Tag Archives: science outreach

Science for the global citizen course at McMaster University in Winter 2018

It’s never too early to start planning for your course load if a June 20, 2017 McMaster University (Ontario, Canada) news release is to be believed,

In the Winter 2018 term, the School of Interdisciplinary Science is offering Science 2M03: Science for the Global Citizen, a new course designed to explore those questions and more. In this blended-learning course, students from all Faculties will examine the links between science and the larger society through live guest lecturers and evidence-based online discussions.This course is open to students enrolled in Level II or above in any program. No scientific background is needed, only an interest in becoming a more engaged and informed citizen.

The new course will cover a broad range of contemporary scientific issues with significant political, economic, social, and health implications. Topics range from artificial intelligence (AI) to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to space exploration.

Course instructors, Dr. Kim Dej, Dr. Chad Harvey, Dr. Rosa da Silva, and Dr. Sarah Symons, all from the School of Interdisciplinary Science, will examine the basic scientific theories and concepts behind these topical issues, and highlight the application and interpretation of science in popular media and public policy.

After taking this course, students from all academic backgrounds will have a better understanding of how science is conducted, how knowledge changes, and how we can become better consumers of scientific information and more informed citizens.

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 68 How can science help address the key challenges in our society? How does society affect the way that science is conducted? Do citizens have a strong enough understanding of science and its methods to answer these and other similar questions? In the Winter 2018 term, the School of Interdisciplinary Science is offering Science 2M03: Science for the Global Citizen, a new course designed to explore those questions and more. In this blended-learning course, students from all Faculties will examine the links between science and the larger society through live guest lecturers and evidence-based online discussions. This course is open to students enrolled in Level II or above in any program. No scientific background is needed, only an interest in becoming a more engaged and informed citizen. The new course will cover a broad range of contemporary scientific issues with significant political, economic, social, and health implications. Topics range from artificial intelligence (AI) to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to space exploration. Course instructors, Dr. Kim Dej, Dr. Chad Harvey, Dr. Rosa da Silva, and Dr. Sarah Symons, all from the School of Interdisciplinary Science, will examine the basic scientific theories and concepts behind these topical issues, and highlight the application and interpretation of science in popular media and public policy. After taking this course, students from all academic backgrounds will have a better understanding of how science is conducted, how knowledge changes, and how we can become better consumers of scientific information and more informed citizens.

I’m glad to see this kind of course being offered. It does seem a bit odd that none of the instructors involved with this course appear to be from the social sciences or humanities. Drs. Dej, Harvey, and da Silva all have a background in biological sciences and Dr. Symons is a physicist. Taking another look at this line from the course description, “The new course will cover a broad range of contemporary scientific issues with significant political, economic, social, and health implications,” has me wondering how these scientists are going to cover the material, especially as I couldn’t find any papers on these topics written by any of these instructors. This section puzzles me even more, “… highlight the application and interpretation of science in popular media and public policy.” Again none of these instructors seem to have published on the topic of science in popular media or science public policy.

Guest speakers can help to fill in the blanks but with four instructors (and I would imagine a tight budget) it’s hard to believe there are going to be that many guests.

I appreciate that this is more of what they used to call a ‘survey course’ meant to introduce a number of ideas rather than conveying any in depth information but I do find the instructors’ apparent lack of theoretical knowledge about anything other than their respective fields of science somewhat disconcerting.

Regardless, I wish both the instructors and the students all the best.

The insanity of Canadian science outreach (Science Odyssey, May 12 – 21, 2017 and Science RendezVous on May 13, 2017)

When was the last time you saw a six-year old or a twelve-year old attend a political candidates’ meeting or vote in an election? Sadly, most creative science outreach in Canada is aimed at children and teenagers in the misbegotten belief that adults don’t matter and ‘youth are the future’. There are three adult science outreach scenarios although they didn’t tend to be particularly creative. (1) Should scientists feel hard done by elected representatives, they reach out to other adults for support. (2) Should those other adults become disturbed by any scientific or technological ‘advance’ then scientific experts will arrive to explain why that’s wrong. (3) Should the science enterprise want money, then a call goes out (see my May 12, 2017 posting about the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation gala and, yes, they were a bit creative about it).

