We Have Our Roots in Water

January 30th, 2013 - Posted in 2013, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

It has been a few years since ASTC’s award-winning magazine, Dimensions, last devoted an issue to a single science-based theme, like water. But, we were drawn to this topic for our January/February 2013 issue as we learned more about the 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation, and the UN’s decision to call upon its scientific and educational arm, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to lead the effort “because of the organization’s unique multidisciplinary approach which blends the natural and social sciences, education, culture, and communications.”

This blend that defines UNESCO is mirrored in the work of science centers and museums all around the world. Recognizing this, ASTC has formed a strong partnership with UNESCO during the past two years that has, in turn, given greater visibility to a wealth of activities within our field to help raise local awareness about sustainable development, youth empowerment, greater access for women to careers in science, and many more topics that are precisely the issues defined as UN global priorities.


Science as Child’s Play

November 29th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

Let me forewarn readers that the next few paragraphs are about science—real science, as defined by such terms as inductive reasoning, hypothesis testing, statistical analyses, and probabilistic modeling. Some people call this child’s play, and, in fact, it is precisely about child’s play that I am referring.

I was struck by an article in a recent edition of Science magazine (September 28, 2012; p. 1623) that discussed new studies concerning scientific thinking in young children. The thrust of the article is that, when even very young children think and learn, they employ intuitive processes that are directly analogous to the fundamentals of scientific inquiry. Children make detailed observations of their worlds, systematically formulating hypotheses, experimenting, analyzing, revising, and making decisions in essentially the same rigorous fashion that defines good science.

Discovery to Innovation: Faster than My Mother Could Accept

August 22nd, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

My mother, in her advanced age, used to justify some unhealthy habits of food and drink by remarking (only half-jokingly), “If we wait long enough, the scientists will disprove themselves, and our vices will be virtues.” In this simple remark, she was reflecting the quandary of her era: respect and enthusiasm, tinged with some skepticism, about the breathtaking pace of scientific achievements.

We still hold our scientists in high regard for their intelligence, curiosity, and determination. But we demand better communication. After all, we may never hope to fully comprehend the science of crippling diseases or the Higgs boson, but we know that fear arises when open communication with our scientists is lost and trust is broken. Science centers and museums help communicate the relevance of science and the excitement of discovery.

Remembering F. Sherwood Rowland

August 16th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

I would like to take this opportunity to comment on something both personal and professional. We recently lost a champion of scientific research, and for me a good friend, in F. Sherwood Rowland, Nobel Laureate, who, along with his colleagues Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen, showed us how chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, damage the Earth’s protective ozone layer. This is not a commentary, however, on the magnitude of Sherry Rowland’s work (though monumental it was, indeed). Rather, I reflect on the courage of those scientists who are prepared to jettison conventional wisdom, swim upstream, challenge notions—and bear the scars of that effort wherever it may lead.

Sherry once said that, for nearly a decade after undertaking his groundbreaking research, he could not get invited into a college classroom to lecture, much less excel among his peers. He was challenged at every turn. And yet, through scientific rigor and sheer perseverance, his work was translated from the laboratory into policy in one of the most progressive international measures ever envisioned: the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

No Bad Questions

May 29th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

“There are no bad questions, only bad answers.”

Implicit in this well-worn expression is the purity of inquiry, the virtue of asking, and the excitement of self-initiated discovery.

The adage comes to mind as I reflect on an interesting workshop on inquiry-based learning (IBL) that convened just prior to the start of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting, held in February in Vancouver, Canada. My thanks to AAAS and to Science World British Columbia, TELUS World of Science (our ASTC-member science center in Vancouver) for organizing and hosting this workshop. (more…)

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