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The importance of popularizing science

The popularization of science is an inseparable element of shaping the awareness of society which values the importance of the progress of human knowledge. It is a translation from the language of discovery and research into commonly accessible and understandable paradigms. At the same time, popularization of science tries to interest and inspire the recipient in such a way that they themselves are effectively stimulated to think. It is, however, an art which requires a specific set of qualifications that is not as common as it may seem.

As Prof. Magdalena Fikus writes – “You can popularize science because someone tasked you with it. However, only those who like and know how to communicate science should be doing it.” [1] – the second condition (i.e., knowing how) turns out to be much more difficult to meet. Science is becoming an increasingly specialized human activity, which means that its availability and assimilability can decrease. Therefore, the importance of popularization is growing. According to Prof. Fikus, it has the task of showing knowledge about phenomena and processes studied scientifically, at a level corresponding to the demand of given listeners and viewers. To this popularizing art Prof. Fikus dedicated most of her adult life, becoming one of those who initiated and introduced the Polish Science Festival. 

Pictured: Prof. Magdalena Fikus, source: (Fot. Adam Kozak/Agencja Wyborcza.pl)

Prof. Magdalena Fikus is a Polish specialist in molecular biology and for many years she was the chairman of The Council for the Propagation of Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences. She took her first steps in the field of science dissemination in the 80s. As deputy director and chairwoman of the Program Council of the Warsaw Science Festival for several years, together with Prof. Maciej Geller, she opened this September Festival of meetings with science, at the same time constantly trying to improve it.

The main goal of the festival was (and still is) to present the research and achievements of scientists. Prof. Geller and Prof. Fikus undertook its organization from scratch, without previous experience and without funding. The first Science Festival took place in 1997 in Warsaw, a year later there was one in Lower Silesia, and then festivals started to be organized all over Poland. The official festivals were followed by local school festivals as well as Days of Science. The organized activities took various forms (from lectures, debates, and discussions, to workshops, trips, competitions, and films), and subsequent editions of the event presented various fields of science (among them were physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, history, sociology, archaeology or even philosophy and history of art).

Source: https://igcz.poznan.pl/dzialalnosc-naukowa/popularyzacja-nauki/

When asked – Why did you want to start The Festival? – Prof. Fikus replied as follows:

“I wanted to do it because I loved lecturing, I knew I was good at it, and I knew people needed it. This need of the audience could be felt in all our activities.” [2]

Thanks to the efforts of Prof. Fikus and many other Polish scientists, the popularization of science in Poland has reached an impressive scale (even by global standards), is methodically diverse and reaches a large number of recipients. In 2016, the Science Festival in Warsaw gathered about 50,000 listeners, organized 1100 different events in many fields, and more than 110 scientific and cultural institutions were involved in the process of its organization. Almost 400 lessons were conducted in 85 different schools. Analysis shows that among the audience, the Science Festival was very positively received (89% of reviews were positive and only 0.7% were negative).

Source: https://festiwalnauki.edu.pl/20-lat-festiwalu-nauki

Let’s hope that in the future investments in the popularization of science in Poland will prove to be equally effective, because to a large extent, the level and understanding of science in our society depends on it, and as the slogan of the Science Festival says: “lack of investment in science is an investment in ignorance”.

Bibliography:

  1. „O upowszechnianiu nauki w Polsce na progu roku 2016” – Magdalena Fikus 
  2. „Pani inżynier od życia. Rozmowa z Magdaleną Fikus” – Irena Cieślińska. 
  3. „Popularyzacja nauki. Dla kogo, przez kogo, jak i dlaczego?” – Magdalena Fikus, Kazimierz Grotowski, Władysław Stróżewski. – PAUza Akademicka, Tygodnik Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności.
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  23. Rozstrzygnięto konkurs PAP i MNiSW dla popularyzatorów nauki, naukawpolsce.pap.pl.
  24. Konkurs im. Karola Sabatha rozstrzygnięty. Nagrody Polskiego Stowarzyszenia Dziennikarzy Naukowych. sdp.pl.
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  29. Popularyzator Nauki 2016 na horyzoncie – nowe kategorie!, naukawpolsce.pap.pl.

Eryk Kryński
Redactor
Bio:

The student of international relations at the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Warsaw. He writes articles for the Students Scientific Association of Human Rights and Humanitarian Crises. He also works with Association 61 on projects such as I have a right to know and Civil HiT.

Written by:

Eryk Kryński

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