I am oversimplifying the situation but not by much especially if one considers two upcoming national Canadian science events: Science Rendezvous which is a day-long (May 13, 2017) cross country science event taking place during while the Science Odyssey holds a 10-day (May 12 – 2017) cross country science event. The two groups arranged their events separately and then decided to coordinate their efforts. Science Odyssey is a rebranding of the Canada Science and Technology Week organized by the federal government for at least two decades and which was held (until 2016) in the fall of each year. Science Rendezvous (About page) was launched in Toronto in 2008 (University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)).

Regardless, both events are clearly aimed at children (and families).

I’m not suggesting that exciting science outreach for children should be curtailed. Let’s expand the efforts to9 include the adult and senior populations too.

In all the talk about Canada’s adult and ageing populations, perhaps we could approach it all more creatively. For example, there’s this (from an April 18, 2017 University of California at San Diego University news release (also on EurekAlert) by Inga Kiderra,

Philip Guo caught the coding bug in high school, at a fairly typical age for a Millennial. Less typical is that the UC San Diego cognitive scientist is now eager to share his passion for programming with a different demographic. And it’s not one you’re thinking of – it’s not elementary or middle school-aged kids. Guo wants to get adults age 60 and up.

In the first known study of older adults learning computer programming, Guo outlines his reasons: People are living and working longer. This is a growing segment of the population, and it’s severely underserved by learn-to-code intiatives, which usually target college students and younger. Guo wants to change that. He would like this in-demand skill to become more broadly accessible.

“Computers are everywhere, and digital literacy is becoming more and more important,” said Guo, assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science, who is also affiliated with UC San Diego’s Design Lab and its Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “At one time, 1,000 years ago, most people didn’t read or write – just some monks and select professionals could do it. I think in the future people will need to read and write in computer language as well. In the meantime, more could benefit from learning how to code.”

Guo’s study was recently awarded honorable mention by the world’s leading organization in human-computer interaction, ACM SIGCHI. Guo will present his findings at the group’s premier international conference, CHI, in May [2017].

When prior human-computer interaction studies have focused on older adults at all, Guo said, it has been mostly as consumers of new technology, of social networking sites like Facebook, say, or ride-sharing services. While a few have investigated the creation of content, like blogging or making digital music, these have involved the use of existing apps. None, to his knowledge, have looked at older adults as makers of entirely new software applications, so he set out to learn about their motivations, their frustrations and if these provided clues to design opportunities.

The Study

For his study, Guo surveyed users of pythontutor.com. A web-based education tool that Guo started in 2010, Python Tutor helps those learning to program visualize their work. Step by step, it displays what a computer is doing with each line of code that it runs. More than 3.5 million people in more than 180 countries have now used Python Tutor, including those around the world taking MOOCs (massive open online courses). Despite its legacy name, the tool helps people supplement their studies not only of the Python programming language but also Java, JavaScript, Ruby, C and C++, all of which are commonly used to teach programing. The users of Python Tutor represent a wide range of demographic groups.

Guo’s survey included 504 people between the ages of 60 and 85, from 52 different countries. Some were retired and semi-retired while others were still working.

What Guo discovered: Older adults are motivated to learn programming for a number of reasons. Some are age-related. They want to make up for missed opportunities during youth (22 percent) and keep their brains “challenged, fresh and sharp” as they age (19 percent). A few (5 percent) want to connect with younger family members.

Reasons not related to age include seeking continuing education for a current job (14 percent) and wanting to improve future job prospects (9 percent). A substantial group is in it just for personal enrichment: 19 percent to implement a specific hobby project idea, 15 percent for fun and entertainment, and 10 percent out of general interest.

Interestingly, 8 percent said they wanted to learn to teach others.

Topping the list of frustrations for older students of coding was bad pedagogy. It was mentioned by 21 percent of the respondents and ranged from the use of jargon to sudden spikes in difficulty levels. Lack of real-world relevance came up 6 percent of the time. A 74-year-old retired physician wrote: “Most [tutorials] are offered by people who must know how to program but don’t seem to have much training in teaching.”

Other frustrations included a perceived decline in cognitive abilities (12 percent) and no human contact with tutors and peers (10 percent).

The study’s limitations are tied in part to the instrument – self-reporting on an online survey – and in part to the survey respondents themselves. Most hailed from North America and other English-speaking nations. Most, 84 percent, identified themselves as male; this stat is consistent with other surveys of online learning, especially in math and science topics. There was a diverse array of occupations reported, but the majority of those surveyed were STEM professionals, managers and technicians. These learners, Guo said, likely represent “early adopters” and “the more technology-literate and self-motivated end of the general population.” He suggests future studies look both at in-person learning and at a broader swath of the public. But he expects the lessons learned from this group will generalize.

