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Engaging the unengaged in science? Try a little harder

Like many Australians, you may have recoiled in horror or laughed heartily when the results of the Australian Academy of Science’s science literacy survey surfaced last month. You may have had a similar…

Studies suggest around 30% of people are “generally unengaged” with science. Suarez Leandro

Like many Australians, you may have recoiled in horror or laughed heartily when the results of the Australian Academy of Science’s science literacy survey surfaced last month.

You may have had a similar reaction – although hopefully not – to last week’s position paper by Australia’s chief scientist, Ian Chubb, in which he urges a strategic approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the national interest.

But worse than any of the above: you may not have reacted at all.

It might sound like it’s been lifted from an old Ripley’s Believe it or Not headline, yet the strange but true fact is: not everybody is absolutely fascinated by science, nor thinks it is vital.

Indeed, according to research conducted in 2011 by the Victorian Department of Business and Innovation, as many as 30% of the Victorian population are unengaged on science issues.

That’s three in every ten people lined up at the check-out at your average local shops who probably haven’t once thought of Brian Cox nor dinosaurs nor space, yet alone basic chemistry, in the last year!

The study, which was similar to others done in the UK and New Zealand, divided the public up into segments by their interest in science and technology and their ability to find and understand information on it, and came up with six key population groupings.

simaje

Two of them – who we might refer to “the active and interested” and “the generally active and generally interested” – make up the bulk of those who watch science programs, read science blogs, take part in science public events and so on (about 55%).

We could call them the True Believers, but it might be more relevant to call them the Low Hanging Fruit, because they are the members of the population most easily reached with science communication activities and who by far the bulk of activities are designed for.

The middle 15% or so are from the segment that looks for information on science and technology but, when they find it, don’t understand it well – individuals who can usually be reached with a little bit more creative effort and clarity of language and so on.

But the last three segments together make up the nearly 30% or so of people who are generally unengaged and tend to be mutual strangers to most science communication events and activities: they don’t value them, understand them nor see the real point of them.

These people tended to be younger, female, less educated, more likely to think government funding for science should be cut and that science was out of control. A comment that emerged from one of several focus groups held with the unengaged, conducted in Melbourne by the Department of Innovation, was:

Why do you think it so important that we know about your science?

The answer is obvious, of course! Because it’s vital! Because it’s interesting. And because it is – well – it’s science!

It’s very easy to get carried away with a belief that we are doing a good job when we get great attendance and great responses from the science fan club, or those who easily engage on particular topics of interest. But against any measure across the wider society, those people are not representative of the whole population.

According to Inspiring Australia’s Developing an Evidence Base for Science Engagement Expert Working Group, published in 2011:

It’s essential to recognise the diversity within and among the Australian public, including non‐traditional audiences who are difficult to reach and are usually unengaged with scientific issues, such as indigenous communities, migrant communities and English second‐language speakers.

We also tend to miss people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, we tend to miss too many young people, and we tend to not even know who the others we are missing are.

OxOx

The Victorian study mentioned at the outset of this article found the three main reasons for having a lack of interest in science among the unengaged “segments” of the population were that respondents:

1) had never been interested in it (25%)
2) found it hard to understand (16%)
3) had other priorities in life (14%)

Focus group studies into the unengaged conducted by the Department of Innovation since 2009, and by CSIRO this year (using targeted recruitment and paying incentives to participate) found there were some interesting and unexpected common themes that emerged among scientifically-unengaged members of our community:

  • Nearly all reported a negative experience of science at school – although it’s not clear if it was the experience that drove the negative attitude or an existing negative attitude that drove the negative experience.

  • While the word “science” was a bit of a sleep-inducer, “technology” had a lot more appeal to it.

  • People did not actually want to know about how a technology worked – they just wanted to know that it did work, that it was safe, and that it would solve the problem that it was intended for.

Interestingly, when asked who they most trusted to tell them about a science or technology, the focus group members cited friends, relatives and even talkback radio hosts, often without reference to any expertise.

deszedol

So what do we do?

