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Eight year olds do some real science, and get published in the Royal Society Journal - Input Junkie
December 24th, 2010
09:43 am


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Eight year olds do some real science, and get published in the Royal Society Journal
Their paper, based on fieldwork carried out in a local churchyard, describes how bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought.

I don't have time to do the article justice (I might later), but this is the most hopeful thing I've seen in a long time, and I recommend following the link and watching the i, scientist video.

Admittedly, there's a largish chance that it will be dropped because it weakens too many people's status, but even if it just catches on a little, children will learn early that their minds are worthwhile, and a lot more good science will get done.

And it's not just the project in itself, but that adults thought to set up the possibility.

Link thanks to Bruce Baugh

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[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
Admittedly, there's a largish chance that it will be dropped because it weakens too many people's status

I don't think so. There's a growing citizen science movement out there and it doesn't as far as I can tell weaken anybody's status. What actually happens is that science and scientists get more respect in the communities where citizen science takes place (especially since an awful lot of the citizen science out there is environmental: people who participate in gathering measurements of pollutants in their own communities or monitoring their effects).

What does happen is that right-wing budget crazies decide that buying sensitive meters for water sampling, or even keeping computer software up to date, is a frill and should be cut from schools and community grants.

And also, that there is a left-wing agenda in getting children outside the classroom and into their communities and beyond, and that the teachers who lead the children in doing these things are enemies of Christian hegemony.

Anyways, we have several similar programs in our area. One I helped with the school year before last had kids monitoring the water in the slough next to the school, as well as identifying plants and eradicating invasive weeds that threaten to choke out the native species for which the vacant lot across the street is named (tarplant!). And a friend of mine is working to get a project started in a wetlands restoration project near her highschool. And every year at Snapshot Day, we get scouts and schoolkids sampling and measuring water all over the coast of California. Also lots of grownups, of course.

[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC)
Dropped by who? The paper was peer-reviewed and accepted into the journal. Unless they turn out to have faked their data or something, it's not going to be un-accepted.

Getting people to do more of this sort of thing, on the other hand, might be a challenge. A lot of people seem afraid to teach kids real science.
[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean that the paper might be dropped, I meant that the project of teaching children how to do real science and get it published might be dropped.
[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
I don't know of a scientist who wouldn't encourage more of this, in the hopes of getting a better-educated cohort of students (and tax-payers) in a few years. The threat will be from the usual set of suspects who benefit science illiteracy.

What I would expect, if this becomes more common, is journal sections and supplements explicitly devoted to this kind of work, rather than continuing to mix it in with the more traditional articles.
[User Picture]
Date:December 25th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC)
And there are whole fields of science where non-professional contributions are the norm (not, usually, 8 year old non-professionals): planetary astronomy was one until NASA moved in; the phenomena of the European languages (Notes and Queries and so on); Mendel and Lehmer in their own fields.
[User Picture]
Date:December 25th, 2010 03:51 pm (UTC)
I think observational contributions (bird-counting is another example) are much more common than experiments and theory.
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