The Implications

Based on this first set of findings and using a learner-centered design approach, Guo proposes tailoring computer-programming tools and curricula specifically for older learners. He notes, for example, that many of his respondents seemed to take pride in their years and in their tech-savvy, so while it may be good to advertise products as targeting this age group, they should not appear patronizing. It might make sense to reframe lessons as brain-training games, like Lumosity, now popular among the older set.

Just as it’s key to understand who the learners are so is understanding where they have trouble. Repetition and frequent examples might be good to implement, as well as more in-person courses or video-chat-based workshops, Guo said, which may lead to improvements in the teaching of programming not just for older adults but across the board.

Context matters, too. Lessons are more compelling when they are put into domains that people personally care about. And Guo recommends coding curricula that enable older adults to tell their life stories or family histories, for example, or write software that organizes health information or assists care-givers.

Guo, who is currently working on studies to extend coding education to other underrepresented groups, advocates a computing future that is fully inclusive of all ages.

“There are a number of social implications when older adults have access to computer programming – not merely computer literacy,” he said. “These range from providing engaging mental stimulation to greater gainful employment from the comfort of one’s home.”

By moving the tech industry away from its current focus on youth, Guo argues, we all stand to gain. [emphasis mine]

Guo joined the UC San Diego cognitive science faculty in 2016 after two years as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from MIT in 2006 and his Ph.D. from Stanford in 2012. Before becoming a professor, he built online learning tools as a software engineer at Google and a research scientist at edX. He also blogs, vlogs and podcasts at http://pgbovine.net/

When was the last time you heard about a ‘coding’ camp for adults and seniors in Canada? Also,, ask yourself if after you’d reached a certain age (40? 50? more? less?) you’d feel welcome at the Science Rendezvous events (without a child in tow), Science Odyssey events (without a child in tow), or the May 17, 2017 National Science and Innovation Gala in Ottawa (from my May 12, 2017 posting “It would seem the only person over the age of 30 who’s expected to attend is the CBC host, Heather Hiscox.”)?

Let’s open the door a bit wider, eh?

eXXpedition Great Lakes 2016: hunting for plastic debris

An all woman expedition set sail on Aug. 20, 2016 for a journey across the five Great Lakes in search of plastic debris according to an Aug. 16, 2016 news item on phys.org,

Female scientists from the U.S. and Canada will set sail Aug. 20 [2016] on all five Great Lakes and connecting waterways to sample plastic debris pollution and to raise public awareness about the issue.

Event organizers say eXXpedition Great Lakes 2016 will include the largest number of simultaneous samplings for aquatic plastic debris in history. [emphasis mine] The all-female crew members on the seven lead research vessels also aim to inspire young women to pursue careers in science and engineering.

An Aug. 15, 2016 University of Michigan news release, which originated the news item, provides more details,

Teams of researchers will collect plastic debris on the five Great Lakes, as well Lake St. Clair-Detroit River and the Saint Lawrence River. Data collected will contribute to growing open-source databases documenting plastic and toxic pollution and their impacts on biodiversity and waterway health, according to event organizers.

Two University of Michigan faculty members, biologist Melissa Duhaime and Laura Alford of the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, will lead the Lake St. Clair-Detroit River team, aboard a 30-foot sailboat.

The crew of up to eight people will include an Ann Arbor middle school teacher, an artist and student at the Great Lakes Boat Building School, and girls from Detroit-area schools. Onboard activities will include water sampling and trawling for plastic debris using protocols developed by the 5 Gyres Institute.

“There is a place for scientists in this type of public outreach, and it is a complement to the research that we do,” said Duhaime, an assistant research scientist in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

“In a single day through an event like this, we can potentially reach orders of magnitude more people than we do when we publish our scientific papers, which are read mainly by other scientists. And greater public awareness about this topic, rooted in rigorously collected and interpreted data, can certainly lead to changed behavior in our relationships with plastics.”

Duhaime’s lab studies the sources of Great Lakes plastics, as well as how they are transported within the lakes and where they end up. The work has involved a summer on three of the Great Lakes, trips to Detroit-area wastewater treatment plants, and the sampling of fish and mussels.