The unengaged and disengaged segments of the community have not been well-researched but appear to have quite different values, interests and levels of awareness of science and technology issues, compared to those people science communicators regularly engage with.

They therefore need to be reached with differently-framed communication, education or engagement activities. In my view, these should include:

  • going to where unengaged people are, rather than expecting them to self-select to come to you
  • not talking about the science and technology itself, but talking about outcomes such as water uses, energy or health; and then concentrating on how the technology is used and why.
  • understanding that talking about an application can lead to talking about science ideas, but not the other way around.
  • trying a little harder, then evaluating things and sharing your successes with others

It will be a challenge to do better, to reach those not so easily reached, but it’s a challenge we should all be prepared to step up to.

Join the conversation

60 Comments sorted by

  1. Ben Brooker

    inquisitive go-getter

    I wonder how many of that 30% (if any) read the conversation...?

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    1. Craig Cormick

      Communication Adviser, Corporate Communication at CSIRO

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Michael - it's become a bit more complex with the shape of the modern media landscape that allows people to fish in ideological ponds that support their existing interests and points of view. So if there is something that doesn't interest you, it's not just a matter any more of skipping that item - you can very easily remove yourself from any awareness of it all. So the approach can't be just about trying to get people to pay more attention to science and technology stories, but getting S&T stories into those other ponds more. What about the science of cooking, the science behind big trucks, celebrity singing shows and the royal birth just for starters?

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    2. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      How many of that 30% buy newspapers or magazines at all? How many people have no access to broadband internet, (at least 30% in my town).

      On the other hand, how many of that 30% would watch a David Attenborough documentary?

      If scientists want more people engaged, then they could do worse than take a leaf out of Mr Attenborough's book on how to do this successfully.

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    3. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Craig Cormick

      Exactly Craig, my 7 year old grandson knows more about the fish species of the Southern Ocean, than anyone else I know, he knows their behavioural habits, the way they breed, what they eat, and the habitat they live in. He understands how the seasons and weather affect certain species, including ocean temperatures, currents etc. He even knows that squid make up the largest biomass in the Southern Ocean. How does a 7 year old know this, he loves fishing, he watches every fishing show he can, DVD's, and documentaries, he observes the oceans, and marine life in the area he lives in, and studies weather and tide maps online.

      He just wouldn't know that all this knowledge, observation, experimentation, and forming conclusions, is called science, to him its just what he likes to do.

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    4. john tons

      retired redundant

      In reply to Craig Cormick

      I agree - people can retreat in their own little universe. Governments do not help either - met someone who is completing her qualifications in naturopathy and homeopathy. A HECS funded course she was aghast that I thought little of the 'hard' work that she was doing to gain her qualification. There was time when we ran quacks out of town, now they get an academic qualification - and become a fully licensed quack, sorry I should say homeopath. (part of it due to my ignorance - I thought it was a chronic form of homophobia)

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    5. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Craig Cormick

      I completely agree that scientists and academics need to look beyond traditional media. They also need to see how their skills are applicable to a very broad range of topics.

      Given the decline of traditional journalism, scientists and academics need to improve their communications skills. They cannot expect a skilled impartial journalist to do the hard work for them.

      I think a good example of an academic with good communication skills is Patrick Stokes, whose articles for The Conversation have large readership. He doesn’t restrict himself to his particular expertise (Scandinavian philosophy?), instead consistently and clearly showing how introductory philosophy is applicable to a broad range of issues.

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    6. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Craig Cormick

      Agreed, Craig, thoroughly . . . the modern media landscape . . . back then we only had radio, and then black and white television, and #8 fencing wire strung across paddock after paddock for party-line telephones.

      Back then the CSIRO was just emerging from the old pre-war Advisory Committee on Science and Technology, after a generation of two world wars and depression and drought, when our national herds and flocks were ridden with disease and parasites and nary a vet on the horizon . . .

      More…

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  2. Ryan Farquharson

    Research Officer

    What would the world look like without science?

