In his critique of the language of science as a “language under stress”, Roald Hoffmann, 1981 Chemistry Nobel laureate, exposes many of the problems faced when reading papers in chemistry journals. In Science, Language and Poetry, he describes the way that the language and style of chemistry publications mask the historical sequence of events described, and expose the tensions within the subject, for instance between experimentalists and theorists, authors and readers and academics and industrial chemists. For “chemistry” read “any other branch of science” and the importance of Hoffmann’s message is paramount in understanding how scientists communicate with each other.
In our last issue (January 2002), we published extracts from a report by Dominique Lecourt on proposals to teach philosophy of science to all university students in France. In her paper in this issue, Marie-Geneviève Séré proposes that such teaching should be augmented by laboratory work concentrating on methodological and philosophical issues. Classes would be given by researchers within each university, who would involve the students in their own work. Not only would this enhance the student’s understanding of experimentation, but also perhaps the researcher’s understanding as well!
More and more scientists are being encouraged to engage with the public about their work. All the different interest groups – journalists, scientists, citizens and politicians – have their parts to play. In The Future of Science Communication Wolfgang Goede, science news editor at P.M. magazine, maps out the future pattern of this trend and its importance for society.
A practical application of scientists and interest groups working together in a positive way is promoted by Ida-Elisabeth Andersen and Birgit Jaeger. In Danish Participatory Models they describe a method of opening lines of communication between policy-makers, experts and ordinary citizens, which has been successfully applied in many countries around the world. There are many issues of public importance where the underlying science is marginalized in favour of screaming headlines and obfuscation – Andersen and Jaeger show us that there is a better way.
Science, Language and Poetry, Roald Hoffmann
Teaching Philosophy of Science in France. Which type of didactical strategy? Marie-Geneviève Séré
The Future of Science Communication, Wolfgang C. Goede
Danish Participatory Models, Ida-Elisabeth Andersen and Birgit Jaeger