Allure of Science

Initiatives to interest students in science careers have not brought about a "sea change," a column in the New York Times says.

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Yes, a failure to communicate

Yes, a failure to communicate the excitement of scientific discoveries is tragically missing in classrooms and around the dinner table. Why? Scientific organizations do not require abstracts to be written so they are readable by educated, non-scientific readers. Reading a scientific paper is like a course in linguistics for anyone unfamiliar with the esoteric vocabulary for liberal arts graduates (those who are most likely to become school teachers for K-12 students).

Abstracts must be modified so they are user friendly. It's essential for public support of upcoming genetic therapies. Both teachers and parents will gladly share science news (and transmit the excitement of new discoveries) with children if they can pull up abstracts constructed with accessible vocabulary. Scientific breakthroughs are among the most fascinating happenings. If the professional scientific community hopes engage the next generation, they need to begin by using more inclusive language in their announcements and putting out abstracts that teachers can understand without specialized training in the sciences.


It is also the case that the

It is also the case that the scientific research community is fairly demoralized by the insecurity of funding. As discussed in a recent PNAS commentary by Varmus, Alberts, Kirschner and Tilghman, the academic research project in the US assumes a growth model, whereas federal research budgets have been essentially flat for some years now. There is no mechanism to maintain research labs other than student recruitment, while those sudents once trained clog the system beyond its funding capacity. Until this issue is resolved, science will not appear to be an attractive career choice. Not that there are not other avenues besides academic faculty positions for trained scientists, but with that door practically closed, the other avenues are insufficient inducement.

In checking state and

In checking state and provincial (Canada) curriculum documents, one tends to find that there is little or no requirement for high school teachers to include careers in their instruction. Text book publishers use these curriculum documents in developing their resources and therefor typically do not include references to careers. I suggest one way to increase student interest in science and technology careers is for curriculum documents to specifically include this key area as part of the instructional requirements. I developed and used career-based activities with thousands of science students in Grades 10-12 and found that students were very interested in the broad range of science careers available to them.