The Royal Society of London released a detailed report on the value of science communication in society in 1985. The report, titled The Public Understanding of Science makes recommendations on how to promote public understanding and participation with science. The necessity to bridge the gap between science and society is expressly stated in the Preface: ‘More than ever, people need some understanding of science, whether they are involved in decision-making at a national or local level, in managing industrial companies, in skilled or semi-skilled employment, in voting as private citizens or in making a wide range of personal decisions.’
Science and related fields have traditionally been pioneers in defining the pursuit of inquisitiveness and curiosity. It has been in charge of resolving the What, Why, and How of numerous difficulties and issues since its inception. As humans progressed and defined their academic studies depending on their hobbies, a clear division between scientific and non-science people emerged, which had the benefit of experiencing extraordinary expansion in a variety of lifestyle categories over the last few centuries.
As a result, science is highly regarded in society because its application aids in the fulfilment of many basic human needs and the improvement of living standards. Only two recent instances are the discovery of a cancer cure and the development of a renewable energy source. Similarly, research is frequently explained to the public as a driver of economic advancement, which is perceived as a good return on public funds. However, during the last few decades, another scientific goal has emerged: finding a means to sensibly manage natural resources in order to ensure their continued availability and the continued survival of humanity; this effort is nowadays recognized as “sustainability”.
However, there is another use of science that has received little attention but has immense potential to answer the difficulties that humanity faces in modern education. It is time to seriously consider how science and research may help people learn at all levels of society; not merely to get more people involved in research and teach them about scientific knowledge, but also to give them a basic grasp of how science has influenced the world and human civilization. In the coming decades, education may become the most important application of science. More and better citizen education would also enable informed debate and decision-making concerning the fair and sustainable deployment of new technology, addressing issues such as social inequality and scientific discovery misuse. For example, an individual may view an increase in welfare and life expectancy as a desirable aim while ignoring current inequalities in food availability and health care resources.
It becomes imperative to stop segregating science into disciplines at school. Even for individuals who go on to become scientists, studying physics, biology, and chemistry as allegedly independent topics may seem anachronistic in an age of interdisciplinarity. But it’s possibly even less useful for those of us who merely want to be part of a scientifically literate society, might a better approach be to have young people look at the science of, example, climate change alongside its historical, geographic, and political aspects?
In order to effectively inform the non science people about matters that are contingent on science, research has to leave the lab. Science must be viewed as an interesting, dynamic, and engaging component of our society, rather than an exalted profession led solely by modern-day sages. In conclusion, science and innovation must be defined by society as a whole in terms of its purpose, direction, ethics, and long-term viability.
Author: Dr. Madhulika Singh, Dept. of Zoology, School of Science.