Archive | outreach

Scientist Peter Doherty writes “The Knowledge Wars” for citizen scientists.

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Peter Doherty won a Nobel Prize for his co-discovery  that T-cells must recognize both virus and MHC antigens on the cell surface to kill virus-infected cells. He continues in his immunological research. But he is making perhaps an even greater contribution by authoring books that explain the process and uses of science to both scientists and nonscientists.

“The Knowledge Wars” is written for the non-scientist (though there is much to learn for all), examining and explaining the culture of science through the prism of environmental change. Rather than another tedious description of the scientific method, he explains the culture though history, both the way knowledge is defined and publicized, and the times the scientific culture has been perverted by fraud or greed or stupidity. Doherty makes it clear that scientists are human, that anyone can be a scientist (“And don’t think you have to attend a fancy school or Ivy League university….”, and that plenty of non-scientists are contributing in a major way to scientific knowledge. He does this without being patronizing, using the huge amounts of vital data gathered by birdwatchers as an example of science that could not be done without non-scientists.

But knowledge is power, and knowledge becomes a tool for those who want power. So politicians, individuals, and corporations whose profit or loss depends on data will do their best to obscure the public message and promote the interpretation of data that they want. Doherty explains how layfolk can interpret these coded messages, and he added an appendix with advice on how to judge the credibility of particular scientists via web information, and to read a scientific paper.

Knowledge is power!

 

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Teaching students about scientists’ role in helping fellow citizens: Science4society week in UK

S4S logo copy

 

Announcing Science4society week 2015

Science4society week is a new collection of science education activities, designed to inspire young people. The project was set up to provide an alternative to activities funded by the arms and fossil fuel industries, such as ‘The Big Bang Fair’. Science4society week 2015 runs from 16th to 23rd March.

Media release, 6 March 2015

It is organised by Scientists for Global Responsibility, a UK membership organisation which promotes science, design and technology for peace, social justice and environmental sustainability.

This year’s activities include:

  • Trips/tours. School children and university students will visit inspiring schemes, such as:
    • community-run renewable energy projects, including hydro, solar and biomass systems;
    • super-insulated eco-homes; and
    • innovative technology sharing schemes, such as cohousing and car clubs.
  • Interactive lessons on science, technology and ethics. Children will take part in an exciting range of classroom activities, including:
    • planning renewable energy schemes for an island community;
    • building model wind turbines; and
    • debating technology justice and science ethics.

Activities are designed to integrate with the national curriculum. They will take place in North England, as this is where SGR is based. In future years, more activities will take place further afield.

Co-ordinator of Science4society week, Dr Jan Maskell said, “There are many inspiring examples of science and technology being used to support environmental sustainability, social justice and peace, but mainstream education events often fail to include them. We aim to fill this gap, and also provide a space for debating what the ethical role of science and technology should be in our society.”

 http://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/announcing-science4society-week-2015

Notes

1. More information about Science4society week can be found at: http://www.sgr.org.uk/projects/science4society-week

2. Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) is an independent membership organisation of about 900 natural and social scientists, engineers, IT professionals and architects. It was formed in 1992. SGR’s work is focused on several issues, including security and disarmament, climate change, sustainable energy, and who controls science and technology? For more information, see http://www.sgr.org.uk/

2. A summary of pilot activities in 2014 can be found at: http://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/children-learn-about-green-technologies-and-eco-living

 

Update

Students get inspired by ethical science and technology

Dr Jan Maskell, SGR, summarises the activities of our first Science4Society Week, including school visits to community renewable energy projects and classroom debates.

ResponsibleSci blog, 27 March 2015

During Science4Society Week 2015, over 1000 students took part in a range of inspiring science education activities focusing on the positive contribution that science, design and technology can make to peace, social justice and environmental sustainability.

The Week was organised by SGR and, unlike many high-profile science education activities, it was not funded by any arms or fossil fuel corporations, just a group of charitable trusts.

Students from schools and university visited locations where they could see in action examples of community-run renewable energy projects, super-insulated eco-homes; and innovative sharing schemes, such as cohousing and car clubs. The activities took place in northern England.

‘It was wonderful that they could see practical applications for solar, biomass and hydro power’ said one teacher after a tour of sustainable energy projects in the area.

