Charles Darwin comments on the latest UK government initiative to engage society as a whole with science: “Scientists pressed, sweating into corners as costermongers, corn-chandlers, dogs meat men, chimneysweep’s boys, executioner’s assistants, crimps, pimps, organ grinders, grooms of the stool, fullers, gentlemen of the road, members of the aristocracy and ladies of the night (to mention but a few) all clamour to press on you their views on string theory, stem cell therapy, plate tectonics or catalytic cracking.
The government has called for Society to have its say on science. I hope your supervisors and lab managers will be patient as you listen to the throngs at the gates of your institutions, and that you will wear extravagent disguises when in public to avoid molestation by the public anxious to press their scientific opinions on you.”
On a more serious but less entertaining note, the Science and Society Strategy initiative aims to capture a range of views from the general public, scientists, businesses, media, education and government. It seeks input on three key areas:
- How to improve communication, generate interest, increase participation and convey the relevance of science;
- How to build trust and confidence in scientific research in the public and private sectors; and
- How to inspire young people from diverse backgrounds to become tomorrow’s skilled scientists.
In what is believed to be the first website of its type for a Government consultation, an online interactive hub has been established to capture the feedback. It features discussion forums, videos and an interactive consultation document allowing visitors to respond to the entire strategy or to the perspectives of invited scientists, science communicators, broadcasters, policymakers and businesspeople on topics such as science teaching, how to reward good “public engagement” work and how to develop scientific literacy. The consultation will run until 17 October 2008. It is not clear from the website how the responses will be assessed. As well as commenting at the Science and Society Strategy website, you are also very welcome to contribute to the online conversation at Charles Darwin’s blog.