A Helping Of Science Along With Your Beer
Americans may be turning away from the hard sciences at universities, but they are increasingly showing up at “science cafes” in local bars and restaurants to listen to scientific talks over a drink or a meal, reports Barbara Liston of Reuters:
“The U.S. science cafe movement grew out of Cafe Scientifique in the United Kingdom. The first Cafe Scientifique popped up in Leeds in 1998 as a regularly scheduled event where all interested parties could participate in informal forums about the latest in science and technology.
Traditionally held in pubs and restaurants, the Cafe Scientifique would start as a short lecture, followed by a short break to re-fill glasses, and then an open discussion, according to the organization’s website.
The American movement of independent cafes is loosely organized at the sciencecafe.org website created by public broadcaster WGBH’s NOVA science program. Anyone with a venue, a speaker and a marketing plan can start one. On the sciencecafe.org website, an interactive map shows the location of cafes around the United States.
Edward Haddad, executive director of the Florida Academy of Sciences, said his hope for the cafes is to engage the public and generate excitement about the STEM fields that might filter down to the next generation.
‘My feeling is STEM begins at home, with students who are being brought up by parents or relatives who have some interest in science and may encourage them to do that,’ Haddad said.” (Read more here.)
What I find most interesting about this article is the contrast noted at the beginning: Americans are less and less likely to formally study science, even as they are flocking to more informal science forums like these cafes.
Does this suggest that the way science is taught in universities is turning off people who would otherwise be interested in the subject? Does it suggest that Americans are reluctant to engage in the rigorous academic study of science, but happy to hear an entertaining talk about science over a beer?
What do you think?