The group’s first Great Lakes project included multiple U-M labs, one of which analyzed the stomach contents of fish and mussels, looking for tiny plastic beads, fibers and fragments. They found no plastic “microbeads”—spheres typically less than 1 millimeter in diameter—but plastic fibers were present in a third of the zebra and quagga mussels and at various levels in all the fish species they checked: 15 percent of emerald shiners and bloaters, 20 percent of round gobies, and 26 percent of rainbow smelt, according to Duhaime.

The stomach-content study, which will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, was based on work done in lakes Erie and Huron and was led by Larissa Sano, who is now at U-M’s Sweetland Center for Writing.

For years, plastic microbeads were added as abrasives to beauty and health products like exfoliating facial scrubs and toothpaste. But the federal Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 28, bans the manufacture of microbeads beginning next year.

Sources of tiny plastic fibers that make it into the Great Lakes include fleece jackets and other types of synthetic clothing. These microfibers are released during laundering, then slip through wastewater treatment plants and into waterways. Fibers found in common household textiles such as carpets, upholstered furniture and curtains also make their way into the environment and can end up in the lakes.

“Microbeads were just the tip of the iceberg,” Duhaime said. “I think fibers are the future of this research and a much more important issue than microbeads, because of the prevalence and the pervasiveness of these plastic textiles in our lives.”

Researchers like Duhaime are also investigating the possibility that tiny bits of Great Lakes plastics can transfer toxic pollutants from the water into fish and other aquatic organisms. It is unclear what level of human health risk, if any, these microplastics pose to people who eat Great Lakes fish; it is a topic of active research.

On Aug. 20 [2016], the team led by Duhaime and Alford will sail up the Detroit River to Lake St. Clair, sampling water and trawling for plastics along the way. Throughout the day at Detroit’s Belle Isle, members of their team will host a beach cleanup and data collection. In addition, a free public-awareness event will be held throughout the day outside Belle Isle Aquarium, followed by a plastic-free community picnic with live music.

Members of the general public are also encouraged to collect Great Lakes water samples and to participate in shoreline cleanup events on the 20th [Aug. 20, 2016].

The mission leaders for eXXpedition Great Lakes 2016 event are two women who met during an all-female voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 2014. Jennifer Pate is a filmmaker, and Elaine McKinnon is a clinical neuropsychologist. Pate plans to use video footage and photographs gathered during the Aug. 20 [2016] event to create a film called “Love Your Greats.”

“In parts of the Great Lakes, we have a higher density of microplastics than in any of the ocean gyres,” Pate said. “So the problem isn’t just out there in the oceans. It’s right here in our backyard, in our lakes and on our dinner plates.

“We are all a part of the problem, but that means we are also all part of the solution. That’s why we are holding this event, to give people an opportunity to change the story and create a healthier future.”

Partners in the eXXpedition Great Lakes 2016 event include Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup in Canada and the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach program in the United States.

What a great idea! I wonder if this might inspire an annual event.

Strengthening science outreach initiatives

It’s a great idea but there are some puzzling aspects to the Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society’s newly announced research outreach initiative. From a July 28, 2016 Sigma XI, The Scientific Research Society’snews release on EurekAlert,

With 130 years of history and hundreds of thousands of inductees, Sigma Xi is the oldest and largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers in the world. Its new program, the Research Communications Initiative (RCI), builds on the Society’s mission to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public’s understanding of science.

Through RCI, Sigma Xi will team up with researchers and partner institutions who wish to effectively tell general audiences, research administrators, and other investigators about their work. Sigma Xi will help its RCI partners develop a strategy for sharing their research and connect them with leading communication professionals who will develop content, including feature-length articles, videos, infographics, animations, podcasts, social media campaigns, and more. Sigma Xi will provide both digital and print publishing platforms so that partners may reach new audiences by the thousands. Finally, partners will receive a data-driven evaluation of the success of their communications.

“The Research Communications Initiative is an innovative program that calls on the expertise we’ve developed and perfected over our 100-year history of communicating science,” said Jamie Vernon, Sigma Xi’s director of science communications and publications. “We know that institutions can strengthen their reputation by sharing their research and that public and private funding agencies are asking for more outreach from their grant recipients. Sigma Xi is uniquely qualified to provide this service because of our emphasis on ethical research, our worldwide chapter and member network who can be an audience for our RCI partner communications, and our experience in publishing American Scientist.”

