Everybody know how to divide a cake without arguing. One cuts it, the other chooses which piece he wants. But can you suggest a way to let any number of people divide a cake fairly on similar lines without arguing?
Study conducted by Yuri Osipov President, Russian Academy of sciences shows that the general public perceives science as a beneficial force in human affairs. At the same time, the research shows that public knowledge of scientific knowledge is extremely low. These results clearly show the gap between scientists and the general public. This gap has been made and widened in the following ways.
Bruce Lewenstein of Cornell University says although scientists perceive science as open investigation of nature, public perceptions of science have more practical images in mind; public perceptions make science look like an applied field that uses knowledge of natural world to yield specific practical benefits. This misunderstanding in most cases tremendously reduces support both practically and relatively as the public will be waiting to see tangible and practical goods produced while the scientist for instance will prove a law or principle. For instance, talk about Neil Bohr and the wright brothers, Neil Bohr’s research in the structure and the configuration of the atom has opened up a lot of research and understanding of the atom on the scientist side, however on the side, the public fails to understand why he is such a celebrity in the science world. The case is different with the wright brothers, for everyone who has ever heard, seen or used a plane, once he/she is told about the wright brothers who invented it he/she will automatically connect them as great scientists, same applies to the likes of Alexander Graham, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci and even Steve Jobs. The public needs to understand that science is not all about creating machines and medicine and also the creation of those stuff comes from research of abstract chemical and physical processes as well.
As much as science is well understood by scientists themselves, they cannot create any impact with the knowledge without involving the public. In his interview with Science for the Twenty-First Century on 26th June 1999 in Budapest, Zhang Kaixun the vice president, CAST Institute of Automation for Machine-Building in China says that the public perception of science had direct bearing on social progress and national prosperity. This means that it is through the popularization of science that all scientific achievements without exception produce an enormous impact on the society. A close look at research from International Organization of Scientific Research suggests that developing countries suffer a permanent haemorrhage of trained scientists who have achieved an international level of professional competence and end up emigrating not because of salaries even though they are in about the lowest in their local scale but because of opportunities of funding for their laboratories, libraries and field work.
An interesting fact is that science carries a lot of prestige in developing countries. However, this prestige has no correlation for social support for scientific research and scientists as a result; developing countries invest less in science and education both in absolute and relative terms. There is even an internally sanctioned ideology that developing countries should not “waste” their money funding research as exemplified by the World Bank Document Argentina: From Stagnation to Growth of the early 90’s. To make the matter even worse the globalisation of markets seems to reinforce this idea that why waste time and resources in doing research, when you can freely import advanced technologies at international prices.
This popular ignorance about science from the general public can be found even in the higher government officials for instance the Crotoxina Affair in which a few doctors persuaded the Argentine government that they had found a cure for cancer when some responsible academics warned that this was a scientific hoax and the doctors were simply ignored. However, ten years later, the affair drags on. (Yriart, 1999)
Based on the above effects, it is critical to note that our world today is confronted with the serious problem of public perception of science, which is exerting an influence upon the mankind on an enormous scale as never before from economic prosperity, social progress and all individuals welfare. However science is getting farther and farther beyond peoples common sense. It’s getting difficult even for those with the richest imaginative power to get an exact understanding of modern science and the changes brought about it. The contradiction between functions of science and the lack of knowledge has aroused attention and concern among more and more people, who consider it to be a new challenge to the world today. (Yriart, 1999)
Having outlined the effects and issues at stake, it is very fruitful to bridge the gap between the scientists and the general public and one of the most prolific ways is by creating public science centres. These are exhibition and activity centres devoted to explaining science to the general public. Typically, these centres would use interactive exhibits involving the public in active experimentation; this provides the visitors with a unique and thoughtfully devised opportunity to enter a dialogue with nature itself. While most of current exhibits of science centres are often described as ‘hands on’ they should certainly aim to be ‘minds on’ starting intellectual processes, solving problems and providing answers. These science centres will also enhance motivation of school children to pursue science at higher levels. The ultimate growth in size of science centre industry will result in more acquaintance of the public with simple scientific process which advances into deep scientific technologies.
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