sarahkeenihan

National Science Week. It’s on!

In August 2014 on August 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

kirsti Nat Sci Wk selfie

Kirsti: It’s on people!

Although it’s officially National Science Week next week, things are hotting up right now. And for me, it’s going to be rather big relative to other years. For I admit that despite being a scientist and having science in my life every day….I hardly ever went to National Science Week events.

Really. Hardly ever.

Partly this was because I was swanning around remote tropical islands learning about ants (and beer), and then because I had two small children that didn’t make going out very amenable (I think I did go out a few times….) or because I was just too tired, or whatever. I couldn’t even tell you why for most years, but I do know that the islands I worked on didn’t have a National Science Week agenda.

But this year has got me thinking about why it’s important to even have a National Science Week. Not a day, like “National Tree Day”, or “Clean Up Australia Day”, “World Wetlands Day” even though I kinda think these days should be every day. No, we have a whole week of celebrating science.

Here’s why I think it’s important:

1. Questions and answers matter
We all start out as natural scientists; curious, in awe of the world around us. All of it. We ask questions from the moment we can talk and learn so so much in the first decade of our lives that it’s almost incomprehensible there’s more to learn once you leave school! But many people lose that capacity to ask questions. Or maybe it’s decreasing desire to ask questions….or both over time (for various reasons, don’t get me started). I think it is an essential human virtue – to continue asking questions, and find answers to them with a method we know has stood the test of time, ego, funding, politics and scepticism. A national week to remind us of this is good.

2. Gratitude for how we live
Without science, technology and engineering (including medical), we would not enjoy anything like the standards of living and life expectancies we do today in the western world. I am so incredibly grateful for this that, in my books anyway, a week of celebrating it doesn’t come close to the gratitude we should have!

3. Fun times!
There are a plethora of extraordinarily fun, adventurous, exciting, brain bending and joyful things that you can do with science, so this is your chance to do them! Anything!

4. Opportunities in education
Some schools (particularly primary schools) don’t do much science, if any. National Science Week therefore is THE most important week of their year! Where art and music get special teachers and often equipment and instruments, science is left to individual teachers with the confidence to do hands on experiments with meagre supplies. Even if it’s a video conference link up to open their eyes to what is possible, this week in the year can facilitate that.

5. Science needs women
Women are dropping out of our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) system after graduate research studies at alarming rates. Australia – and other countries – need a kick up the rear end to keep brilliant researchers of all types in work and ensure a well-informed, coherent and sustainable future. National Science Week reminds of us this too, and this year a Wikibomb about female scientists has done this in style.

So Happy National Science Week peeps.

Check out the website for an event near you and try and get to one of the amazing events around the country.

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