The Scientific Communications Act of 2007 (HR 1453) was introduced by the US House of Representatives on 9th March. The National Science Foundation, an independent United States Government agency that supports fundamental research and education, has thus been allowed to spend ten million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2012 to provide communications training to improve the ability of scientists to engage in public dialogue.
Since the first pioneering balloon flight undertaken in France in 1783, aerial ascents became an ordinary show for the citizens of the great European cities until the end of the XIX century. Scientists welcomed balloons as an extraordinary device to explore the aerial ocean and find answers to their questions. At the same time, due to the theatricality of ballooning, sky became a unique stage where science could make an exhibition of itself. Namely, ballooning was not only a scientific device, but a way to communicate science as well. Starting from studies concerning the public facet of aerial ascents and from the reports of the aeronauts themselves, this essay explores the importance of balloon flights in growing the public sphere of science. Also, the reasons that led scientists to exploit “the show of science aloft” (earning funds, public support, dissemination of scientific culture…) will be presented and discussed.
This paper addresses the role of museums in education in science and technology through the discussion of a specific project entitled EST “Educate in Science and Technology”. The Project puts together methodologies and activities through which museums can be used as resources for long-term project work. In-service training for teachers, work in class with learning kits or with materials brought in by a Science Van, and visits to the museum are planned and developed jointly by museum experts and teachers. The Project proposes a teaching and learning model which sees the museum experience as central and integral part of a teaching and learning process with more effective outcomes. The analysis of the Project activities and methodologies is based on the work carried out at the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci, which perceives the learner (the visitor) at the heart of its educational methodologies and provision.
In a meta-analysis carried out in 2002, the two main associations of science centres and museums (ASTC, mainly US-centered, and ECSITE, mainly European) gathered all studies analysing the impact of science centres and museums on their local communities1. Four types of impact were identified: personal, social, political and economical. It was noticed that the vast majority of studies concentrated on the personal impact (that is, learning outcome, visitor satisfaction, etc.), while the latter three were largely neglected. The very fact of pointing this out, and many recent experiences - some of which are included in this commentary - show that there is now a shift of attention.
The digitalization process of historical archives, which has been taking place over the past few years, shows that the study of history of science is undergoing major changes. Easier access to online resources (manuscripts, catalogues of scientific machinery and tools that would otherwise be virtually impossible to consult) has spurred and created the preconditions for the development of new quantitative methodologies in the study of history of science as well as the creation of international research groups.