Sigma Xi’s award-winning magazine, American Scientist, contains articles for science enthusiasts that are written by researchers–scientists, engineers, and investigators of myriad disciplines–including Nobel laureates and other prominent investigators. The magazine is routinely recognized by researchers, educators, and the public for its trustworthy and engaging content. This editorial insight and expertise will help shape the future of science communication through RCI.

RCI partners will have the option to have their communications included in special sections or inserts in American Scientist or to have content on American Scientist‘s website as well as RCI digital platforms or partner’s sites. All RCI content will be fully disclosed as a product of the partnership program and will be published under a Creative Commons license, making it free to be republished. Sigma Xi has called upon its relationships with other like-minded organizations, such as the National Alliance for Broader Impacts, Council of Graduate Schools, and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, to distribute the work created with RCI partners to leaders in the research community. The Society plans to have a variety of other organizations involved.

There is a lot to like about this initiative but it’s not immediately clear what they mean by the ‘partners’ who will be accessing this service. Is that a member or does that require a sponsorship fee or some sort of fee structure for institutions and individuals that wish to participate in the RCI? Is the effort confined to US science and/or English language science?  In any event, you can check out the Sigma Xi site here and the RCI webpage here.

 

NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration), one of the world’s largest hackathons, and women

Elizabeth Segran’s April 19, 2016 article for Fast Company profiles some work being done at NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to encourage more women to participate in their hackathons (Note: A link has been removed),

For the past four years, NASA has hosted the Space Apps Challenge, one of the biggest hackathons on the planet. Last year, 14,264 people gathered in 133 locations for 48 to 72 hours to create apps using NASA’s data. A team in Lome, Togo, built a clean water mapping app; one in Bangalore, India, created a desktop planetarium; another in Pasadena, California, created a pocket assistant for astronauts. This year’s hackathon happens this upcoming weekend [April 22 – 24, 2016].

While NASA has been able to attract participants from all corners of the globe, it has consistently struggled to get women involved. NASA is working very hard to change this. “The attendance is generally 80% male,” says Beth Beck, NASA’s open innovation project manager, who runs the Space Apps Hackathon. “It’s more everyman than everywoman.”

There is a mention of a 2015 Canadian hackathon and an observation Beth Beck made at the time (from the Segran article),

Beck noticed that female participation in hackathons seemed to drop after the middle school years. At last year’s hackathon in Toronto, for instance, there were two sections: one for students and one for adults. Girls made up at least half of the student participants. “The middle school girls looked like honey bees, running around in little packs to learn about the technology,” she says. “But in the main hacking area, it was all guys. I wanted to know what happens that makes them lose their curiosity and enthusiasm.”

Beck’s further observations led to these conclusions,

It turns out that women are not significantly more interested in certain subjects than others. What they cared about most was being able to explore these topics in a space that felt friendly and supportive. “They are looking for signals that they will be in a safe space where they feel like they belong,” Beck says. Often, these signals are very straightforward: they seek out pictures of women on the event’s webpage and look for women’s names on the speaker panels and planning committees. …

Another interesting thing that Beck discovered is that women who are brave enough to attend these events want to go a day early to get the lay of the land and perhaps form a team in advance. They want to become more comfortable with the physical space where the hackathon will take place and learn as much as possible about the topics. “When the hackathon then becomes flooded with men, they feel ready for it,” she says.

While men described hacking as something that they did in their spare time, the research showed that many women often had many other family responsibilities and couldn’t just attend a hackathon for fun. And this wasn’t just true in developing countries, where girls were often tasked with childcare and chores, while boys could focus on science. In the U.S., events where there was childcare provided were much more highly attended by women than those that did not have that option. …

NASA’s hackathons are open to people with diverse skill sets—not just people who know code. Beck has found that men are more likely to participate because they are interested in space; they simply show up with ideas. Women, on the other hand, need to feel like they have the appropriate battery of skills to contribute. With this knowledge, Beck has found it helpful to make it clear that each team needs strong storytellers who can explain the value of the app. …

The folks at NASA are still working at implementing these ideas and Segran’s article describes the initiatives and includes this story (Note: A link has been removed),

Last year [2015], for instance, two female students in Cairo noticed that the hackathon has specifically called out to women and they wanted to host a local chapter of the hackathon. Their professor, however, told them that women could not host the event. The women reached out to NASA themselves and Beck wrote to them personally, saying that she highly encouraged them to create their own event. That Cairo event ended up being the largest Space Apps hackathon in the world, with 700 participants and a wait list of 300. …

Kudos to Beth Beck, NASA, and those two women in Cairo.

