‘Science and Society’ underlies Challenges28/05/2013
When the National Science Challenges were announced in early May 2013, a panel of experts put forward another mission: to promote good science practice in New Zealand at a wider level.
The extra challenge, which remains largely incognito at this point, has been named the Science and Society leadership challenge and aims to make science a core component of New Zealand’s future.
One Wellington science student has high hopes for the initiative.
Elf Eldridge is a physics PhD student at the MacDiarmid Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials in Wellington.
He was a member of the panel who worked on collating the Challenges and is excited about the potential for the Science and Society challenge.
“As an emerging scientist, I’m thrilled to see this particular challenge acknowledge science as a core component of our society as a whole,” he says.
Elf says the panel was unanimous in their support for the challenge, which underlies the others.
“While the other Challenges are moving ahead quickly, this one is quite different. It’s not as simple to define and requires collaboration with the New Zealand science community,” he says.
“In order to succeed, the Science and Society challenge will need to clearly illustrate the role science needs to play in New Zealand’s future. Understanding this and communicating this role is crucial in ensuring the other challenges are met.”
As an example, he cites the ‘Deep South Challenge’ which aims to explore the Antarctic, the Southern Ocean, and climate change issues.
“You just can’t expect to understand something as complicated and wonderful as the ocean and climate without the talented scientists to do the work,” he says. “We need to make New Zealand a place where people come to do great science.”
As a PhD student, Elf feels some of his responsibilities lie in community outreach work. He operates telescopes at the Carter Observatory and is a member of the Royal Society’s Wellington branch, among other organisations. He also keeps a blog: ‘Just So Science.’
“We need to make sure science is at the forefront of our thinking. It’s unequivocally important to our country, socially and politically.”
Science teachers play an important in this this challenge, too, in inspiring students to explore problems and look closely at their world.
“Many of our science teachers are brilliant, they really know what they’re doing. As a grad student, I constantly hear that all over the world, people are looking for good-quality science teachers.”
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