3.51 It is important that children do not
grow up frightened of science and technology. Therefore a vital
point of collaboration between the public, the media and the scientific
community must lie in primary and secondary schools. In the past,
this has been patchy, and often neglected in primary schools.
In particular, for most of the 20th century science and technology
were regarded as a male world, and girls and women were often
excluded from good science teaching.
3.52 Half the adult population is female.
Mothers and grandmothers often lack interest and knowledge in
these areas, and indeed often express fear and ignorance. This
leads children, and especially girls, to adopt these attitudes
too. Everything done to interest men in these areas needs considerably
more effort to interest women in general. There are of course
now far more women scientists, technologists and engineers than
there used to be, and their help needs to be engaged to show how
natural and attractive it can be for women, as well as men, to
be interested and knowledgeable about science.
3.53 Improving women's understanding will
have a disproportionate effect in putting the subject across to
the general public. Women may already share public anxieties in
areas such as the environment and family life more deeply than
men; and they are usually the purchasers of food and household
equipment, so will give a clearer picture than men of what the
market will stand.
3.54 It is therefore worthwhile persevering
in the general field of adult education to interest and inform
women in science and technology. It is of great importance of
course to both their home safety and possible promotion in their
jobs, but also they can influence their families knowledgeably.
3.55 Dame Bridget Ogilvie, Chairman of COPUS,
referred to COPUS's very successful initiative of giving grants
to the Federation of Women's Institutes over a period of six years.
She said "That is because it has a community of about a quarter
of a million people - representing, I suppose, a lot more than
that - and now the activity is sufficiently embedded within that
general public organisation, the organisation itself is seeking
grants from COPUS and elsewhere" (Q 140). The Women's Institutes
now run a large range and number of courses to give women a wide
understanding of science.
3.56 The evidence of the Engineering Council
(p 286) shows the breadth of its work in this area with the
WISE (Women Into Science and Engineering) vehicles, enabling tens
of thousands of school girls to have hands-on experience of science
and technology in practical and interesting ways. Also women engineers
take an active part in its Neighbourhood Engineers Programme.
Both these schemes have been successful in encouraging girls to
continue and expand their study of science and technology.
3.57 These initiatives often need comparatively
modest financial backing if they are to continue. We recommend
that the Government should continue to earmark funds for special
initiatives to improve women's understanding of science.
3.58 It will be seen that efforts to improve
relationships between science and society take many forms, and
that much excellent work is being done in this area - indeed,
better work in this country than in many others. The large current
investment in science centres is a new and wholly welcome development,
which must be consolidated as we recommend above.
3.59 However, it is clear that there is
a new mood for dialogue and debate, to which existing institutions
must respond and in many cases are already responding, as noted
above. In particular, the relaunch of COPUSor whatever
it is now to be calledis well timed, and will enable the
leaders of the scientific community to give their efforts in this
area a new thrust.
26 See note 7 above. Back
Referred to in academic parlance as the "deficit model". Back
Royal Society Anniversary Address 1999. Back
Dr Lane speaking on 29 September 1999. Back
NERC grantholders are not asked for an annual report; but NERC
requests yearly information on Output and Performance Measures,
including information on outreach activities. Back
EPSRC has a large Pupil Researcher Initiative involving schools,
run by Sheffield Hallam University. Back
PPARC employs two Schools Officers, one for astronomy and one
for particle physics. Back
A possible model for this is the Higher Education Reach Out Fund,
established by the HEFCE in 1999 to enhance interaction between
higher education and business, with funds from the DfEE and the
Appendix 4 includes an account of the Science Shop run by the
Technical University of Denmark. Back
The lead here was given by the Bristol Exploratory, the United
Kingdom's first hands-on science centre. The Exploratory has closed
as part of the development of @Bristol, which will incorporate
many of its exhibits. Professor Richard Gregory, former director
of the Exploratory, is now chairman of @Bristol's science advisory
board. We saw an outstanding assembly of hands-on science displays
at the Experimentarium in Copenhagen: see Appendix 4. Back
We also received evidence from the Satrosphere Interactive Science
Centre in Aberdeen (p 397). Back