academics & research

Students begin science blog to educate the public



Science has something to say. From the future climate of the planet to the health of newborn babies, a group of students at IU is using a new platform to tell the public what science has to say.

A new student-run blog, ScIU, allows graduate students to educate the public on topics in science to communicate the role science has in society.

Jo Anne Tracy, assistant dean of research and director of science outreach for the College of Arts and Sciences, initiated the idea of ScIU.

“Everything that we take for granted in our comfortable lives is because of science,” Tracy said.

ScIU hopes to teach people about scientific findings, whether they’re environmental research or psychological studies, Tracy said.

Teaching people to think critically about information will help address scientific illiteracy, Tracy said.

A scientific approach to information can instill critical thinking, Tracy said.

“There’s a healthy skepticism that goes with even understanding basic science,” Tracy said.

The conversation between scientists and the public would teach people why science is important and also create a common understanding between people, Tracy said.

“You worry about society becoming so fractured with the politics going on,” Tracy said. “Part of it is this desire to heal some of these wounds.”

Science writing also opens up students to alternate career choices, Tracy said. Writing gives them a medium for scientific advocacy or other policy-related activities.

“Some of them are very passionate about science policy and how the government supports and funds science,” Tracy said.

Tracy pitched the idea of a science blog to graduate students in various science departments last year.

More than 50 students showed interest, and some of them formed a clear vision for the blog, Tracy said.

Undergraduates are the blog’s target audience and it aims to promote the research going on at IU, Tracy said.

The first post, titled “What is science, really?” by biology Ph.D. student Fábio Mendes, was posted in August.

The students ensure writing quality through a publishing process with editors from different disciplines, Tracy said.

Though all current writers are graduate students, the blog is still determining whether undergraduates and other scientists at IU can write, Tracy said.

“We’re definitely recruiting writers, so really anybody is welcome,” Tracy said.

Ed Basom, Ph.D. student in chemistry, helped with a group of students to get the blog started.

Basom wrote about science fiction and fantasy as a hobby during his undergraduate years, and now he contributes to the ScIU blog as a writer and managing editor.

“It took quite a lot of effort,” Basom said. “We had nothing to start with, so we had to make all the procedures ourselves.”

ScIU lets people understand what science means for them, Tracy said.

“Science is here for you,” Tracy said. “We really need to know what you need from us to help you make more informed decisions in your life.”

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