For anyone (male/female) interested in the 2016 hackathon, it’s being held this weekend (April 22 – 24, 2016), from the NASA Space Apps Challenge homepage,

For 48-72 hours across the world, problem solvers like you join us for NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge, one of the largest hackathons in the universe. Empowered by open data, you collaborate with strangers, colleagues, friends, and family to solve perplexing challenges in new and unexpected ways — from designing an interactive space glove to natural language processing to clean water mapping. Join us on our open data mission, and show us how you innovate.

Not Just For Coders

Beginners, students, experts, engineers, makers, artists, storytellers — Space Apps is for you! We welcome all passionate problem solvers to join our community of innovators. Citizens like you have already created thousands of open-source solutions together through code, data visualizations, hardware and design. How will you make your global impact?

It’s too late to become a host for the hackathon but you may be able to find a location for one somewhere near you on the hackathon website’s Locations page. There are three locations in Canada for the 2016 edition: Toronto (waitlist), Winnipeg (still open), and Waterloo (waitlist).

100 free daypasses for European Science Open Forum in July 2016

This contest is open to students and early career researchers for the European Science Open Forum (ESOF) 2016, which is going to be held in Manchester, UK from July 23 – 27, 2016. Here are more details from an April 15, 2016 ESOF announcement (received via email),

#ESOF100Days

Today we have reached an important milestone – with 100 days to go until ESOF rolls into Manchester. To celebrate this we will be giving away 100 free conference (day) passes via Twitter to those who follow us @ESOF2016 and tweet us an interesting science fact using the hashtag #ESOF100days.  The best tweet each day, as judged by the Delivery Team, will be announced in our week tweet round-up.

The competition is open to all early career researchers and higher education students and will run from today (15 April) to Friday 1 July, or until we have given away all 100 passes!

Winners of the #ESOF100days competition will be able to choose which day they would like to attend the conference.

For more information on the competition and how to enter, please see our latest news item. For the up-to-date conference programme see here.

If you are unlucky this time round and don’t manage to get your hands on a ticket through our competition, there are still ways to attend the conference for free. We have just launched our call to recruit 100 local volunteers to assist with delivery of ESOF. Those interested in offering their services in welcoming ESOF delegates to the city in July should visit our volunteer page for information on how to apply.

Good luck!

Science outreach and Nova’s Making Stuff series on PBS

The February 2011 NISE (Nanoscale Informal Science Education) Net newsletter pointed me towards a video interview with Amy Moll, a materials scientist (Boise State University) being interviewed by Joe McEntee, group editor IOP Publishing, for the physicsworld.com video series,

Interesting discussion, yes? The Making Stuff series on PBS is just part of their (materials scientists’ working through their professional association, the Materials Research Society) science outreach effort. The series itself has been several years in the planning but is just one piece of a much larger effort.

All of which puts another news item into perspective. From the Feb. 7, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

The Arizona Science Center is enlisting the expertise of professors in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering in showcasing the latest advances in materials science and engineering.

The engineering schools are among organizations collaborating with the science center to present the Making Stuff Festival Feb. 18-20. [emphasis mine]

The event will explore how new kinds of materials are shaping the future of technology – in medicine, computers, energy, space travel, transportation and an array of personal electronic devices.

No one is making a secret of the connection,

The festival is being presented in conjunction with the broadcast of “Making Stuff”, a multi-part television series of the Public Broadcasting Service program NOVA that focuses on advances in materials technologies. It’s airing locally on KAET-Channel 8.

Channel 8 is another collaborator on the Making Stuff Festival, along with ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, the Arizona Technology Council, Medtronic, Intel and Science Foundation Arizona.

I highlight these items to point out how much thought, planning, and effort can go into science outreach.

