“We is argued against more than the

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“We live in a
society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone
knows anything about science and technology” (Sagan, 1990). Today, we as a public-sector
trust experts to deal with their specialties. We trust doctors to help us heal,
and our government to make the best decisions for our country. Likewise, we
expect scientists to research new cures for disease, or discover how things
work. Nonetheless, just because
experts know more in their field, does not mean the public should not involve themselves.
Here lies the debate over
whether public know enough to get involved with science. To make the most of
science, we must ensure it belongs to everyone. “Science needs to be viewed as an exciting, evolving, and
interactive part of our society, not an exalted profession led solely by
modern-day sages” (Khan, 2015). The first statement in the title is argued against
more than the latter, however, the idea of the public getting involved should
not be ignored. Just because they seem to know less, does not mean that others are
required to follow.


Khan (2015) in an article stated
that 29% of UK adults – 15 million people – want to have more of a say on
decisions made about scientific issues. The British Science Association (BSA)
are trying to increase this number as they believe to succeed long term,
science should become a part of British society and culture. An issue arises
here in that people can feel excluded from science, it occurs in all cultures
such as sport or music. Nevertheless, it is not hard to disagree that it is intellectually
challenging. We live in a consumerist society where topics such as art are
displayed everywhere – science is not as at reach. In a post-Brexit era,
political dialogue is more common and spoken about in everyday life. It is less
likely for someone to bring up discoveries made in science such as Higgs Boson.
A middle ground between science and the public needs to become more aware and
more accessible. It is not easy to have a detailed discussion about some of the
things that are being done in genetics, for example, with someone who genuinely
has no idea what DNA is. This does not mean you cannot discuss the topic, but
it tends to get bogged down by needing to have at least some understanding of
technicalities which it can take years of study to grasp. This argument for the
public to be more involved has gone on for many decades, as seen In the Royal
Society Report (Bodmer, 1985) which was driven by perennial concerns about response
to ‘scientific literacy’ surveys, and that better understanding of science will
lead to better public and personal decisions. Bodmer argued that wider exposure
to scientific thinking will lead to greater acceptance of science and
technology with less “irrationality” or “unreason”.  The BSA believes that the scientific community
needs to better reflect and represent the society supporting it. We trust
scientists but as soon as something goes wrong (e.g. MMR), we feel the need to
question science. It is not fair to rely on them and then have a say when it
suits us. This is not just appearing in the UK, but also worldwide such as in
the US. In a 2005 press conference by Frank Wolf he stated, “regardless
of whether you categorize our current situation as a stall or decline, there is
general agreement that America’s dominance in science and innovation is
slipping,” and that Americans “have no idea what this could mean to our economy
and our national security” (Jones, 2005). Many people of authority have stated
this claim of the public involving themselves, but what can be done?


The Public Understanding of Science Movement (PUS) argues
that the public are ignorant of science. Is it that we have lack of
understanding in the topic that reflects this lack of information? In school
the aim of science lessons is to ensure students leave with the skills and
confidence to discuss and shape scientific advances in society regardless of
the career they enter. How can we make the public more aware? One view is
to stop segregating science into disciplines at school. Students should be able
to explore the world around them, not learn one straight route, then they will
appreciate the innate creativity of science. Potentially the solution is making
STEM subjects accessible to all and making the tough concepts easier to
understand. Students at school are intimidated by science subjects and in a
recent survey showed that there are more boys in GCSE and A level science classes
than girls. British Labour Co-operative politician Sarah McCarthy Fry, told The
Independent that she was “concerned” about girls shying away from science, and
thought “separating the sexes for lessons in co-educational schools might be
the answer” (Garner, 2008). The biggest difference from the 2008 graphs in this
article was in Physics A-Level classes where there were 6,000 girls and 22,000
boys. Changing these lessons could open doors for young girls who can succeed
well without added pressure, and can go on to picking a career option in that
field, or even want to participate more in science. In a report by The Royal
Academy of Engineering, it stated that the UK will need “over a million new
engineers and technicians by 2020” to meet demands (Morgan, 2014). Morgan
continues to state that the way to do this is to “change the effort to attract
young people into engineering” and it must start with an inspiring message to
the public, “capturing the nature and breadth of engineering in the 21st
century”. Scientists need to communicate what they are doing in an improved
format, using social media to spread awareness of any ongoing projects and to
target each demographic specifically.

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Goggin et al. (1984) introduces
in his journal this idea of science processing being of cooperation rather than
confrontation when including the public. The experts introduce to the public
their concerns and produce “a high-quality solution and technical plan”, with
the public completing the second stage which involves “wide publication and
open discussion allowing the open process of public scrutiny and debate”. The
need for public participation with science decision making has increased for several
reasons. Trust between experts and the public is decreasing and the “growing
recognition that scientific judgements are fallible”, with costs and risks being
considered. Goggin’s journal states that for democracy to survive it necessary
for the public to involve themselves and develop a “democratic character”.
Individuals can learn to be this way by “direct involvement in deciding policy
relative to science and technology”. Science can be seen today to already
becoming more popular, from Steven Hawking to Bill Bryson, with Blue Planet II
being 2017’s most watched British TV show. We need to steer the public in this
direction further, and it seems the way to do this is through the media. Using
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube to attract the young is key into building a more
science orientated generation. This with this improvement in teaching in
schools can hopefully boost the use of science in everyday conversation. If it
is more available and taught in a different manner then perhaps it will become more
widely spoken. Scientific council and funding bodies also need more scientists
that are politicians or people of influence, with this appreciation and
understanding for science, can speak out to the public and portray it in a different


To conclude, 

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