Why Science Matters

Frederic Bertley
Frederic Bertley

We live in an era that is completely dependent on science and technology. Whether it is the foods we eat, clothes we wear, navigation devices we depend on, medicines we take or the myriad of communication tools we use, as a modern-day society, we are swimming in the outgrowths of science and engineering.

But despite our ever-growing dependence on science and technology—not to mention the increasing career diversity and employment opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM)—there is a pernicious growing science illiteracy in our nation.

This is not just an academic matter, but a practical one as well. The paucity of science literacy leads to, for example, a lack of engagement around climate change, poor vaccination choices and even multi-drug-resistant superbugs. In short, science illiteracy can precipitate real problems that significantly impact all of us.

This is where science institutions and scientist-communicators play a critical role. We need to break down some of the barriers by making the subject engaging, accessible and even fun. As a science institution, COSI does this through state-of-the-art exhibits, educational outreach, adult programming and innovative engagement concepts, but we also want to reach people beyond our four walls to promote science in the community.

One opportunity is capitalizing on the growing national trend of science festivals, which are an interactive way to engage communities and meet people where they live, learn and lounge. Events such as these, among other things, can show people just how exciting, interesting, fun and accessible science is to all of us and how it is relevant to our daily lives. That is why we are bringing the COSI Science Festival to Central Ohio on May 1-4, 2019.

We are working with organizations throughout the region to showcase some of the amazing science and technology innovation happening in our own backyard. With more than 65 events, people will be able to directly interact with STEM organizations, scientists, engineers and technology folks like never before, as well as access their respective research and expertise through hands-on activities. The long-term goal of this annual event is to demystify science for Central Ohio and transform our community, simply and permanently.

We already have witnessed great enthusiasm around our American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery. This affiliation has helped us inspire new partnerships and further our commitment to enrich public understanding of and excitement around science. Through the exhibit, we have seen many budding scientists who now want to grow up to become paleontologists. More than that, however, the excitement around dinosaurs spills over to the rest of their engagement with the larger world of science. They expand their curiosity, and it inspires them to want to know more.

Science and technology are now omnipresent. Unfortunately, so is science illiteracy. It is our hope that COSI, as well as public-facing scientists and engineers, will engage, inspire and transform lives and communities by communicating in fun and dynamic ways, as well as making the amazing science and technological advancements that we all depend on accessible.

You may not be a neuroscientist, microbiologist or paleontologist, but you can still advance science literacy in your own life and surroundings. It will, in the end, better our communities and positively impact society at large.

Frederic Bertley, Ph.D., is president and CEO of COSI, a leadership position he began in January 2017. In his role as president, he imagines COSI as the epicenter for all things scientific in the Columbus community.