    Paint that picture and I think the 'unengaged' will soon realise that actually, they are very much engaged - they just don't know it.

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  3. Anthony Kaye

    Retired Vet. Surgeon

    Up here in the UK we are starting to frack-or at least in a field near a small village in an attractive spot in S. England a company is drilling a hole. In a month they'll have finished and be gone.
    The usual rent-a-crowd of protestors has turned up, the villagers cry in front of the cameras, parrot whatever nonsense the most eloquent doomsayer tells them, and the police turn out in force to protect the company's employees and equipment.
    How is it that after at least 60 years of supposedly quality…

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  4. Judith Olney

    Ms

    I get the impression that "science" as mentioned in this article, has a somewhat narrow definition. Science is not just technology, there are a huge number of fields that science covers, as vastly different as quantum mathematics is from psychology. So people are likely to be engaged in at least one field of science, even though they may not even realise it.

    Every time someone fills out an online survey, or a census form, they are participating in the science of statistical analysis. Every time…

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    1. Craig Cormick

      Communication Adviser, Corporate Communication at CSIRO

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith - really good points - yes, people are engaged in science in many ways every day - but if they don't see it as science, and find the word 'science' causes their zzzzzzz buttons to activate, then there is clearly something about 'Brand Science' that isn't working for everybody. There does appear to be a complexity of causes - and science elitism is certainly one, but there is also 'not interested in knowing', 'just too busy to care', and 'it's not the way I choose to view the world' amongst many responses we've found.

      We don't expect everyone to want the same brand of biscuits, or breakfast cereals, so why do expect everyone to want the same brand of science that the science fan club like?

      Personally I think we need to get more of the unengaged designing the types of science engagements that might appeal to them. We might all learn something interesting.

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    2. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Craig Cormick

      <"Personally I think we need to get more of the unengaged designing the types of science engagements that might appeal to them. We might all learn something interesting.">

      Absolutely Craig. I live in a low SES area in a remote rural town, we have a high Indigenous population, and a high population of people on very low incomes. Recently the local primary school had a visit from SciTek (a WA organisation that brings science to remote areas). The kids loved it, the parents became engaged as well…

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    3. Anthony Kaye

      Retired Vet. Surgeon

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith, you are quite wrong about scientists isolating their knowledge from ordinary people.
      Their predecessors-alchemists, apothecaries, doctors-did their best to hide their ignorance from the public, but by the time of Humphrey Davey and his protégé Faraday, scientists were only too keen to share their knowledge with anybody who was interested by means of public lectures.
      No the real reason for the public's lack of knowledge and interest in science is the hypocrisy and arrogance of the educational establishment.

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    4. Ben Brooker

      inquisitive go-getter

      In reply to Anthony Kaye

      Hi Anthony, it's not that I disagree with you, but would you mind to back up/elaborate on your last sentence?

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    5. Anthony Kaye

      Retired Vet. Surgeon

      In reply to Ben Brooker

      Well, of course Ben, I'm speaking from an English perspective, but in my original comment I said that science is badly taught- in the UK at least- because educationalists who run the system have as their main interest egalitarianism rather than the good teaching of science which exposes differences in intelligence between pupils.

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    6. Ben Brooker

      inquisitive go-getter

      In reply to Anthony Kaye

      I see.

      BTW: I consider myself to have a well-rounded vocabulary but had to look up 'egalitarianism'.

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    7. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Anthony Kaye

      I disagree Anthony, I have a background in science, and I know how scientists have tried to exclude the public from knowing too much about their field of expertise, and I know this first hand.

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    8. Anthony Kaye

      Retired Vet. Surgeon

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I would be intrigued to see some examples Judith.
      If any lay person has not had their interest in science quelled at an early age by an indifferent education, they can always subscribe to 'New Scientist' -amongst others-but how many would bother?

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    9. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Anthony Kaye

      As a veterinary surgeon Anthony, you would have been out of work if you gave out your knowledge to all your clients. Just as every profession protects its knowledge, so do scientists.

