Series on Science at The Conversation

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol
Posted on 4 November 2011

Series of articles on State of the Science

at The Conversation has kicked off

All pieces can be found through this page.

(The remainder of this post summarizes the series and was originally posted before the series started.)

 

We constantly hear that science is under attack

In what seems to be an increasingly acrimonious exchange between the public and the scientific community, facilitated, of course, by the media, we often see scientists defending themselves and their work. Whether it’s HPV and MMR vaccines, climate change, evolution or GM foods, scientists are finding themselves at the heart of some hysterical, and frankly unscientific, debates.

Whether or not there is a “war” going on between science and the general populace, it seems there has been a communication breakdown between the scientific community and the public.

But as any scientist will tell you, these two areas are not mutually exclusive. The scientific domain is the public domain. Science is with us every minute of every day, and is improving our lives by the hour. Those who practice science are not part of a secretive cabal, they’re not a remote elite; they’re walking down the street next to you, they’re behind you in the queue at the supermarket (though they might be studying the chemical additives in their cereal a bit harder).

And far from being at war with science, the public wants to know more about it. Study after study shows not only are people more interested in science then they are in sport (yes, even in Australia), but they also don’t feel informed enough about it.

It is in this spirit – one of curiosity, rather than one of combat – that The Conversation, along with Australia’s science community, presents The State of Science.

In a series of articles over the next fortnight, some of Australia’s most respected scientists, including both the former and current Chief Scientist for Australia, will be providing a snapshot of their discipline. 

It is an in-depth, sometimes playful, look at how science works, how and where it can go wrong, how it corrects itself, how it affects our lives, and how it is perceived by the public.

List of contributors:

  • Professor Ian Chubb - Chief Scientist for Australia
  • Dr Susan Lawler - Head of Environment and Ecology, La Trobe University
  • Dr Will Howard - Research scientist, Office of the Chief Scientist
  • Dr Cathy Foley – President, Science and Technology Australia
  • Dr Danny Kingsley – Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU
  • Professor Penny Sackett – Former Chief Scientist for Australia, ANU
  • Professor Matthew Bailes – Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research), Swinburne University, Director of the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing
  • Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Australian Professorial Fellow, UWA
  • Professor Steven Sherwood, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW
  • Professor Denis Goodrum – Executive Consultant, Science by Doing, Australian Academy of Science
  • Dr Rod Lamberts – Deputy Director, Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University
  • Dr Will Grant – Graduate Studies Convenor, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University
  • Dr Michael Brown – ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

For further information, contact Stephan Lewandowsky on stephan.lewandowsky (at) uwa.edu.au

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