The coexistence of different ideas of science among the youth was very evident in the National survey on youth and science, which had the aim of a general and horizontal reconnaissance on representations of science.
In fact, we recorded apparent discrepancies between the views of “the scientist is among the most important professions” (most important, according to the girls) and other such “research is not funded” and “uncompetitive”. We could verify how these apparent discrepancies show the distance between the representation of science in the abstract, as pure form, and the actual representation of the health of the research system, that turned out to differ considerably.
It then determines a proper funnel when you take apart the view of science as a cultural entity, which receives the general applause, and go to ask if young plan to take up in a future a scientific career, and here we lose half of young people (especially girls ); then when you ask the rest if they feel capable of working in science, the young people are reduced to half of half (still losing a large number of girls). The metaphor of a vocation, therefore, contributes to the image of scientists as a group of elected; to be part of them people should at least have the right attitudes.
The term normally used to indicate the detachment of young people from science, the crisis in scientific vocations, appears emblematic of underlying problem: it evokes a divine call and, as such, expresses a distance: the sacred is that which occupies a special place, which is separated, which cannot mix the profane, without ceasing to be themselves (Durkheim, 1963); the sacred is surrounded by an “aura” that ” attracts and intimidates, fascinates and terrifies” (Habermas, 1984).
By contrast, in the public communication of science, an attitude should be promoted to consider science not as something sacred, but profane, something that is in front of the temple, and then out of it, at the mercy of the public. And that’s what we have attempted in recent years, bringing forward more and more participatory models of public communication of science, which allowed young people to experience the science as something less distant from their life and values.
Maria Carolina Brandi, Loredana Cerbara, Maura Misiti, Adriana ValenteYouth and Science in Italy: between enthusiasm and indifference, Journal of Science Communication (Jcom), giugno 2005, vol. 4 (2). http://jcom.sissa.it/archive/04/02