Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Science and marketing

by Martín Bonfil Olivera
Published on
Milenio Diario, November 19, 2008

Science is not only made in the lab: it is a human and social activity, therefore, it has ideological, political, ethical, cultural and commercial components… the list could go on.

To survive and fluorish, the scientific-technical research system has to generate a good public image: with politicians and decision makers, with investors and business men, and with the common citizen.

A good way of doing this is through the media. The objective is to gain "customers" for science: people that get interested, understand it, support it and even make a career on it. Its propaganda and marketing; in this case, for a socially useful end.

Like all things, in science there are good and bad publicists. Two good examples on hand are astronomers and biologists. Probably you already know that 2009 has been declared as the "International year of astronomy", since it will be 400 years ago since Galileo Galilei used a telescope to observe the sky.

He discovered amazing things: that Jupiter has satellites and that the surface of the moon, very far from being perfect as Aristotle used to teach, is filled with craters. He inaugurated a new stage in astronomic studies, and in science in general.

The international year will be, according to the International Astronomical Union, "a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and the culture that will stimulate the interest not only in astronomy, but in science in general, specially in young people". There will be a lot of conferences, fairs, publications, public observation events all over the world… a full strategy to bring the public closer to astronomy.

However, 2009 also could have been declared as "the year of evolution", because in February 12, 200 years of the birth of Charles Darwin is commemorated, and also, 150 years of the publication of the book presenting his theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. But, have you heard of an event to this respect? True: there are some, but they are few and isolated. Biology has not made a lot of noise.

Compared with the creativity and enthusiasm of astronomers to promote their science, biologists have been left behind. As mentioned: not all of us are good publicists.

(translated by Adrián Robles Benavides)

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