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UCMP sparks national initiatives

Year of Science 2009
 
A recent News Brief in the UCB newsletter, Berkeleyan, is entitled "Campus gears up for 'Year of Science 2009.'" What is not mentioned is the significant role that members of the UCMP have played in this national initiative. Read on …

In January 2006, a highly energetic workshop was held on the 5th floor of the Valley Life Sciences Building. A small NSF grant to the UCMP (co-PIs David Lindberg and Roy Caldwell) provided funds to bring together an eclectic group of people to discuss the growing concern about the state of science in America. There was clear recognition that current confusions about evolution, global warming, stem cell research, and other aspects of science deemed by some as "controversial" are symptomatic of a general misunderstanding of what science is and what it is not. The purpose of this workshop was to focus on strategies for addressing these concerns. In the Executive Summary of the Workshop, the seeds of a national initiative were planted: "Essential to the discussion was that public appreciation of science, the scientific process, and the impacts of scientific advancements on our quality of life is necessary for continued support of the national scientific enterprise. Participants focused on the need to re-engage the public in science, recognizing that the public sector is a diverse entity that cannot be characterized by a single set of descriptors and therefore cannot be positively engaged through a single effort or activity. Participants agreed that public engagement could best be achieved through a coordinated national campaign or set of programs that would, in the short term, celebrate science, and in the long term increase public engagement in and understanding of science."

COPUS
 
Margaret Mead quote
 
With additional funding from NSF to UCMP, conversations continued and expanded to include a broader spectrum of the science community. What has resulted is the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science — COPUS — a national grassroots initiative of universities, scientific societies, science centers and museums, government agencies, advocacy groups, media, schools, educators, businesses, and industry — basically, anyone who cares about science and is concerned about national scientific literacy. Its goals are to: (1) develop a shared appreciation of science and its contributions to the quality of life; (2) inform and engage the public in and about science, its process and nature; and (3) make science more accessible to everyone.

A primary activity of COPUS is the Year of Science 2009 — a national, year-long celebration of science. Anniversaries of many seminal events in the history of science have inspired this initiative for cross-disciplinary collaborations at multiple levels and among multiple stakeholders. The campus is now gearing up to participate … and it all started right here in Berkeley and at UCMP.

For more information on these initiatives, visit the COPUS website or contact Judy Scotchmoor, who continues to serve on the COPUS Steering Committee. And visit Understanding Science — a new resource being developed by the UCMP.