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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Royal Society's Public Understanding of Science Report (1985)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I've just been skimming through the Royal Society's 1985 report into the Public Understanding of Science. Just over twenty years since it was published, I have not got time to go through the detail with a fine-tooth comb and observe how many of its recommendations have been taken up. A couple of details I did pick up, however: the recommendation that all universities introduce some form of "general studies" to allow students to learn from experts from disciplines other than their main one; and the idea that all science PhDs should be required to produce a brief publicly accessible report into their research (such as a press release) as a requirement of graduating. Neither of these proposals have been taken up directly across Higher Education. However, the key buzzword of academia today is very definitely interdisciplinarity, bringing together ideas and academics from different departments (even different faculties); in relation to the second point, the UK Grad programme includes training on writing press releases and publicising research. Whether these are a result of the Royal Society's influence, I don't know, but I expect the report contributed towards the atmosphere of positive change.

As for the findings of the public understanding of science in relation to the media, the picture is more pessimistic. Take a look at these examples of Bad Science, and you will see that fundamentally things have not changed in two decades.

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Posted by Alistair at 3:11 pm


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