Science Communication Development

Peter Anderson, University of Houston

Public science education in the United States faces many hardships, ranging from teachers that are assigned classes they are not experts in, to the wholesale distribution of categorically wrong information being taught form a position of authority as scientific and historical fact. Through direct interaction between scientists and children, both still enthusiastic and striving to teach and learn respectively, we can create an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity that facilitates both interest and inclusivity. An informal and reoccurring program in which the local community is engaged directly by academics facilitates this goal. The experts best equipped to foster scientific inquiry are trained scientists, and enthusiasm to participate is growing, Increased enthusiasm is, in part, a response to external forces (NSF) requiring the inclusion of the, "broader impacts," category in funding proposals.

Our research shows a much greater level of support, enthusiasm, and importance placed upon this in the current and upcoming generations of academics (our present graduate, undergraduate and post-doctoral students). This trend seems to emerge repeatedly throughout the scientific community, and is one we hope is emblematic of the new generation of academics. Many of the participating presenters, students and teachers, feel a civic responsibility to be involved in programs that allow primary school children to interact with, "real scientists," directly. Several of student participants report positive experiences, stating explicitly that this program has aided in their professional development as teachers, and communicators of complex scientific material to audiences of variable content knowledge levels.