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January/February 2005

Sigma Xi International Newsletter
Volume 4, Number 1/2
January/February 2005

This electronic bulletin is designed to keep subscribers updated on developments in Sigma Xi’s international activities and to provide links and articles on topics of interest to researchers around the world. To submit an item to the newsletter, contact the Manager of the International Program at international@sigmaxi.org. You can also download and print a PDF version of this issue. To subscribe to this newsletter, please use this online form.

Past Issues

In This Issue

Enhancing the Public Understanding of Science
One cannot downplay the importance of the public’s understanding of science and its benefits to society—not only to recruit future researchers but also to obtain crucial public support for government investment in science and engineering. There are several ways that any researcher, educator, student or concerned citizen can help share information about science and engineering with the general public in creative and interesting ways. Listed here are a few examples of ways to directly and indirectly communicate with the public about science. Growing in popularity, Science Cafés or Cafés Scientifiques are informal forums for discussion and debate that are held in nontraditional venues such as cafés, bookstores, theaters, bars and restaurants. Other direct methods include hands-on demonstrations, lectures, open houses, festivals and volunteering at science centers and museums. Writing is a popular indirect method; you can write letters to the editor and articles for your local periodicals. You can create a traveling exhibit that can be presented to community groups. In addition, you can volunteer to be a guest on a local radio or television program, or work with local schoolteachers to develop lesson plans on your area of expertise. Here are some generally applicable suggestions:

  1. Find others interested in working together on the project.
  2. Choose a target audience.
  3. Involve people from the target audience in the design of your project, if possible.
  4. Make sure all information is presented in a way that is understandable to the layperson.
  5. Make it clear how this topic is relevant to their lives.
  6. Have something to distribute to the audience—a flyer, an object relevant to your theme, etc.

Many resources are available on the Internet. Here are just a few sites with useful information for presenting science and engineering to the public:

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Enrollment Soars for Chinese Universities
According to recent reports, China had more than 20 million students enrolled in its colleges and universities in 2004 after admitting a record 4 million first-year students. Admission of first-year students has quadrupled since 1998, largely by design, in hopes of increasing the science and technology workforce and stimulating the economy. The acceptance rate was 50–60% for the 7 million students taking the national college-entrance examination. Now with approximately one-fifth of all 18 to 22 year-olds enrolled, China has the largest college-student population in the world. [Sources:
Chronicle of Higher Education and China Education and Research Network]

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World Year of Physics
The European Physical Society, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and UNESCO declared 2005 the World Year of Physics or International Year of Physics. This proclamation is to mark the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s legendary articles on relativity, quantum theory and Brownian motion. Because of these monumental publications, 1905 is now referred to as the annus mirabilis, or Miraculous Year. Multiple physics-related events are planned throughout the year and around the world in 2005. The aim of these focused events is to raise the worldwide public awareness of physics and physical sciences in general. More than 1,200 people, including students from 70 countries, recently participated in the Launch Conference of the International Year of Physics at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The
World Year of Physics Web site hosts a listing of activities by country as well as international activities, contact information for national coordinators and ideas for organizing your own local activities.

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International Mathematics and Science Study
Since 1995, approximately 50 countries have been assessing trends in students’ mathematics and science comprehension as part of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement conducts TIMSS, and exams to test the students’ science and mathematics proficiency are given every four years. Countries can participate by testing their students in the fourth and/or eighth year of schooling. In December 2004, data from the 2003 TIMSS were released. More countries participated in the Grade 8 testing (46) than in the Grade 4 testing (25). The top-performing countries in both science and mathematics at both grade levels were from Asia, with the exceptions of Estonia in Grade 8 science, England in Grade 4 science, and Flemish Belgium in Grade 4 math (see Table 1). The test scores did not appear to correlate directly with the average age of the students, the number of years in school or the human development index of the country. On average, there was no significant difference between girls and boys on Grade 4 science or Grade 4 or 8 math, although results varied widely from country to country. In Grade 8 science, the average score for the boys was slightly higher than that for the girls. The full reports are freely available
online.

highest scores 2003 greatest improvement from previous test
(1999 for Grade 8 and 1995 for Grade 4)
Grade 8 Science Singapore
Chinese Taipei
Republic of Korea
Hong Kong, SAR
Estonia
Japan
Philippines
Lithuania
Hong Kong, SAR
Jordan
Grade 8 Math Singapore
Republic of Korea
Hong Kong, SAR
Chinese Taipei
Japan
Philippines
Israel
Lithuania
Grade 4 Science Singapore
Chinese Taipei
Japan
Hong Kong, SAR
England
Latvia
Singapore
Hong Kong, SAR
Islamic Republic of Iran
Cyprus
Slovenia
Grade 4 Math Singapore
Hong Kong, SAR
Japan
Chinese Taipei
Belgium (Flemish)
England
Cyprus
Latvia
New Zealand

Table 1: Notable TIMSS Performances

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Science in Radio Broadcasting
Science in Radio Broadcasting (SCIRAB) is a one-year project funded by the European Commission that was designed to create a network of science radio programs, science radio journalists, science communication researchers and scientists interested in the radio as a medium for communicating science to the public. The aims of the project are to: exchange information and best practices, map existing science programs in European broadcast networks, assess the role of the radio in science communication and in promoting the dialogue between science and society at large, stimulate a European dimension in the coverage of science by radio programs, and assess and explore the role of online broadcasting for science communication. The project’s
Web site aims to serve as a clearinghouse not only for literature on science communication via radio but also for a listing of the existing science radio programs across Europe. [Source: JCOM—Journal of Science Communication]

