In order to participate as an informed citizen in a democratic society, everyone needs an understanding of the basic ideas of science and how they relate to social issues. Yet there are barriers that hinder the public from understanding science. In recognition of the need to understand the problems and overcome the barriers, the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation has endowed a visiting professorship in Public Learning and Understanding of Science (PLUS) at Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University. The purpose is to develop a research program regarding PLUS and use the research to improve public understanding.
Dr Ilan Chabay has been chosen to become the first Erna and Victor Hasselblad Professor of Public Learning and Understanding of Science, a position that he will hold jointly at the two universities. During 2006 Chalmers and Göteborg University will start a joint centre for public learning and understanding in Göteborg. This is intended to become a platform for researchers with different backgrounds but a common interest in this area.
— I look forward to working in Göteborg. There are many interesting initiatives here within public understanding of science and I hope to be a catalyst in ongoing work and in establishing a research center, says Dr Ilan Chabay.
As Hasselblad Professor of Public Learning and Understanding of Science Dr Chabay will investigate three areas:
– How children and adults from diverse communities learn to understand science from non-didactic experiences
– What kind of mental models form the basis of their understanding
– How they learn and use the processes of science.
Dr Chabay will approach this research with a perspective shaped by his experiences of fundamental research in science and the practice of creating science experiences for the public. He has been Senior Research Scientist at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Associate Director of the Exploratorium, the science museum in San Francisco, and President of the New Curiosity Shop, a company developing strategies and tools for public understanding of science.
The Hasselblad Foundation was established by Victor Hasselblad, who was a remarkable photographer, businessman, and inventor. He perfected the medium-format cameras that bear his name. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Victor Hasselblad’s birth, March 8, 2006, Dr Chabay will deliver an inaugural lecture in Göteborg, in addition to lectures by Dr. Buzz Aldrin and Professor Ingemar Ernberg and Sören Gunnarsson, editor, and the unveiling of a statue of Victor Hasselblad.