      You show exactly the intellectual snobbery that puts people off learning about the different fields of science. You call people who are ignorant or uneducated nasty names, and blame the education system because people don't know everything about everything when they leave school. It is exactly this arrogant and condescending…

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    10. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Well said Judith.

      BTW, I purchase the BOM Calendar every year for my sister and her family and have only recently discovered that my nephew has developed a strong interest in climate. It is the simple things that count, placing easily digestible information in a relaxed manner rather than creating some kind of scientific hubris surrounding the topic is the best approach.

      Of course this approach does not appeal to those whose sense of self relies upon ignorance.

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    11. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Exactly Dianna, Watching "First Footsteps" on ABC last night, it struck me how scientific method was being used by Indigenous peoples thousands of years ago, in the way they managed the land, discovered what plants were edible and which plants could be used medicinally. Observation, the forming of theories and the building of the knowledge base, all integral parts of the scientific method, and yet they had no formal education as we understand it today, and there certainly was no lack of intelligence.

      Anyone who watched that show and learnt anything, was engaging with science.

      My friends teenage daughter engaged with science and learnt a great deal from watching the recent shows featuring Professor Brian Cox, albeit that she initially engaged with science because she think Professor Cox is hot :)

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    12. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I agree Brian Cox IS hot.

      Aherm.

      I mean your point regarding the natural dissemination of science as practised by indigenous people around the world, could be utilised instead of disregarded by the intellectual snobbery from some of the elite (self-appointed or otherwise).

      Leading by example tends to work well. Of course we must be careful of the example we are setting.

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    13. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      lol, we have a consensus, Brian Cox is indeed hot!

      Just a thought on your statement :
      <"Of course this approach does not appeal to those whose sense of self relies upon ignorance.">

      There is what I call "willful ignorance" and this is often accompanied by "vocal ignorance", on investigation of why some would take this route, I have found that this behaviour is almost always based on self interest and usually financial self interest.

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    14. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Judith Olney

      BTW, In Australia the media IS a vested interest group, determined to undermine science to suit its preferred political party, by disseminating pseudo-scientific nonsense and outright lies.

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    15. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Two agreements in one day!

      High five sista!

      And, yes "wilful ignorance"; a tool utilised by those intent on promoting their own vested interests. The most compelling example of non-science being employed by the Tobacco lobby and taken up with gusto by the fossil fuel and nuclear industry. Even many of the players are the same - you'd think that would be a smoking-gun but people apparently trust that the same trick won't be applied twice.

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    16. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Then there is just plain denialism, again, based on self interest, usually financial self interest.

      When you have an MSM disseminating lies and distortions as facts, because of their own vested interest, is it any wonder that the public don't know who to trust.

      However, the more we engage people in science, and the more they learn to discern fact from junk and lies, the less they will fall prey to those wilfully ignorant, lying, self interests.

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    17. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Anthony Kaye

      Hear, Hear!
      Science roughly translates as knowledge, and a famous quote is: "you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free".
      A thirst for knowledge is a thirst for science, is a thirst for truth, and is a thirst for freedom.
      Those who develop this "seeking" are rewarded, the least they can do is feed those who are left behind.
      The arrogance of the educational establishment is to deem certain people incapable of understanding, on the flimsiest of evidence, and then abandon them to their fate, to be enslaved by the lies of any parasite that attaches itself to them, and then to top it off, blame them for their own suffering.

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    18. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Yes, I can vouch for your views, Judith, with my own experience working for Geologists.
      Despite have studied the subject myself for three years, in ten years of employment, very few of the professional staff bothered to develop the least conversation on the work with any of their subordinate staff.
      To be fair they were very, very busy.
      But I used to make the one way remark about "getting blood out of a stone" by way of alerting them to the problem, to be rewarded with a wry smile.
      No amount of…

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    19. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to James Hill

      One of the greatest reforms in the practice of law, and one of the reforms that allowed ordinary people to understand the law in a meaningful way, was the change to the use of plain language instead of legalese peppered with Latin.

