Special American Chemical Society symposium on communicating science to the public

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

DENVER, Aug. 30, 2011 — Amid ongoing concerns about scientific illiteracy — with studies indicating that many citizens lack a firm grasp of basic scientific concepts and facts — the world’s largest scientific society today is holding a special symposium on how scientists can better communicate their work to the public.

The American Chemical Society (ACS), which has more than 163,000 members, will host the event, entitled, “Communicating Chemistry to the Public,” as part of its 242nd National Meeting & Exposition, being held here. It begins at 1 p.m. in Room 108 of the Colorado Convention Center.

ACS President-Elect Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin, originated the symposium and will speak on “Communicating Science: The Responsibility and Joy.” Shakhashiri received the prestigious National Science Board’s Public Service Award in 2007 for pioneering new ways to encourage public understanding of science. He shares the fun of science through public presentations, home science activities, a popular web site and other activities of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy. Cheryl Frech, Ph.D., chair of the ACS Committee on Public Relations and Communications and professor at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, will moderate the event.

Additional speakers are listed below:

  • Theodore W. Gray, best-selling author, software developer, eclectic science writer and winner of the ACS 2011 James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, will discuss the importance of relating science to the public in ways that are relevant to their everyday lives.
  • Carolyn “Cary” Funk, senior researcher at the Pew Research Center and lead author of the forthcoming Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 chapter on public attitudes and understanding about science and technology, will discuss where the public turns for science news, what they understand and attitudes about science issues like climate change, nuclear power and biotechnology.
  • Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize winner, professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of five popular science books including the recently published The Poisoner’s Handbook, will discuss ways to expand the understanding and enjoyment of chemistry among the public.
  • Award-winning writer and film producer Stephen Lyons, of Moreno/Lyons LLC, will show a preview of the upcoming PBS documentary, “The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements,” which highlights the work of Marie Curie.
  • Joseph A. Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, author of 10 popular books and the only non-American to win the ACS Grady-Stack Award, will discuss how to build public trust and overcome “chemophobia.”
  • Simon Field, author of Gonzo Gizmos, Return of Gonzo Gizmos and Why There’s Antifreeze In Your Toothpaste, will describe how toys can spark better understanding and interest in science.
  • Shirley Corriher, author of CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking, winner of a James Beard Foundation award, and BakeWise, will explain why cooking is the perfect way to show people how chemistry affects their everyday lives.

A reception honoring Gray will follow the symposium from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Room 605 of the convention center. The Grady-Stack Award, one of the most prestigous in science communication, is named after two former managers of the ACS News Service. Established in 1955, it recognizes and encourages outstanding reporting that promotes the public’s understanding of chemistry, chemical engineering and related fields. The award consists of $3,000, a gold medallion and a bronze replica of the medallion.


Media Contact

During the meeting, Aug. 25-Sept. 1, the contacts can be reached at: 303-228-8532

Michael Bernstein

Michael Woods