Welcome to the Genomics Forum blog

Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Creating space in Science Centers for public discussions about the social aspects of science and technology

by Jameson Wetmore & Ira Bennett - Center for Nanotechnology in Society
Arizona State University, USA

There are approximately 300 science centers in the United States. They range from two room centers in tiny towns to enormous museums in Chicago and Boston. They vary widely from place to place, but typically they have three goals: First, they try to relate basic scientific facts so that the lay public can understand them. Second, they seek to inspire young people to consider science and engineering as a career. And third, they attempt to entertain so that families and children will want to return again and again.

Because science and technology play an ever increasingly important role in our daily lives, there is currently a movement to add a fourth goal to the list.  To be an informed citizen one must not only follow the obvious social issues like taxes, international relations, and heath care, but also the research and technologies that shape our world.  Understanding the big bang theory or the ways that molecules interact might be able to assist in this process, but perhaps even more important is an appreciation of the variety of ways in which science and technology affect communities and vice versa. As science centers are both trusted and one of the few places where the general public actively engage science, they could provide a space for such engagements.