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Did You Know?
UNESCO is currently accepting proposals for projects to be funded by its
Information for All Programme (IFAP). IFAP supports the development of common strategies, methods and tools for building inclusive, open and pluralistic knowledge societies and for narrowing the gap between the information rich and the information poor. Proposals with budgets ranging from approximately US$25,000 (national projects) to US$45,000 (international projects) should cover one of three areas: information literacy, preservation of information, and ethical, legal and societal implications of the information society. Applications must be submitted online no later than 20 February 2005. [Source: Digital Dividend Resource Marketplace]

The goal of the 2005 American Chemical Society (ACS) International Initiatives program is to provide professional development opportunities for chemical scientists (chemists, biochemists, materials scientists, etc.) and chemical engineers, either in-country or in the U.S., and build ACS’s relationships with analogous organizations in Latin America and Africa. Applications may be submitted by any researcher in the chemical sciences and engineering who resides in one of the eligible countries (Bahamas, Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Panama, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela). Types of activities eligible for funding include: visits by international chemical scientists to U.S. laboratories, and as a second priority, visits by U.S. chemical scientists to eligible countries to offer short courses. Scientists residing outside the U.S. are not required to be ACS members to apply to the program. The application deadline is 1 March 2005.

The American Society for Microbiology offers several training, travel and research awards for researchers in the microbiological sciences who are from the Global South. The earliest deadline is 1 March 2005, and complete details for all of the programs are available online.

Student researchers around the world are eligible to apply for Sigma Xi’s modest, competitively awarded Grants-in-Aid of Research (GIAR). Anyone can apply, but there are some funds that are restricted to membership; to have access to all of the possible funds, either the students or their advisors need to be Sigma Xi members. The next deadline for applications is 15 March 2005, and the application is currently available online. For further information about this program, please see the Web site or write to giar@sigmaxi.org.

The Leverhulme Trust’s Research Project Grants enable established scholars at eligible institutions to obtain salary support for one or more researchers to work on a specific and discrete research project proposed by the applicant. Grants of up to £500,000 for projects up to five years are awarded three times per year in all fields except social policy and welfare, medicine, and school education. Applicants must be employed at an eligible institution of higher education or charity either in the U.K. or in a developing country. Initial applications are accepted throughout the year, but the deadlines for full applications are 21 March, 1 September and 1 December each year.

TWAS, The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, and illycaffè, a premier coffee producer founded and based in Trieste, Italy, have launched the Trieste Science Prize. The prize, which carries a US$50,000 cash award, is designed to honor the most eminent scientists in the developing world. The first two prizes will be awarded in 2005 in the fields of physics and biology. In subsequent years, prizes will be given in the fields of mathematics and medical sciences (2006), chemical and agricultural sciences (2007), and earth and engineering sciences (2008). Candidates must be nationals of developing countries, working and living in the Global South. Selected individuals (including TWAS members) from science academies, national research councils, universities and scientific institutions may submit nominations, which must be received by 31 March 2005.

The Pirelli Relativity Challenge 2005 is a contest to mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s paper on the Special Relativity Theory. A prize of €25,000 will be awarded to the best multimedia work that explains this theory to the layperson. Submissions must be sent before 31 March 2005.

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2005 Tech Museum Awards. These awards honor innovators and visionaries from around the world who are applying technology to profoundly improve the human condition in the categories of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development. At the Awards Gala each fall, five Laureates in each category are honored, and $250,000 in cash prizes are awarded. Individuals, for-profit companies, and not-for-profit organizations are eligible. Nominated candidates are then invited to submit applications. The deadline to submit nominations for the 2005 awards is 4 April 2005.

The University Exchange Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) aims to support exchange and collaboration between Swiss universities or educational institutions and research institutions in developing or transitional countries. Grants of up to CHF 20,000 can cover a portion of the travel and daily expenses in Switzerland or the host country for a period of ten days up to four months. Requests must be submitted at least six weeks before the start of the project, at any time throughout the year.

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Upcoming Meetings
Asia Biotech Forum 2005: Embracing the Journey to Success in Asia’s Booming Biotech Sector; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 3–4 February 2005

Advancing Science and Society Interactions; Seville, Spain; 3–5 February 2005

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2005 Annual Meeting; Washington, D.C., USA; 17–21 February 2005

CAIRO 9th International Conference on Energy & Environment; Cairo, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt; 13–19 March 2005

4th Science Centre World Congress, “Science Centres: Breaking Barriers, Engaging Citizens”; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 10–14 April 2005

Science for Sale? The Public Communication of Science in a Corporate World; Cornell, New York, USA; 15–17 April 2005

European Association of Information Services (EUSIDIC) Spring Meeting 2005: Communicating Business Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) Knowledge; Brussels, Belgium; 17–19 April 2005

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For more information on any of the programs mentioned in this newsletter, please contact:

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
P. O. Box 13975, 3106 East NC Highway 54
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 USA
Telephone: +1-919-549-4691 or +1-919-547-5246
Fax: +1-919-549-0090
E-mail: international@sigmaxi.org

 

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