      This was also a reform that was greatly derided and feared, by some sections of the justice system, as it meant people didn't need lawyers to interpret legal documents and proceedings for them, they could understand the language themselves. This made the law far more…

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    20. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I agree.

      In addition, the trend of 'anti-intellectualism' which has derided education, philosophy, literature, art, as well as science further widens the gulf in communication.

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    21. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Yep, it seems, as is mostly the case, there are two sides to this coin, we have intellectual snobbery and hubris on one side, and anti-intellectualism on the other. Sometimes I find it amazing that any knowledge gets sent and received at all. There seems to be a need in human beings to feel superior to others, either by belittling them for a lack of knowledge and education, or by cutting them down when they do become educated and knowledgeable. Its a fascinating dichotomy.

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    22. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Judith Olney

      After reading your former post, Judith, I caught an educational television program aimed at junior high school students where the jargon term "saturated fats" was hammered into their consciousness repeatedly throughout the program.
      Then they threw in a bit of first year university organic chemistry by way of trying to explain why the term might be important.
      No youngster watching would understand anything of the subject except to, by a process of osmosis, absorb the idea that saturated fats are…

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    23. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to James Hill

      Thank you for your informative, interesting and thoughtful posts James, always a pleasure to read :)

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    24. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Damned if you do and damned if you don't, such is the conundrum of human beings. Incredibly childish at either end of the spectrum.

      Yet, somehow, knowledge manages to get through. Looking at people like David Suzuki, David Attenborough and lately, Brian Cox they all have an infectious enthusiasm, a genuine joy in presenting which reaches the public. Conversely, for those same reasons, these people are often derided as mere entertainers. I guess that's why they need this indomitable enthusiasm to both rise above the detractors and continue to reach across to people regardless of education and station in life.

      On a smaller stage, teachers require similar skills if they are to breach the wall of ignorance, deliberate or not, of students. There will never be a time free of the great negators, best to ignore them as we do trolls.

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  5. rory robertson

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Craig,

    In my opinion, it is hard to take Australian science seriously when there seems to be no real quality control, even at the highest levels. For example, two of Australia's highest-profile nutrition scientists continue to defend an incompetent self-published paper - featuring falsified data and a spectacularly false conclusion - as flawless. At the same time, the University of Sydney - with a serious business conflict of interests in this matter - pretends that the notoriously faulty self-published paper is top-shelf "peer reviewed"science: www.australianparadox.com

    Readers, whatever happened to quality control over competence and integrity in Group of Eight science?

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  6. Bianca Nogrady

    logged in via Facebook

    Great article, Craig. As someone who has always defined themselves squarely in the first camp, I sometimes struggle to understand why someone wouldn't be interested in science because I think it is such a privilege to be able to get a glimpse into the wonderous workings of the world we live in.
    Maybe it's that we're used to 'science' being rammed down our throats as formulas and experiments and boring theories - which I suspect is how a lot of science is taught - when really, science is all about stories, about mysteries, about wonder and about that 'wow' factor that I believe is in every single scientific discovery, no matter how inconsequential.
    My most memorable science lesson in high-school was when the eccentric teacher ran around the room whacking tables and walls shouting "This is 99.9% nothing!" to teach us about the structure of the atom. It certainly stuck!

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  7. Luke Menzies

    PhD Researcher, Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University

    Thanks Craig.

    Second conclusion about not talking about science and technology itself I find interesting and inline with some of my thoughts on climate change communication.

    As climate change itself, as a term, or concept, or belief (as viewed from those who oppose it) - represents itself a barrier to communication, or as you said in a previous comment pushed the zzzzzz button. Removing "climate change" may be more propitious given the particular audience or individual. Many of the proposed…

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  8. Pat Moore

    gardener

    A big problem is Craig that science is not a value-neutral zone. Now you work as 'Communications Adviser' to the 'Corporate Communications' department of the now privatised CSIRO and your profile discloses that you have been employed as PR to sell 'public acceptance of contentious science and technologies', namely nano and bio technologies.

