20 June 2006

Chemistry and its image problem

It is bad enough having scientists complaining about their public image, as it if they are somehow different from any other arcane professions in being misunderstood, but when it gets down to the problems that chemists face you wonder if the world of Public Engagement in Science and Technology (PEST) has gone too far. Still, if you are a chemist worrying about being loved by the public, you might do well to read this Special Issue of a journal called HYLE, which somehow stands for the International Journal For Philosophy Of Chemistry, on "The Public Image of Chemistry".

The editorial in this issue points out that "chemists have always been complaining about their low prestige, the lack of public acknowledgment of their achievements, and the misguiding popular associations with chemistry, such that we now have a long record of complaints of almost two centuries".

The piece then goes on to say that there isn't much research out there on chemistry and its image. "Even the recent boost of academic research in Public Understanding of Science (PUS) has virtually excluded chemistry and, instead, focused on topics such as 'Frankenfood' and genetic engineering."

What next? Do we need a conference on the public perception of amino acids?

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