I finally found time to finish this. This is the second to last installment, covering the panel discussion about things everyone should know about science, held at SciBarCamp. The last one is already written and is just a brief summary, so that it can stand alone.
Make sure to read the other parts first if you’re wondering what this is about.
Step 7: Panel discussion
I was assigned a slot in the morning program of the second day of SciBarCamp, and I had planned to hold a discussion about the things people wrote on the poster. Because I thought it would be too chaotic to talk about everything on there, I had summarized the sentences on the poster into nine statements, as described in step 6.
To facilitate the discussion, I decided to make it a forum discussion rather than a discussion with everyone at once. A few people had talked to me about the poster and the session the previous day, and thinking back on these conversations I selected three people from that group as panelists and gave them each three slips of paper that contained one of the nine statements I ended up with after step 6. I picked people with different backgrounds so they would bring different things to the table.Because I did all this at 3 AM, I couldn’t ask them earlier than Sunday morning, but luckily all three of them arrived before my session and agreed to be a panelist,
Because I did all this at 3 AM, I couldn’t ask them earlier than Sunday morning, but luckily all three of them arrived before my session and agreed to be a panelist, so I could give them some time to read the three statements I gave them. (It probably ended up looking quite organized from the audience’s point of view, not knowing that I pounced on these poor people only minutes earlier…)
These were my three panelists and the three statements that were in their envelopes:
- Science has all the answers
- The practice of science is independent
- Everyone should be aware of some basic scientific facts and principles that are undisputed in the scientific community
- Science does not have all the answers
- There isn’t one kind of science
- Some misunderstandings about science are caused by linguistic limitations
- Anyone can do science
- Practicing science is a human activity
- Observations and perception are not independent of the observer
I first asked all the panelists to read the statements I gave them and briefly say if they did or didn’t agree with them. For example, Ana refined “anyone can do science”, pointing out that even though anyone has the chance to do science, there is still a need for experts within various fields. And Larry didn’t agree with “science has all the answers” and wanted to keep the “scientific facts” statement as a separate discussion.
After all three panelists had had their say, the audience joined in the discussion.
Step 8: Discussion with the audience
“Audience” is not a good word here, because it was a discussion and many people participated. By “audience” I just mean the people who were facing the panelists and me. (I’m reminded of one of my high school teachers, who once pointed out that what made him different than us was the fact that his desk was facing the other way.)
That being said, the “audience” was awesome. They raised their hands like eager Hermione Grangers and I had trouble figuring out who was first and making sure quieter people had a chance to speak up. A lot of the comments were addressed to things the panelists had said earlier, or were about the poster/session in general. Some heated discussion about morals and knowledge was hard to moderate, but in general I think about 15 different people managed to contribute to the overall discussion.
I couldn’t take notes while moderating and my brain was too overloaded to remember much, but several people blogged about the session afterwards (see next step) so I’ll just refer you to that for more content.
What I did write down was the conclusion of the discussion. Since my original question was “What should everyone know about science?” it would be nice to have some sort of answer – something that could be summarized as “Most attendees of SciBarCamp agreed that everyone should know that…”
During the conversations people kept bringing up “the process of science” (as opposed to a body of knowledge) and out of the nine statements that were discussed the ones with the most following and least disagreement were “science is a human activity” and “science doesn’t have all the answers.”
Step 9: Discussion on blogs afterward
After SciBarCamp, several people blogged about the whole weekend or parts of it.