Carleton Professors Sarah Meerts (Psychology and Neuroscience) and Rika Anderson (Biology), along with Laura Listenberger, a Biology professor at St. Olaf, were recently awarded a Broom Public Scholarship Project Grant for their new project, Conversations on the Wonders of Science (COWS).
In a society increasingly inundated with misinformation about scientific issues, there is a need for research scientists to engage with the general public to share the importance of science and spread excitement about scientific discoveries. With their COWS project Professors Meerts, Anderson, and Listenberger will partner to engage the greater Northfield community in a monthly community conversation about science. Using a multidisciplinary focus, a variety of fascinating scientific issues will be examined within the context of daily life, society, and political decisions. These conversations also aim to inspire the community, and particularly young people in the community, by seeing diversity in the sciences.
Conversations will occur once a month at the Hideaway in downtown Northfield, and are open to everyone. Each month, a scientist will give a short, engaging presentation that is intended to spark lively discussion and create an informal, dynamic atmosphere that encourages all participants to feel comfortable asking questions or volunteering ideas. Through these discussions, scientists will gain familiarity with different perspectives, learn to describe their research in accessible language, develop civic engagement skills, and learn how to make their work relevant to and accessible to a non-scientific audience. Eventually, students at both St. Olaf and Carleton will have the opportunity to lead conversations, giving them a chance to practice science communication. The public will also benefit by taking part in a dialogue about the impact of science on daily life, and potentially learning about scientific concepts that may lead to more informed decisions in their daily lives, whether it be in making voting decisions, business decisions, or sharing information with others.
COWS will continue through the summer of 2017. The next event will be June 13th.
In addition to the Broom Public Scholarship Project Grant, this initiative has received funding from Carleton College’s Puzak Fund and St. Olaf College.