Monday, August 28, 2006

Mass media, nano, and education … some incompatibilities

NPR senior science correspondent Ira Flatow spoke in Denver, CO this past Wednesday on the problems of large-scale one-size-fits-all science education efforts. He seemed rather pessimistic about mass media being able to engage and inform the larger public. And his intuitive understanding as a practitioner is very consistent, of course, with most academic research in this area:

“When nanotechnology has to compete with, say, JonBenet, we know who’s going to win this week,” Flatow told a large lunchtime audience at the BioWest 2006 biotechnology conference in Denver on Wednesday.

Flatow, NPR’s science correspondent since 1971, said that as much as America’s short attention span is to blame, the media, particularly television, are even more at fault.”

Unfortunately, the story offers few answers to the problem of how to actually go about engaging the public. Flatow believes that his latest project, talkingscience.org will be a first step in the right direction. Here is a semi-mission statement from the talkincscience.org web site:

Unfortunately, this seems to be just another outreach effort that is based on the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy, which been the foundation of so many (failed) attempts to inform the public about emerging technologies and engage them in science policy decisions that will directly impact their everyday lives.

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