July 1, 2007


AIBS began work last year with other organizations—primarily the Arizona Geological Survey, the American Institute of Physics, the Geological Society of America, the National Science Teachers Association, and the University of California Museum of Paleontology—to launch the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) and Year of Science 2009. The projects continue to develop quickly and were discussed with the AIBS Council last May. Both are dedicated—COPUS as an ongoing network and Year of Science 2009 as a 12-month-long set of activities—to the proposition that a general public with an understanding and appreciation of the nature of science is a prerequisite for a skilled workforce able to compete in a knowledge-based global economy, to make informed decisions about relative risks such as medical treatments and other quality-of-life factors, and to engage in public policy discussions involving science and technology. An insufficient understanding of science leads to exclusion from much of the discourse of modern society, an inability to distinguish science from nonscience, and a vulnerability to special interests attempting to influence public perceptions of science in their favor.

Sixty organizations have signed up so far for COPUS and Year of Science 2009. In addition to a number of AIBS member societies, as well as those of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the participating organizations include the National Academy of Sciences, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the American Sociological Association, the American Geological Institute, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the Association for Astronomy Education—plus numerous museums, university departments, science centers, Café Scientifique chapters, and cultural organizations such as the Student Pugwash association and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.

AIBS Immediate Past-President Kent Holsinger (University of Connecticut) reports, “UConn’s Provost just asked me to serve as the university-level coordinator for Year of Science 2009 activities, which will involve the main campus [Storrs], the regional campuses [Avery Point, Hartford, Stamford, Torrington, and Waterbury], the medical school, and (possibly) the law school. He’s directed our vice provost for research and graduate education [Greg Anderson] to provide additional funds to support interdisciplinary colloquia and other programs and to provide some staff support to help with coordination of UConn’s activities.”

At these early stages, many of the project activities are driven by the COPUS Web site, www.copusproject.org, and its subsection www.yearofscience2009.org. All interested organizations are invited to apply to join. The Web site features include a searchable database of participating organizations’ events and programs for promoting the public understanding of science, as well as online collaboration tools (for posting messages, sharing ideas and experiences, group chats, uploading documents, etc.).
For further information, contact Sheri Potter by e-mail: spotter@aibs.org.

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