History, Education and Outreach of Astronomy

 Public Understanding of Science

"Scienza. Come è fatto chi la fa?" is a project meant to shed light on the perception that young students nowadays have of people working in science, in particular Astrophysics. Students drawings and questionnaires of students attending primary and lower secondary school (6 - 13 years old) all over the Country are used to build the knowledge database of the research.

Plot
Figure 1:

 What the young people think "astronomer are" is an important dimension of analysis for studies on public understanding of science and it can allow to focus on the factors that we have to take in mind when we start a new program of public outreach. This project will investigate which recurrent elements, metaphors and stereotypes can be identified and where they come from. A grid of 80 parameters is used to analyse each of the nearly 1000 drawings. The main goal is to disentangle if we can recognize that something is changing, perhaps mediated by television, comics or movies, in the perception of Science and Astrophysics in particular. The three phases of the project are:

  • Data collection. The research instruments are drawings of students on 3 different topics "scientist, astrophysics, chemist", and questionnaires, with some information about social background of each student. The collection of them was possible thanks to schools' database created through the previous INAF project "Alla Scoperta del Cielo!".
  • A sociological survey to gather and analyse information of drawings and questionnaires. The pictures were examined to see if they contain features normally associated with stereotypical images of a scientist: personal elements; context and space; written elements; social dimension; instruments. For the analysis, we used SPSS, a software for social research.
  • Diffusion of results. Reports and papers are in progress. We have already presented the results of the project at the IAU - UNESCO Symposium 260 in Paris (January 2009) and at the PCST 10 - Bridges to the future in Copenhagen - Malmoe (June 2008).

Some results

GENDER

Something new happened in the social representation of people working in science!
In fact, data show that new generations (age 6 - 8 years old) represent more women involved in scientific careers. Actually it regards a female trend: young girls tend to represent 62% of women (older girls - aged 9 - 13 years - represent a lower percentage of women, almost 50 %).
On the other side, boys don't change their representation of gender; all three sub-samples of primary and secondary school show a constant trend: boys tend to represent male scientist in the 90% of cases.
We can't state if this change depends on a new generational model or just on life experience. Only a longitudinal research will say it.

ASTRONOMERS: ARE THEY REALLY SCIENTISTS?

According with the most part of variables, astronomers look quite different from scientists and chemists! They embody the "good science", far away from symbols of danger or explosions.
On one side we find the general category of scientists and chemists, represented quite often as bald men with a lab coat, spectacles and working with beakers in a enclosed lab. On the other side there are astronomers: working outdoors, in contact with nature, they usually look at the sky. Astronomers don't explode things, are quite safe and look like "one of us"...

Also without messy hair or a crazy appearance... you can be astronomer!

 

People: L. Benacchio, C. Boccato, C. Di Benedetto

Collaboration: F. Neresini (Sociologist, Padova Univ.), A. Turricchia (Aula Didattica Planetario, Didactics, Municipality of Bologna)

Links:  www.scienziati.net

News – MEDIA INAF

Il notiziario online dell'Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica
  • La simulazione a più alta risoluzione mai realizzata di un buco nero in accrescimento ha dimostrato che i suoi getti relativistici “scodinzolano” con un movimento di precessione che segue l’inclinazione del disco di accrescimento attorno al buco nero stesso

  • I moti complessi della turbolenza del vento solare sono stati rappresentati con simulazioni elaborate grazie a super calcolatori, che evidenziano la comparsa di filamenti e vortici localizzati. Come ci spiega Denise Perrone, ricercatrice italiana che ha guidato il lavoro di ricerca presso l'Esa

  • Ferdinando Ferroni, Antonino Zichichi e le alte cariche dell'amministrazione abruzzese hanno accolto il Presidente della Repubblica nelle sale sperimentali all'interno del massiccio del Gran Sasso per i 30 anni dall'apertura degli storici laboratori

  • Utilizzando il telescopio spaziale della Nasa, i ricercatori dello dello Space Telescope Science Institute hanno trovato la popolazione più numerosa di nane brune - oggetti che sono più massicci dei pianeti ma che non brillano come stelle - finora conosciuta. Gli esperti hanno anche trovato tre pianeti giganti, tra cui un sistema binario dove due pianeti orbitano insieme in assenza di una stella madre

  • Anelli, archi, spirali… le strutture che segnano taluni dischi circumstellari potrebbero non sempre significare che lì, fra quelle particelle di polvere e gas in rotazione attorno a stelle neonate, sta prendendo forma un nuovo mondo. Una simulazione propone spiegazioni alternative

  • Su la testa, e scoprirete la città, è l’invito degli autori. Aggirandosi a caccia di stelle, comete, animali dello zodiaco, i ragazzi potranno percorrere i luoghi culturali e artistici della città in chiave “astronomica”. Lo ha letto per noi Francesca Brunetti, bibliotecaria all'Inaf di Arcetri

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