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How Can We Improve American Science Education?

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Making Science Public


Science Literacy For All with Public Science

We need society as a whole to become more comfortable and engaged with science. If we don't feel any connection to or have a relationship with science, we aren't likely to support it. We also know that much learning happens outside the classroom. But, we can't rely on non-science-attentive people to shell out money to go to science museums and pick up science magazines or books.

Let's treat science the way some treat art and music -- make it accessible and approachable in public settings. "Public science" projects (akin to public art) aim to place scientific content into the public arena in free venues, where we are in our lives on a daily basis – at a park, in a library, or the mall, airport or bus stop.

Free public science displays can and do reach new audiences. In recent years, there have been many examples of successful and popular public science projects. These include “From Earth to the Universe” (FETTU), a project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). FETTU displayed large-scale images of astronomical objects in non-traditional and mostly public locations such as parks, airports, art festivals, shopping malls, and others. By 2012, FETTU had been exhibited at about 1,000 sites worldwide and had been seen by millions of people.

Covering broader science topics, science festivals such as the USA Science and Engineering Festival (Washington, DC), the San Diego Science Festival, the World Science Festival in New York City, and many others around the country have been great at presenting science in large outdoor programs with exhibits, discovery stations, and discussions with scientists.

Other public science efforts include "Science on the Buses," in which city buses in many major European Union cities were decorated with large informational science posters in November 2002. Likewise, another project placed “advertisements” with science facts on buses in Toronto during July 2009. Science Cafes are another type of public science that initiates a discussion on a science topic in pubs or cafes, usually with a local scientist in attendance to answer questions and present information. Again, the common denominator is bringing science to where non-experts actually are.

We propose that by making a more significant investment in public science, we can get more citizens to participate. This will, in turn, help boost and support our society's relationship with science.

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