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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Mass experiments in Swedish schools – encouraging scientific citizenship in future generations

Lotta Tomasson  

Since 2009 the Swedish non-profit association Vetenskap & Allmänhet (Public & Science, VA) has been coordinating an annual mass experiment as part of ForskarFredag - the Swedish events held on European Researchers' Night. The mass experiment is a citizen science initiative through which thousands of Swedish pupils from preschool to upper secondary school contribute to the development of scientific knowledge. The aim is to stimulate scientific literacy and an interest in science among young people while generating scientific output. In the "Tea Bag Experiment" of 2015, scientists were helped by 250 school classes to study the decomposition of organic material in soil and how this process is affected by climate change. Using a newly developed standardised method, the pupils buried a set of tea bags before the summer break and then dug the tea bags up when school started again in the autumn. By measuring the weight of the tea bags before and after they have been in the ground, the decomposition characteristics of different soils could be studied. As a citizen science initiative, the mass experiments are primarily an example of a conceptualisation of citizen science where non-scientists assist scientists by gathering data. However, it could be argued that the project could stimulate other forms of active scientific citizenship as well, by stimulating discussion on the role of science in addressing important societal issues, and by contributing to the students' developing an awareness of their own ability to play a part in the creation of important knowledge. The presentation will discuss the mass experiments as a possible method of fostering different forms of scientific citizenship.

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