    Science is wonderful in the boys' own whiz bang, blow-em up, lala land lab but in the real world of vested corporate interests science is a dangerous tool…

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    1. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Pat Moore

      I disagree Pat, science itself, as a method of discovery and understanding, is value neutral, it is those that use science that are not. It is human beings that are the problem, not science.

      Science has allowed people to discover some horrific inventions and practices, but it has a flip side, it has also allowed humans to discover some wonderful inventions and practices that have improved the environment, and the lives of humans, plants and animals.

      Easter Island is a monument to unthinking greed, not a scientific outlook. The destruction of our planet and extinction of species, is also down to unthinking greed.

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    2. Craig Cormick

      Communication Adviser, Corporate Communication at CSIRO

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Pat - thanks very much for that - you raise some key issues and demonstrate in your piece how having values that clash with the dominant values that science and development tend to accord with, leads to a rejection of science. I have written in other places that just because someone is anti GM or anti-vaccination, it does not mean that they are ignorant - it tends to mean the values they hold dear are challenged by the application of some science and technology. Understanding this is important, because we know from many years of listening to public concerns through public engagements and community discussions on issues like biotechnologies and nanotechnologies, that trying to push a new science or technology onto the public/s (or 'sell' as you term it), is rather futile. Rather scientists should learn more about the values of the public and find applications that accord with those values.

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    3. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Some telling points there, Pat.
      But it is ironic that the first "Mad Scientist" meme was promulgated by Thomas Edison to discredit his commercial adversary Nicolo Tesla, who spoke English with a "foreign" Serbian accent.
      Tesla was eventually forced into a mental institution by Edison's pecuniarily provoked persecution.
      It seems even more unjust for the "mad scientist" meme to continue to be promulgated, just because some science is, indeed, dangerous.
      We go a long way back to the exploitation…

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  9. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    Those would be the people who, if they wonder at all, believe in magic.
    Otherwise, they may be so overwhelmed by the immediacy of their personal problems that they don't have a moment to look for explanations for anything at all.
    The unexamined life may not be worth living to a philosopher, but perhaps some don't have the luxury of a quiet moment of contemplation.
    Are they victims?
    Are they prey?
    Who then are their predators?
    They would be recognised by their antagonism to science then?
    Some sort of parasites on the body politic?
    Get rid of the parasites and the "patients" might recover of their own accord with no further intervention necessary.

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  10. Stuart Purvis-Smith

    Clinical Cytogeneticist (retired)

    Craig, I am late to this conversation but thanks for your fascinating article and the discussion which follows. As a card carrying science tragic it is beyond me why anyone would not be interested in science. Apart from those who Judith refers to as "willfully ignorant" perhaps a clue to the lack of engagement with science in others might lie in your statement:

    "Interestingly, when asked who they most trusted to tell them about a science or technology, the focus group members cited friends, relatives…

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    1. Craig Cormick

      Communication Adviser, Corporate Communication at CSIRO

      In reply to Stuart Purvis-Smith

      Stuart - it was actually a pity that nobody in our focus groups referred to Dr Karl or any other Science Radio person - indeed when the question of whether they had heard of Dr Karl was put to one group the overwhelming response was, "Never heard of him." The radio hosts that the respondents were talking about were from the genus shockus-jockus, or the type of drive time talkback radio hosts, with whom they felt they had some information flow based relationship and an alignment of values.

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    2. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Craig Cormick

      Regarding Dr Karl

      "Never heard of him"

      To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, looks like carelessness.

      In my childhood, we had The Curiosity Show, loved it.

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    3. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Craig Cormick

      Craig,

      Just because he's on The ABC doesn't mean everything Dr Karl says is insightful or reasonable. He is not an unbiased observer. He "likes" the University of Sydney "ALL THE TIME" (http://www.drkarl.com/things-karl-likes/ ), apparently even when its senior scientists self-publish and defend a faulty paper with a spectacularly false conclusion based on falsified data.

