Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Faces of Science - A Call to Action

Thank you all for the amazing support and encouragement with this project. I have received some fantastic emails and comments in the last few days. It is a great feeling to see a project come to fruition.

After some thought, I believe I will take this project in two directions. First, a sort of mini-expose on young scientists that can be shared on this blog. Every so often, I will highlight a young (or young-at-heart) scientist at whatever point in their career with what their life is like. So this is a solicitation to all you amazing and interesting people to share your story with me. Please comment, twitter, email or send up smoke signals letting me know you would be happy to put a mini-bio of yourself on the website. We can do a questionnaire, get some photos and some good stories and share your life and experience as a scientist to the world. We want the rest of society to know we are real people with awesome hobbies, families, adventures and personalities.

I particularly want this to be as real as possible, so even if you think you don't qualify because you are not a professional hockey player on the side (I'm not sure how that would work) or if your blog on heavy metal music only reaches 2-3 people a week, tell me about it! Tell me about wanting to be a scientist as a kid (or if you didn't, how did you end up here?). Who did you idolise? Did you have a poster of Uhura up in your bedroom until you were 28? Is your significant other a scientist? How did you meet? What do you listen to while you do research? Do the lyrics from Paradise City somehow find their way into your code? (Oh, just me then? Okay.) You get the idea. So please, get in touch!

Now, the second aspect to this project is a bit more ambitious, but there seems to be a lot of support and resources for this. I would like to do a photography exhibition along the same lines. I would like to show the faces behind the science, from the past to the present (and twirling...twirling into the future!). This is obviously much more long term, but I would also like opinions and suggestions for this. I think it would be interesting to have some non-science information about famous figures; what were their spouses like? Did they go to social events? Did they like music? Obviously, the further back we go, the harder this information is to obtain, but it could be a journey through history, showing the diverse backgrounds of scientists. It is important to convey to the public that us scientists come from all sorts of histories and specialities, through time. It would be especially effective if through the exhibit, the stories and the diversity exploded as we got closer to 'modern' times. It could have great potential to really inspire kids that anyone could be a scientist.

You know how parents sometimes tell their kids that "Einstein wasn't very good at maths at school either" [which isn't true, but you know what I mean] to try to encourage them to stick with it? Well, wouldn't it be much more effective if there was a widely-held belief that, actually, most scientists struggle at first, and it does not come easy to all of us, but if you like it and you want to do it, you should be able to. Kids want to be rock stars and presidents, why can't being a scientist seem just as cool and easy? After all, it's the motivation that got us all started, right?

Scientists would have much more of a priority in politics and government if funding was not seen as a burdensome obligation, but instead as an easy way to secure the future of the country and the prospects of future generations. Imagine if, instead of the one geeky kid (probably you or me or whoever else is reading this) who sheepishly says they kind of want to be a scientist when they grow up, most kids were able to say this proudly and without hesitation. If it was given the same regard and respect as politicians or musicians, we could really change the world.

Bring it on!
New website for The Faces of Science: http://facesofscience.blogspot.com/ Enjoy!

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