University of California Museum of Paleontology The Saurian Expedition of 1905 "...the resurrection call aroused another Saurian from his long sleep."
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UCMP and the public understanding of science

In our last issue of the UCMP News, we reported on a grant received from the National Science Foundation that will allow us to develop a new web resource to debut in 2008: Understanding Science. We explained that the primary motivation for this project was research indicating that students and teachers, at all grade levels, have an inadequate understanding of the nature of science, and that this influences their understanding and appreciation of evolution and other areas of science.

COPUS logo Year of Science 2009 logo

Beyond the web project, UCMP has been working with others to develop multiple strategies to raise the public understanding of science. With support from the National Science Foundation (Grant No. EAR-0606600), UCMP hosted a workshop attended by a small but diverse group of people to initiate discussions on the creation of a national effort that would focus on improving the public understanding of, and engagement in, science. Held in January 2006, this meeting provided only a first step, and participants agreed that a second workshop was necessary to develop a "positive, multi-faceted strategy to explain science's extraordinary benefits to individuals and to society." An additional grant from NSF (EAR-0628790) allowed for a series of meetings to be convened in Denver and Washington, DC, resulting in two national initiatives: a national coalition — the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS), and a national celebration — the Year of Science 2009. COPUS is a collaborative project of the scientific research and education community focusing on three goals:

  • developing a shared appreciation of science, its contributions to the quality of life, and its underlying role in advances in technology and engineering
  • informing and engaging the public in and about science, its process and products
  • making science more accessible to everyone

A primary activity of COPUS is a national year-long celebration of science to be held in 2009, which coincides with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and of Abraham Lincoln, founder of the National Academy of Sciences; the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species; and the 400th anniversary of the publication of Johannes Kepler's first two Laws of Planetary Motion.

COPUS currently consists of more than 40 organizations and is co-sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Geological Society of America. To learn more about COPUS and Year of Science 2009 and how you can participate, visit the COPUS website or contact Judy Scotchmoor, Richard O’Grady, or Lee Allison.