Nano haikus (from the Feb. 2011 issue of the NISE Net Newsletter,

We received two Haikus from Michael Flynn expressing his hopes and fears for nanotechnology:

Miracle fibers
Weave a new reality
Built from the ground up

Too Small to be seen
This toxin is nanoscale
Can’t tell if it spilled

National convo on science, technology, and engineering

There’s a new science outreach ‘kid on the block’. Canada’s Honorable Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, announced plans for an online HUB for science and technology in Canada. From the news release via the Canadian Science Policy Centre website,

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) announced today plans for the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation to build an online HUB for the Pan-Canadian science, technology and engineering community. [emphasis mine]

“Canada is, and will remain, among the best countries in the world for scientists and researchers to pursue their discoveries while we strengthen our capacity to make their innovations available to the market here at home and around the world,” said Minister of State Goodyear. “Our government supports science and technology to improve the quality of life of Canadians, create jobs and strengthen the economy.”

The vision is for the HUB (www.connexscience.ca) to serve as an open collaborative space for everyone involved or interested in science, engineering and technology, as well as their historical and broader dimensions. The HUB will greatly contribute to the promotion of a science and technology culture in Canada.

The Museums Corporation wants the hub to be “owned” by a broad cross section of the Canadian science, technology and engineering community, and to create the digital conditions that will support the HUB in becoming a living, thriving online community.

“All Canadians have a role to play in helping shape Canada’s science, technology and engineering future,” said Denise Amyot, President and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. “We invite people to share this with their friends and colleagues. All perspectives, suggestions, ideas and submissions will be important inputs in the creation of the HUB.”

The idea for this online forum stems from a cross-Canada consultation held by the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation in 2009 to seek national partners and information on local initiatives, as well as ways for the Museums Corporation to enhance its outreach across the country. Many expressed the interest having a place where they could come together to collaborate.

The announcement was made from the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Montreal during National Science and Technology Week. NSTW is a celebration of the significance of Canada’s science and technology heritage, the importance of science and technology in today’s world, and Canada’s ongoing role as a world leader in innovation.

I’m a little puzzled as it seems to me that they have moved passed the planning and have built an online HUB; there just aren’t many people on it yet. (Quite understandbly given that it’s still early days.)

On balance, I’m happy to say after all of my criticisms about science outreach that this seems like an encouraging move and I hope it leads to a more vibrant national conversation about science and technology. You can go to Canada’s Museum of Science and Technology online HUB, called Connex Science, here to find a welcome video from Denise Amyot, the museum’s President and Chief Executive Officer and to participate in forums.

I see in the museum’s latest newsletter that Connex Science isn’t their only science outreach initiative, they also have an agreement with the National Film Board (from the newsletter),

The National Film Board of Canada and the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation have announced the beginning of a four-year partnership during which both institutions will share their respective expertise in order to create a closer working relationship between the world of audiovisual production and that of sciences and technology.

According to this news release,

Many collaborations are planned, the first of which will begin this weekend at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. The exhibition Echoes in the Ice: History, Mystery and Frozen Corpses [mentioned here in an Oct.7, 2010 posting) will include the screening of the documentary Passage by John Walker on Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17 at 1 p.m. Winner of numerous awards including Best Film at the Reel to Reel International Film Festival for Youth, Grand Prize for Best Television Production at the Banff World Television Awards, Best Director and Best Cinematography at the Atlantic Film Festival, the film tells the story of John Rae, a Victorian‐era Scottish explorer who discovers the tragic fate of Sir John Franklin and his 128 crew members who perished in the Arctic ice, overcome by insanity and cannibalism, while attempting to find the Northwest Passage. The story quickly became tainted with scandal when John Rae tried to make it public.

One last bit from the newsletter,

TEDxKids at the Canada Agriculture Museum

November 9

The Canada Agriculture Museum is thrilled to be welcoming this internationally renowned not-for-profit group to its venue for a full day event that will bring attention to new projects benefitting children and youth.

Yes, TED (for kids) is coming to Canada. You can find out more about TEDxKids here.

(Thanks to a CSWA [Canadian Science Writers Assn.] tweet, I found all this info. about Connex Science and Canada’s Museum of Science and Technology.)

ETA October 29, 2010: The Pasco Phroneis blog (David Bruggeman) has a an insightful take on the museum’s initiative (excerpted from the October 28, 2010 posting),

Based on my attendance at last year’s Canadian Science Policy Conference, an effort like this could well fill a need for more communication within science and science policy circles across the country. A very large country with a comparatively small population, networking is not going to be as easy as it might be in the United States, where people who would benefit from hearing what others are doing in science and science policy stand a better chance of going to the same meetings or otherwise being in the same place.

That said, an online collaborative space is a fair amount of work. Otherwise you just have yet another discussion board (or, heaven forbid, a group blog).