Toast of NASA


My colleague Martin Griffiths and I are rather plased that we’ve just become the toast of NASA

We’re both members of the NASA Astrobiology Science Communication committee, and the Chair of the committee, Carol Oliver, Assistant Director of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology , is rather chuffed with our new BSc Astrobiology (about to be validated, hopefully).

Here’s what Carol wrote to the rest of the committee, which, btw, includes the likes of Richard Dawkins :

I have just completed an external review of what I believe is a world first in the communication of astrobiology at least at BSc level, – and it has come from two of our members, Professor Mark Brake and Martin Griffiths at the Centre for Astronomy and Education at the University of Glamorgan. It is a BSc in Astrobiology?? and a MSc Communicating Science aimed squarely at our future science communicators.?? CASE has a good track record of innovative activities in this regard, and I congratulate them both on a job well done. Our group gets a prominent mention in the foundation of the validation process of this degree.

What I would also like to share with you is part of Mark’s letter to me (and Mark I hope you don’t mind my boldness in sharing such good insights/perspectives!) I hope you find it of interest in ways appropriate to your expertises, as I have.

’We heartily agree with your telling assessment of astrobiology as an engaging vehicle for science.?? Yes, astrobiology is a science unfolding in front of us, potentially providing real public insight into the way science is practised and received.?? It is also a superb crossroads of scientific disciplines including astronomy, biology, astrophysics, planetary science, and the ICT and robotic technology associated with the remote exploration of space.
Astrobiology is replete with cultural and societal issues too, not the least of which is the influence that science fiction has brought to bear on the public imagination.?? It is therefore important that we continue some of our public communication work in this vain, and try to encourage students to engage in best practice in the communication of astrobiology.?? (Your reporting of the work of Rick Chappell, Jim Hartz and Rick Borchelt will be very pertinent here; it will be particularly instructive to read about the nuance and subtlety of how to deal with a rich diversity of publics).?? We have developed science communication sessions in which students conduct seminars in order to critically and imaginatively communicate the nature and evolution of the extraterrestrial debate. Students are trained in the best methods of science communication, illustrating how cultural forms such as science fiction are often unconscious and therefore particularly valuable reflections of the assumptions and attitudes held by society.?? By virtue of its ability to project and dramatise, science fiction has been a particularly effective, and perhaps for many people the only, means for generating concern and thought about the social, philosophical and moral consequences of scientific progress.?? And no subject captures the public???s scientific imagination more than astrobiology.’

One comment


    April 2, 2005

    On the Science Communication front, I was surprised to see that my old Uni, Imperial College, is launching an MSc in Creative Writing.

    That is, until I saw it’s Creative Non-Fiction Writing.

    Now there’s a funky idea…

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