Year of Science promotes public understanding


Steven J. Hurd

SDSU has joined a nationwide coalition of some 200 universities, museums and professional societies that are planning to celebrate 2009 as the Year of Science.

The Year of Science will be a nationwide celebration of science focusing on a theme of “How We Know What We Know.” 2009 has been chosen as the Year of Science in part because it is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, who founded the National Academy of Sciences.

SDSU will be the hub for the South Dakota Year of Science program. Most South Dakota colleges and universities, museums, field stations and professional societies will be involved in the year-long effort, along with the South Dakota Science and Technology Board and the South Dakota Academy of Science.

The goals for the Year of Science include: to develop an appreciation of science and its contributions to the quality of life along with its underlying role in advances; to inform the public about science, its processes and products and what roles scientists play in society; and to highlight the benefits of using the processes of science to make informed decisions and address challenges. Simply put, the goal of the Year of Science is to improve public understanding of science.

“After looking at the Year of Science Web site, I noticed that each month has its own science-related theme,” said Julie Nelson, a junior pre-pharmacy major. “I think that that will help people to learn about the many fields of science and what each field has to offer.”

Activities being planned for the Year of Science will focus on how science plays a vital role in the future of humanity and inspires the best qualities of the human spirit. Activities and events on campus include science films, academic lectures and the addition of two new courses in the fall semester. One of these courses will focus on science journalism, and the other course will be in the Honors College with a focus on public understanding of science.

Mary Arnold, head of the journalism department, will be team-teaching the science journalism class next fall with professor Lyle Olson, also of the journalism department.

“So much of what we know about science and technology comes to us through the mass media,” said Arnold. “This class will help journalism students as well as others explore and better understand the complexities of science.”

Other activities to celebrate the Year of Science are being planned by a steering committee headed by Charles Berry of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Science. Berry is a member of the board of directors of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, a Washington, D.C., professional society representing 200 professional biological organizations and 250,000 biologists. AIBS was one of the founders of the Year of Science idea.

“South Dakota needs a scientifically literate public to support the state’s commitment to opening frontiers of knowledge about physics, health, energy and the environment,” Berry said. “A public that understands the process of science is a public that is able to make informed decisions about quality of life factors.”

Berry is trying to spread the word about the Year of Science and is looking for people who might be interested in helping with the planning for the SDSU celebration.

“There are about 40 professors on campus that are involved in Year of Science activities to some degree, and we are looking for interest from student organizations, and not even just science students,” said Berry. “We’d like to take Year of Science information to the SDSU public.”

For more information, contact Berry or visit the Year of Science Web site at

#1.881773:1399022633.jpg:DSC_0709.1.jpg:Vivek Gupta and Shannon Hofstadter inspect different plants during a lab for Viral and Bacterial Diseases of Plants.:Patricia Solis