduced in Australia highlights the fact that both individuals and governments are responsible, to some extent, for the decisions made by individuals. The case of tero on the other hand emphasizes on the role of scientific information in helping societies question some of their customs Therefore, it can be concluded that public understanding of science assists in individuals making refined, educated decisions that affect themselves directly and others around them, but public understanding of science is but one of the many factors that plays a role in decisions made by individuals.

Tanimola Somolu  and Wycliffe Aluga

African Leadership Academy

The Seven Principles of The Eagle in Scientific Research.


The eagle has very unique characteristics that one can apply as the principles on which to base success in every thing they do. In most cases we use these principles in our lives, entrepreneurship and even leadership. Today I would like us to learn from The Eagle on how to run a successful Scientific Research Process. I have been in the process for the last 8 months and here is what I got to share. You too should share it.

1. Eagles fly alone at a high altitude and do not mix with sparrows or other smaller birds like geese, ravens or pigeons.

From the higher altitudes they widen the scope of view. They are able to see what the ravens and pigeons cannot see. With the lager scope of view, they are able prey on a very large space As a young scientists, what are the people you associate with? What are your topics of your discussions? What are the pages you like on Facebook? What are your favourite websites? They say birds of the same feathers flock together. You should associate yourself with people who have the same vision as yours. You cannot win when you associate yourself with failures. I do not suggest you go and kick out your friends though. But sometimes if your friendship is not directing you to your ultimate goal, then you have to let reassess it.

2. Eagles possess vision. They have a strong vision, which focuses up to 5 kilometres from the air in detail.

Eagles are said to have double sight but one vision, yet they are able to focus on one particular thing at a time for example a rat or a stick. It is known as the most focused bird, it can see everything, yet focus on only one thing. In your research/invention period as a young researcher, you will face a lot of distractions, Facebook, friends, School work, some frustrations when people do not see what you are envisioning among many others and it will make you Frustrated However you are the only one who knows what your focus is and you should focus on it. Use the frustrations you get along the way as the stepping stones towards your ultimate goal.

3. Eagles only eat live food.

They only eat live animals. This is because they need new strength every day. Feed yourself new information to make you grow. As a young researcher you cannot experiment on every observation you make since you do not have the time or the resources. Luckily enough there are thousands of renowned professors experimenting and writing about thousands of topics every single day. Also theories are being formed, proved and disapproved every day. Something you knew last weekend may not be the same today or towards the end tomorrow. Therefore you need to be feeding on new information every day, you need to different papers, same papers from different researchers and publications. As much as people eat food to live, scientist eat information. Do not rely on old information and keep on refereeing to it every time.

4. The eagle is the only bird that loves the storm.


Every other bird runs for cover during a storm, but the eagle gets a chance to relax. It uses the force of the storm to just stay up there without flapping its wings. What do you do when you have four research papers to submit in a weeks time? What do you do when all you experiments fail? What do you do when you cannot perform a practical because there is no one to fund it? Challenges are good for a dreamer, someone with a vision. Actually for a scientist, having no equipment to run your experiment is the best thing that can happen to you because it will give you a chance to invent new spectrometers and analytical equipment. Storms should make you better. Challenges test your characteristics of solving problems which is a very crucial muscle in your journey as a scientist.

5. An Eagle always tests before it trusts.

For the female to allow a male to mate with her, she goes to the ground, picks up a twig, flies up two miles and drops the twig. If the male is able to catch the twig, he takes it to her. She flies up once again and drops the twig, and the process is repeated several times, and when she is fully convinced about his capabilities, she allows him to mate with her. As a researcher, you will work with very many people not only in the lab but with fundraising for the research, writing, editing and publishing of research papers among others. It will be very healthy for you to build a team which operates on high golden levels of trust. I do not think you will be smiling when your paper is publishing with another person’s name. TRUST is a result of TIME and TEST.

6. Eagles prepare for training.

Young Eaglets

The Eagle builds its nest in a high cleft on a mountain. The nest is made in such a way that it is very comfortable for the eaglets as they grow, yet it has thorns that are covered with cotton. Then, when they are fully grown, the mother removes the cotton covering the thorns. This makes them uncomfortable and they leave the nest and learn how to fly. How are you preparing yourself for the next step in pursuit for your goals? Are you stuck in your comfort zone? The research, idea or invention you are thinking about now, how does it prepare you for your journey in the next step of achieving your goals? If it does not then you should be accussed of academic suicide. What about the people you are working with or you will work with? Are they ready? You should train others who work with you so that they can help you grow in your vision.Make a footprint in this world by making someone else get where they want to be, and at the same time, they help you get where you want to be! Remember, in a marathon you will never have time to sit down and rest and if you are planning to pursue science to the next level, then you should prepare yourself hard enough for that. Train in the mountains and run in the plains.

7. Eagles find a place of renewal.
When an eagle grows old, its vision becomes low, its beak and claws becomes blunt and its feathers fall off. It cannot prey as effective and it used to. It cannot fly as fast and high as it used to. However, it does not sit down and die in agony, it finds a lonely, comfortable place,  pulls out all its feathers, claws and the beak. It then stays in that place until new feathers grow and can fly once again. Many a times you will find yourself in front of a high way. Your research has hit a horrible dead end. You experiment has been spoiled. Your instructor has painted you research paper with red markings and you need to re-type the whole paper. Or sometimes life just becomes unbearable. This is not the time for you jump in front of a train, or soak your pillow with tears. This is time for you to look back and shed off old habits that do not add anything to your life. Look back to some of the things you do that weigh you down get them out of your life and allow new habits that will help you achieve your goals.


Now you get where the saying As Old an Eagle came from it is ever active no matter the age!!

May you SOAR on wings of an eagle!

Remember, you cant be SOUR if you want to SOAR

Success is a result of a series of failures.

Lets join the Eagles’ team and SOAR.