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Signing Science

A number of projects aim to develop standardized signs for scientific terms in American Sign Language and British Sign Language, The New York Times reports. "Words like 'organism' and 'photosynthesis' — to say nothing of more obscure and harder-to-spell terms — have no single widely accepted equivalent in sign language," it adds. "This means that deaf students and their teachers and interpreters must improvise, making it that much harder for the students to excel in science and pursue careers in it."

With Internet videos as well as crowdsourcing resources, including a project at the Scottish Sensory Centre and Gallaudet University's ASL-STEM Forum, researchers and students hope that more signs for science terms will be adopted. However, some say that signs for terms should percolate up, rather than down, though that approach could lead to confusion when different regions adopt different signs for the same word.

In the end, "we not only want to provide support, we want to raise aspirations, to say to people, 'you can do this,'" Peter Main, director of education and science at the Institute of Physics in London, which provides funds to the Scottish Sensory Centre effort, tells the Times.

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