Young people also took part in interactive lessons and classroom activities about science, technology and ethics including: planning renewable energy schemes for an island community; building model wind turbines; and debating technology justice and science ethics. One teacher commented about the debate ‘I didn’t know what to expect – but they came up with some really good ideas!’ By gradually sharing different views, students changed their opinions about issues, showing the positive effects of discussion. Another teacher reflected ‘The activity worked really well – I wouldn’t change it’ about a practical, group problem solving activity which engaged students in considering options and making justifiable decisions.

A variety of resources are available on our website for teachers to download and use and all of the activities are designed to integrate with the national curriculum.

With continued support we will expand Science4Society week events and activities. We will run sessions for educators later in 2015 and develop more resources to share with them for 2016.

Dr Jan Maskell is Vice Chair of SGR and co-ordinator of Science4Society Week. She is a professional psychologist, with a PhD in education studies.

Issues: Climate change and energy, Who controls science and technology?
Types: ResponsibleSci blog

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The CIA and the museum.

 

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      Maybe it really is innocuous for the Pacific Science Center in Seattle to host “SPY: The Secret World of Espionage.” (http://www.pacificsciencecenter.org/Exhibits/spy)
       The exhibit hasn’t opened yet, so I could only check on line to see if I was being paranoid. 
        The collector of the most of the historic instruments in the exhibit, H. Keith Morton, is known for his many books on spying, the CIA, and military and intelligence history. There is a lovely picture of him in front of his 12, 000 square foot house in Boca Raton, Florida- CIA cheerleading pays better than cancer research, it seems. Clearly, he is pro-espionage, pro-CIA- but how pro CIA can be seen in these quotes from reader Cee Martinez (July 3-25, goodreads.com, http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/181624989) about Melton’s  “The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception”:

     “Many interesting details about the CIA during the MKULTRA years are discussed, including strange ones, such as the CIA use of prostitutes to lure Johns into motel rooms under surveillence so agents could record the Johns’ reaction to various mind altering drugs like LSD. The introduction alone is a must-read for any spy, CIA, or conspiracy geek. Although, a short internet search on the subject of MKULTRA would reveal a far more sinister, and disturbing look into the CIA than this book would ever hint at.

“That’s the main trouble with this book. I didn’t think it could be at all possible to sanitize and neuter the very idea of the MKULTRA project, which included disturbing studies of brainwashing on unwilling and unwitting subjects, some experimented on in mental hospitals, and taken from their own families. This book has done just that.”

      Still, the political beliefs of the collecter might not be embedded in the exhibit: the exhibit might really be only technological wonders of deception, unconnected to a philosophy or even to the CIA. Ah, but there are “educational resources” that accompany the exhibit, two educator guides, one for grades 4-8, another for grades 9-12.
      Both open with a large font quote from former USA President Ronald Reagan:
     “You are the trip-wire across which the forces of repression and tyranny must stumble in their quest for global domination. You, the men and women of the CIA, are the eyes and ears of the free world.”
       And from there we are in experiments, narratives, and timelines that laud the CIA. Neither curriculum makes the whisper of a suggestion that not all the CIA has done has been honorable, quite in contradiction of history and present day newspapers. It is a true trip to the past in the post WWII Cold War rhetoric.

       I dashed off a quick letter to members of the Pacific Science Center leadership, but there haven’t yet been any replies.

 

 

March 20, 2014
Dear Pacific Science Center folks,
I was appalled to see that you will be running an exhibition called SPY: The Secret World of Espionage. Running this exhibit is a tacit approval of the techniques and strategies of the CIA.
Melton’s books gloss over the ethics of the CIA, and your glorification of the his instruments of the CIA will do the same. Would you display instruments of torture? Or a knife used in a rape? How about land-mines and other instruments of war? How is this “science?”
If you want to stretch and call it technology, still it is not appropriate to host that exhibition at the Pacific Science Center. Science and technology (and the information in museums) are not value-free. People will internalize your message. All of us must think ahead to the world we want- and your vision of the world ahead and what you see in science, is grim.
It might bring you money, but it also brings ethical deficit.
Sincerely,
Kathy Barker

 

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