About the event
This day, initiated by UNESCO, aims to highlight how science connects to wider social and cultural issues. First held in 2002, it seeks to encourage links between the scientific community and the general public, showing how science can be a powerful force for good when fully integrated into wider society. Key themes explored today are scientific literacy, scientific communication and the role of science in sustainability and sustainable development. The day is observed by NGOs, universities, schools and scientific institutions around the world. The official objectives of the day are:
- To strengthen public awareness on the role of science for peaceful and sustainable societies
- To promote national and international solidarity for a shared science between countries
- To renew national and international commitment for the use of science for the benefit of societies
- To draw attention to the challenges faced by science and raise support for the scientific endeavour.
How to approach it
The two key things to reinforce today are an understanding of science itself and how it interacts with wider society. The first aspect of this should be fairly straightforward. First, ask students what science means to them. Some good things to explore here are the scientific method, experimentation, data collection and the outcomes of science namely scientific theories and technological developments.
Next, help to draw out all of the connections between science and other aspects of life. Good initial examples might be the impact (good and bad) of technology, medicine, energy, or engineering. Be sure to highlight that the interactions between science and society go both ways. For example, scientific researchers are influenced by the promise of profits to conduct certain research. On the other hand, the theories of evolution and of general relativity have had profound impacts on the way societies see themselves. Finally, ask: what positive effects does science have on our lives? What negative effects does it have?
The key here is to show that science has an important influence on our lives and that it's important to understand and to use it in a positive way. Round up this discussion by asking your class what good science looks like. Ask: how can we use science to best improve our world? What problems can it help solve? What makes a good responsible scientist?
Science has made discoveries that have saved and improved many people's lives, but it has also been used for harm. How many examples can you think of for both? What are some ways we can try to make sure science is used for good and not to cause harm?