It’s been over a month now since I finished my Charity Insights internship with Sense About Science and amidst the hectic nature of freshers week and returning to university I have been reflecting on the experience.
Before my internship I was interested in the work done by SAS and I knew a lot – or at least I thought I did – about the interplay between science, society, politicians and the media. Since my internship I have come to realise that the issues and solutions are much more complex, but also much more interesting. This idea was always stewing in the back of my mind during my time at SAS and was really brought to the forefront when I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 2015 Sense About Science lecture: The Ugly Truth.
One major problem with politicians today is there is a huge lack of trust. People simply don’t believe their claims. The same issue can be applied to society more broadly, particularly media and advertisements. People know that when something seems too good to be true it probably is, but they don’t know what to do about it.
To address this Sense About Science set up the ask for evidence campaign, and in particular askforevidence.org to encourages the public to challenge unbelievable claims directly, asking those who make them to provide evidence which can then be scrutinised and evaluated. Since it’s launch less than a year ago askforevidence.org has seen over 1000 queries from frustrated members of the public seeking evidence from those who make extraordinary claims.
During my time at Sense About Science one of my main responsibilities has been running the Energy Panel and the Plant Science Panels and for me this has been some of the most interesting work. The panels are made up of experts in the respective fields, who have made themselves available to answer public questions. As part of my responsibilities I field questions from the public, choose the appropriate scientist to answer (in the case of the Plant Science Panel there are over 50 different specialists), then if necessary edit the answer to make it more readable, before publicising it.
So what is the point in getting scientists to answer public questions?
I first knew I wanted to apply for Charity Insights this summer around November 2014, I first knew I wanted to work at Sense About Science about 2 days later. And by Monday morning 3rd August 2015 I just really wanted to get going, to find out what exactly Sense About Science does and how I would fit in.
To give some background to Sense About Science are a “charitable trust that equips people to make sense of scientific and medical claims in public discussion“, pretty self-explanatory yes? well maybe not.
Part of the problem faced by scientists is that they are (often) not in touch with public opinion.