Why science gets the reputation it deserves Pt 1This year’s Blue Monday celebrations – the symbolically most depressing day of the year on Monday January 24th – is marking the launch of a new campaign, BLUE Science, to tackle the problem of scientific illiteracy by defining the problem as getting ‘science understanding of the public’.
The campaign aims to encourage non-scientists to become better consumers of science, junk science and pseudo science to avoid their being commercially or politically exploited by encouraging scientists to become better communicators.
The initiative stands for Better Learning Understanding and Education of Science and unlike other initiatives seeking to achieve public understanding of science – this new campaign will work from outside of the scientific community.
It argues that some of the causes of misunderstanding of science are actually caused by the way scientists think, act and re-act. By coming at the issue as non-scientists it aims to tackle ‘bilateral scientific illiteracy’ – an ignorance endured by one side of the divide and partly manufactured by the scientific world.
Despite growth in technology and science a number of indicators are highlighting a growth in scientific illiteracy with people knowing less about science with trends, such as less media coverage on science making the situation worse.
With the need for greater understanding of issues such as global warming and climate change, expanded use of nuclear power, and concerns on the use of genetically modified there has never been a greater need for the public to have a basic understanding of the science around them.
Yet, we have a classic chicken and egg conundrum to this problem. Scientists have the knowledge, the understanding of scientific processes, which need to be explained to the wider world. They own the treasure but not solution to how you get other people to understand and engage with where necessary. The paradox is that the very skills that equip scientists to gain greater scientific knowledge provide barriers to connecting with the outside world.
There is a need for non-scientists to take more of a lead in building the bridges between the outside world and science. We cannot just rely on the scientific community to make this happen.
Blue Science campaigners are calling for:
- More centres of learning to provide the equivalent of fast food of learning for adults on key scientific issues for non-scientists.
- More pro-active efforts from the communications industry to tackle the issue of scientific illiteracy.
- Scientists to recognise their discipline of rational, logical scientific thought can be a barrier in dealing in a world governed by perceptions, emotions, story telling and easily passed-on messages. By recognising this, rather than blame the communication failure on others, it makes a start to address the problem.
- The need to for members of the scientific community to treat with respect and courtesy those who may have different views form theirs.
- Focus efforts on responding to bad science on critical issues affecting humankind, lives, or commercial exploitation, rather than trivial scientific stories in the media – which readers probably do not believe anyway.
The campaign is looking to get established during the year ahead with a series of events, white papers, campaign web site, and projects culminating in a BLUE Science Day to play its part in tackling scientific illiteracy.
The first of the campaign white papers – ‘Why Science gets the reputation it deserves because of the way scientists think, act and re-act’ by Andy Green will be available on Blue Monday, January 24th 2011 from http://www.beatbluemonday.org.uk/ or www.andygreencreativity.com
Anyone interested in developing the work of BLUE Science should contact the campaign at www.beatbluemonday.org.uk
Marking the now traditional Blue Monday celebrations, support is being offered to help people overcome what is labelled ‘the most depressing day of the year’ – Blue Monday on Monday January 24th – with activities to turn it into a day of ‘binge happiness’ – and also raise funds for mental health charities.
The combination of continued bad weather, unpaid bills, broken resolutions, coupled with the economic downturn, make this potentially one of the worst Blue Mondays ever.
A special campaign web site, www.beatbluemonday.org.uk is offering practical advice to tackle the effects of Blue Monday, the symbolic date for the low point in the year.
Campaigners are aiming to reduce stigma associated with depression by talking about it and using the day as a springboard to improve quality of life by promoting and encouraging more happiness.
Blue Monday has evolved from an idea originally conceived by Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, who created a mathematical formula to identify a number of the elements contributing to a general feeling of mid winter blues.
Advice for making you feel better during Blue Monday includes keep active, eat well, keep in touch with friends and family, care for others, do something you are good at, ask for help, accept who you are, talk about your feelings, take a break and drink sensibly.
Further help is available from the Mental Health Foundation who have produced a guide ‘How to look after your mental health’ available from www.mentalhealth.org.uk
The Blue Monday site is also promoting what it calls a ‘5 stage Binge Happiness Work-Out’ programme to help people to make themselves happier.
The ‘Beat Blue Monday’ campaign has been developed through my work with the Flexible Thinking Forum, a not-for-profit organisation promoting flexible and creative thinking skills in business and the community with the support of my PR business GREEN communications.
Visit www.beatbluemonday.org.uk for more details about how to overcome ‘Blue Monday’ and how you can do your bit to help charities. The public is also being urged to submit their own creative ideas for beating the January blues to the website.
Blue Monday may symbolically be the year’s most depressing day, but it doesn’t have to be. By making the most of potential opportunities around us we can transform it into a springboard for a positive happy day – even a time for binge happiness. Blue Monday is also a time to think of others worse off and do something positive to help.
Notes to Editors
Cliff Arnall is a former researcher, lecturer and post graduate tutor at the Medical and Dental School of Cardiff University. He has worked in the NHS helping people with depression and addictive behaviour. He also runs courses and gives talks for organisations on stress and anger management, happiness, understanding depression and the psychology of success.
Cliff Arnall devised the following mathematical formula:
[W + (D-d)] x TQ
M x Na
The model was broken down using six immediately identifiable factors; weather (W), debt (d), time since Christmas (T), time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low motivational levels (M) and the feeling of a need to take action (Na).
The formula inspired the idea for Blue Monday which this year falls on Monday January 24th as the worst day of the year, when the Christmas glow has faded away, New Year’s resolutions have been broken, cold Winter weather has set in and credit card bills will be landing on doormats across the land – and the January pay-cheque seems some way away.
Blue Monday – Happiness Work Out
The 5 Step ‘Binge Happiness Work Out’ consists of:
Step 1 – write down four things over the last week which make you feel grateful. Then write and recapture how you felt about one of the best experiences or thing to happen to you in your life.
Step 2 – write about something good you have done for someone else.
Step 3 – write a short email or letter to someone who you like or care for. Why not tell them how good they are and why they are important to you?
Step 4 – make a list of your favourite places you have visited, or places you would like to go. Really imagine you are there.
Step 5 – write about your future where everything has gone as well as you have hoped. Also, think about the present, and make a note of four things that went really well for you during the last week.
In a psychological study by Laura King of Southern Methodist University it demonstrated the positive benefits of writing about their positive future. (L.A.King (2001) ‘The health benefits of writing about life goals’ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (p798-807))