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Communicating Science and Technology in the Public Interest
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nsb0099 Document Number: nsb0099
Author: National Science Board
Published: May 8, 2000
Keywords: communication, science and technology
Available Formats: HTML | PDF
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Abstract
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Science and technology are a ubiquitous presence in everyday life. The way we work, communicate with one another, stay healthy, and play are all profoundly influenced by the results of scientific inquiry. In such a world, increasing the public's understanding and appreciation of science and technology is of paramount importance.

The science and engineering community has always recognized this imperative. Yet it has not been as successful as it might be in encouraging communication of science and engineering knowledge and research results to a wider public audience. There are few incentives -- and in some cases, severe disincentives -- for scientists to make their own work or that of others accessible through popular literature or the broadcast media. Some scientists and engineers -- Carl Sagan and E. O. Wilson, for example -- have ignored or overcome these professional obstacles. Their popular work has been well received and broadly acclaimed, providing evidence of a public audience eager for well-written and understandable science.


Executive Summary
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In spring 1999, the National Science Board Committee on Communication and Outreach was established to provide guidance on the role that the Board and the Foundation should play in expanding public awareness of science and engineering and of NSF's mission in promoting discovery and the development of the Nation's human resource base The Committee was charged to:

  • Communicate the importance, challenges, and opportunities of science and engineering to policymakers and government leaders; and
  • Define the role that NSF should play in generating public appreciation and awareness of science and of the agency's mission to promote discovery and the development of the U.S. human resource base.

In the course of its deliberations, the Committee focused particularly on:

  • Defining the role the Board and NSF should play in generating public awareness of NSF's mission and of the contributions of science and engineering to society's well being;
  • Strengthening outreach efforts already underway by the NSF Director; and
  • Exploring the role the community should play in informing the public about the importance of science and engineering, and determining how NSF can support that role.

Science literacy, while related to the matter of the public's understanding of science, was not considered to be a primary focus of the Committee.


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