      In particular, he rubbished my assessment of the Australian Paradox scandal on the basis that I'm "an economist, not…

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    4. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Craig Cormick

      Perhaps, since Einstein said "Knowledge is nothing, imagination is everything", we might benefit from having more science fiction from such as Issac Asimov in the high school English curricula.
      More science history in modern history teaching.
      More plays like Prometheus Chained, by Aeschylus (where the character Prometheus explains the genesis of science) included in the Drama and Ancient history courses.
      More cross fertilisiing of science into other disciplines, and less compartmentalising of science by those wilfully ignorant of the subject, such as shock jockers.

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    5. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Stuart Purvis-Smith

      Very well said Stuart, I remember becoming a "science tragic" at about 5 years old, watching Julius Sumner-Miller's show 'Why is it so'.

      I was hooked, even though looking back it was pretty basic, and the good Professor did indeed look like a mad scientist.

      It taught me to never ignore my daughters constant question "Why", I wanted the knowledge to be able to answer her and my own questions. Perhaps we are genetically prone to being very very curious.

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    6. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to James Hill

      You know James, I think we lost a lot in terms of education, particularly secondary and tertiary education, when we started to focus on education to feed industry. When a person simply studies a narrow range of subjects, in order to get a job, it takes all the joy out of learning for the sake of learning.

      I have studied many subjects in my life, and despite many of these subjects not being a means to employment, I am a better person for having studied them.

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    7. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Perhaps that arms race, Judith, starting with the screw driven Dreadnought battleships of the mid 1800's, and a apparent source of the division of the cultures, has much for which to answer, but there are still peace dividends to seek,
      The leisure to study other subjects does come at a cost in other rewarding efforts foregone, a certain problem of choice for many people.
      But I like Asimov's Foundation Trilogy where he postulates a new sort of intellectual, who creates a connection between the separated…

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    8. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Judith Olney

      There must be an intriguing story behind the broke "hippy" millionaires who first commissioned the replica.
      And good luck to the new owners who made it happen.

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  11. Linda Hazell

    Casual Lecturer

    Something no-one seems to have commented on is...Why?
    Why do we care if this 30% engage with science or not?
    If we can figure out why we need them to engage, we will have a better chance of communicating usefully with them. The next question after " Why?" is "What's in it for them?" As an adult educator, I believe the most successful way to get people to pay attention is for them to be convinced that there will be benefit to them.
    I love science and I'm interested in almost all of it but everyone…

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  12. Gil Hardwick

    anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

    Well, yes HELLO finally, wonder what happened to Julius Sumner-Miller and such like, who in our Baby Boomer generation had all us kids perched literally on the edge of our seats, wholly engrossed in what was then black and white round screen television, so inspired to practice science it became embarrassing.

    Those wonderful wonderful years of nerdy bespectacled thoughtfully energising enquiry, of real respect for the intellect and real interest in developing the enquiring mind, and with it enthusiasm to break down the stodgy old barriers toward an intelligent, enthusiastic and well-educated nation strutting the world stage with our achievements and inventions.

    Glad glad to say its still alive and well over here in WA, at least at UWA.

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  13. Phil Gorman

    Mendicant - retired teacher and mariner at - quite good company

    If you want to know how relevant Australian science education and communication are count the black roofs and stubby eaves in your suburbs.

    The irony is that many now sport pv panels and solar hot water systems.

    We have only ourselves to blame.

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    1. Gil Hardwick

      anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

      In reply to Phil Gorman

      Yes, here too Philip. The irony and paradox are all around us.

      The single biggest hurdle we had to try and overcome over many years working with architects, energy auditors, developers, planners and the rest of them, in collective and multi-tenancy housing, residential social organisation, strata title, all contributing in their own way to progress, was that it all ended up being repeatedly annulled by simple bad design.

      The enormous problem we are yet face is not merely in the various aspects…

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