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Topic: The Motive
The Motive
Picture: winstons3embed.jpg

Lord Robert Winston has a thriving media career while maintaining his reputation for scientific excellence.
Credit: Imperial College Press Office


Those who speak up for science are not dumbing down but wising up. Ins

Those who speak up for science are not dumbing down but wising up

piring young people to pursue careers in science is an important driving force behind making it more accessible, but the emphasis on ‘context science’ in school syllabuses has led to accusations of dumbing down. Broad-based learning, however, is already attracting more undergraduates.

This need to bring science to a mass audience arises from a growing awareness that science as an intellectual enterprise cannot develop in isolation. Public support is crucial for the continued funding of research. With a limited pool of money to be shared out, science has to communicate the benefits of new research convincingly in order for it to secure political survival.
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Stephen Hawking, author of the scientific blockbuster, A Brief History of Time.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

There are also moral overtones to this debate. Faced with a credibility problem in the wake of recent science-based scandals, science must make an effort to rebuild trust with a disillusioned public. Eloquent advocates are desperately needed, not to glorify science uncritically for its own sake, but to foster attitudes of openness and accountability. ‘We have to get rid of the feeling that science is the preserve of an elite,’ comments Kitty Ferguson, science writer. ‘If we think that something is potentially dangerous, then that is all the more reason for us to know more about it.’If Britain is to maintain international standing in scientific research, attempts to make science more appealing must be encouraged.

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Topic: The Message
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Although scientific breakthroughs are thrilling and scientists often lead interesting lives, they publish their results in a deliberately jargon-filled and often turgid style. Newspapers want hype and drama, but scientists feel ill-equipped to met this demand. Is ‘dumbing down’ the only solution?  > more

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Topic: The Medium
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Scientists have long been sceptical about the value of popular science, which to them means dumbing down. However, modern technology has given us TV programmes such as Walking with Dinosaurs and through interactive television it also offers scientists a dialogue with the general public.  > more
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