Monday, December 11, 2006

Small Groups Needed to Solve Problems in Science and Society

Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

But where are these small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens confronting the really large problems facing science and society in the 21st Century: climate change, loss of biodiversity, diminished natural resources and the challenges of sustainable development in a shrinking, hungry planet, to name a few?

Although such small groups are constantly forming around us, and many of them are fully engaged on parts of the puzzle, somehow, with respect to these systemic problems as a whole, they fail to coalesce, gain traction and drive change.  Why?

Friday, December 1, 2006

Public Attitudes about Science in the UK

The following list was published in the third report of the House of Lord's Select Committee on Science and Society. It was published in 2000 but it still rings true today.
  • The perceived purpose of science is crucial to the public response.
  • People now question all authority, including scientific authority.
  • People place more trust in science which is seen as "independent".
  • There is still a culture of governmental and institutional secrecy in the United Kingdom, which invites suspicion.
  • Some issues currently treated by decision-makers as scientific issues in fact involve many other factors besides science. Framing the problem wrongly by excluding moral, social, ethical and other concerns invites hostility.
  • What the public finds acceptable often fails to correspond with the objective risks as understood by science. This may relate to the degree to which individuals feel in control and able to make their own choices.
  • Underlying people's attitudes to science are a variety of values. Bringing these into the debate and reconciling them are challenges for the policy-maker.

COMMENTS from the original blog

2006-12-01 12:47:40 stefano
Would Americans Hold the Same Attitudes
I wonder, for example, if Americans have the same degree of trust in science?  Is American science seen as independent as that of the UK?