How can we break down the perceived ivory tower of science and let the public feel they are part of the process? Well ASC NSW believes it is beginning to do all of this through a STAP grant of $3000 it received for its Science in the Pub initiative.
Science in the Pub, a concept unashamedly stolen from the Politics in the Pub, is where prominent identities in science have an opportunity to explain their ideas and debate them with Joe Blow all over a few foaming ales or six. The idea is to create a relaxed, informal atmosphere where everyone will feel they are really participating in the debate.
Sounds like a good idea? Well the DIST must have thought so - it was DIST that coughed up the $3,000 grant to get the ball rolling for National Science Week last May. After a couple of test runs in February and March with speakers Wild Paul Taçon of Jimnium fame as first cab off the rank, and Charlie Lineweaver and ABC religious broadcaster, John Cleary looking at God and the Big Bang as the second, we staged three highly entertaining sessions for National Science Week.
Topics were selected from those we voted 'popular' and speakers to match were selected from scientists known for their communication - and drinking - skills. Compere Paul Willis ensured lively discussion, spiced with the odd throw-away line and quip.
The first National Science Week session brought starry-eyed Joss Bland-Hawthorn and Mark Walker together to seek out Dark Matter-the stuff that holds the Universe together. The second had 'Unsung Hero Award for Science' winner, Carolyn Mountford sorting out road blocks in the path of cancer research with nurse-educator, Jan Forbes and the final session asked whether anyone cared that frogs are dying. This last session starred Professor Michael Tyler who sparred with environmental adviser, Arthur White.
The quintessential Aussie pub was selected for its proximity to Sydney's CBD and intimate and relaxed ambience. We easily filled the pub with an audience hovering between a comfortable 80 and a not-so-comfortable 100. Feedback tells us we have hit a winner and Science in the Pub will continue as a monthly feature.
Robyn Stutchbury Science in the Pub co-ordinator 27 July, 1998
Science in the Pub, © 2000. Stutchbury, R, Burton, M.