Philosophy Prof. Heather Douglas tells CBC how public can push science innovation

Monday, September 26, 2016

Professor Heather Douglas, Waterloo Chair in Science and Society and a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy, told CBC radio's The 180 this weekend that gaps in public understanding or support of science and technology can  force the scientific community to be more rigorous and innovative. Read or hear the full story on CBC.

As part of The 180's series Facts & Values, we delve into a recent survey that suggests Canadians have "significant gaps" in their understanding and acceptance of science.

It comes from the Ontario Science Centre, and reveals what the centre calls "significant gaps" in our understanding of issues like climate change, vaccinations and genetically modified organisms. The survey was based on an online poll by Leger of 1,578 Canadians. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.  

Heather Douglas

Heather Douglas is the Waterloo Chair in Science and Society.

But University of Waterloo professor, Heather Douglas says those gaps often force the scientific community to be more rigorous and innovative.

Douglas, whose research focuses on the intersection of science and society, concedes that while it's valid to be concerned about gaps in the public understand of science, she says in her opinion it's not clear to what is inherently problematic about the public disagreeing with the scientific community. [...] 

If we don't pay attention to the concerns the public has, the scientific community will not address them, and the gap between the scientific community and the public could increase.