Kateri Dubay / Chemistry

Science needs a supportive public to thrive. With the challenges presented by global warming, the reemergence of vaccine-preventable illnesses, the appearance of new diseases such as Zika, and other such issues, it is clear that the public also needs science in order to thrive. However, the way science is presented to the public is often filled with scientific misconceptions, false controversy, and problematic stereotypes that undermine interactions between scientists and non-scientists.  As a chemistry professor, particularly as a chemistry professor at a public institution, I consider it my duty to help improve the communication of science to the public, in part by mentoring well the students who will go on to become scientists and professional communicators.

My Dream Proposal, therefore, is to gather a small group of about 3-4 science majors and 3-4 media studies majors (or some other non-science, but communication-focused, major) together for a series of 6-8 dinners around town over the course of the academic year, with the last dinner to be held in my home.  Over these dinners, we will engage in discussions focused on a particularly problematic or a particularly exemplary scientific representation in the media. The topics will be chosen by the discussion leader for each dinner – I will lead for the first and the last dinners, while the students will take turns leading the other dinners. For one of these dinners, we will extend an invitation for one or two faculty members from Media Studies or Science, Technology & Society to join us. By gathering together science and non-science students, we will have an unusual opportunity to hear the perspectives of both budding scientists and budding communicators. That diversity will allow us to expand our understanding of the complexities involved in crafting good scientific communications and the consequences when we fail to do so.

Proposed budget:

Seven dinners at various Charlottesville restaurants for 8 students + Prof. DuBay = $35 x 9 x 7: $2,205

One catered dinner in Prof. DuBay’s home for 9 people: $270

Two additional guest faculty at the restaurant dinners = 2 x $35: $70

TOTAL: $2,545

Note: any transportation and lodging costs for the Native youth worker from ALIIVE will be covered by the GCSL.