I like the junk food and parties associated with the SuperBowl – I’m just not invested in the game. The day before a Super Bowl party, I do a bit of research so I don’t sound like a complete idiot around those who know all kinds of fancy stats. As I get ready to learn a bit about this year’s game, I wondered if this is how some people approach science. Pick up a few facts but then go with your gut.
Because I don’t have the interest in American football, the stats can be overwhelming. I have no context so the information just goes in one ear and out the other. I’m not adverse to sports knowledge because I can rattle off hockey stats with the best of them. (If I’m honest, I can do the same with curling – yep, I’m probably sharing too much.)
I don’t really know the best places to go for information on American football so I just search for interesting articles. I have no idea if I’m looking at reliable information or just some crazy babbling. If it is easy to read and seems official, that’s good enough for me.
If I get to a Super Bowl party and someone starts ranting about how I’ve picked the wrong team, I try to make my way across the room. They will often start throwing lots of data at me to explain why my choice is wrong. I know they are excited but I don’t have the framework for all that information so it just sounds like gibberish. If someone is willing to have a conversation and build on what I know, I’m happy to learn. Different approaches make a difference. Learning about American football at a Super Bowl party may be too little, too late but I’m open to learning more; I don’t hate football, it just isn’t a priority.
Does the same thing happen with science communication? I’ve had people admit that they have googled a current controversy to learn a few factoids and/or get an opinion before they attend an event where a science topic may be discussed. it may not be their favourite topic yet but they are willing to discuss the ideas.
We often bemoan that people aren’t interested in science and we can’t figure out why they don’t see the wonder. I understand that hockey (or curling) may not be the sport for others – so why do I want everyone to think science is cool?
One difference between sports and science: we generally don’t make large life decisions based on our sporting knowledge. For example, deciding whether or not to vaccinate your children can use input from science. Should we wait for people to find the information based on interest or should we try to generate the interest?
Of course, sports are generally more popular and accessible in regular society. Do we need to start televising science competitions? The comparison also made me wonder if we could have parties with junk food spreads and beer for science. What event could we celebrate?
What do you think? I don’t have answers but wanted to share my approach to last-minute cramming of a topic that is low priority for me.
Off to go learn about tomorrow’s Super Bowl. Steelers and Packers, right?
Note: one sad thing about being in Canada for the Super Bowl is that we don’t get to see the awesome ads.