Mañana es el primer día: comienza el Año Internacional de la Química. El lema es "Chemistry — our life, our future". En Nature han publicado este interesante artículo (se puede leer gratis registrándose, sin necesidad de suscribirse). Tratan, entre otros temas, de la percepción que la sociedad (en particular niños y profes de Primaria) tiene sobre la Química. ¡Qué moles!, os lo pongo aquí para que no os dé pereza ir al original, y así cada uno que saque sus conclusiones. ¡Feliz 2011 y ánimo, que tenemos por delante retos muy interesantes e importantes!
[ In 1995 the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) carried out research into
public attitudes to chemistry in four English cities, including
Huddersfield and London. Most people's perceptions of chemistry, it
found, were based on their experiences at school, and most recalled
school chemistry as boring. Moreover, most of the primary school
teachers surveyed by the RSC saw chemistry as “a difficult and boring
subject, pursued by intelligent but unimaginative people”1, 2.
Much has changed in both chemistry and public attitudes to science (and research into public attitudes to science3) in the 16 years since the 'Huddersfield experiment', but raising the
profile and popularity of science subjects among school pupils (and
their parents and teachers) remains as big a challenge as ever, which is
why the international chemistry community — in the shape of the
International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) — has
persuaded the United Nations to declare that 2011 will be the
International Year of Chemistry4. IYC2011 follows recent years of biodiversity (2010), astronomy (2009), planet Earth (2008) and physics (2005).
The year 2011 has historical resonance for chemists, being the 100th
anniversary of the founding of the International Association of Chemical
Societies (the forerunner of IUPAC) and, more pertinently, of Marie
Curie winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her work on radium and
polonium. Only three other women have won this prize: Curie's daughter
Irène Joliot-Curie (1935), the English crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin
(1964), and the Israeli structural biologist Ada Yonath (2009), who will
be one of the speakers at the official launch of IYC2011 in Paris at
the end of January. (The situation is even worse in physics, with Curie
being one of just two women to have won the prize.)
The theme of the year will be 'Chemistry — our life, our future', and the prospectus
for the year opens with a good case for the ubiquity and importance of
chemistry: “All known matter — gas, liquid and solid — is composed of
the chemical elements or of compounds made from those elements.
Humankind's understanding of the material nature of our world is
grounded in our knowledge of chemistry. Indeed, all living processes are
controlled by chemical reactions.” If physicists argue that this is a
rather limited view of matter, their chemical colleagues can retort that
it took a chemist and 100,000 gallons of tetrachloroethylene, a common
dry-cleaning fluid, to detect solar neutrinos for the first time5.
“Chemists are active in many areas of nanotechnology including self-assembly, molecular electronics, soft
lithography, DNA nanotechnology and sensing”
The three overarching goals for the year seem somewhat similar to each other — to increase the public appreciation of chemistry in meeting
world needs; to encourage interest in chemistry among young people; and
to generate enthusiasm for the future of chemistry — but that will not
be a problem if everyone involved in IYC2011 manages to convey the
scientific breadth of their subject and its relevance to our daily
lives. As pointed out in Nature Chemistry, the chemistry
community has much to offer when it comes to addressing global issues
such as sustainable energy, climate change and the provision of clean
food and water6, and these topics feature prominently in the plans for IYC2011.
And although the nanoscale is not explicitly mentioned in the prospectus,
chemists are active in many areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology
including, among other things, self-assembly, molecular electronics,
soft lithography, DNA nanotechnology, sensing and biomedical
applications of nanoparticles.
The chemistry community seems to have become more concerned about its public profile in recent years7, in the UK at least, with the RSC going into PR overdrive in its efforts
to raise the profile of chemistry in the British media: the society's
press office has been busy putting out press releases on both
lightweight topics, such as the perfect cup of tea, and heavyweight
subjects such as science policy and education. Some chemists might have
rolled their eyes at some of the lightweight releases (or “stunts” as
the society's media relations manager has called them), but the RSC has
estimated that its press coverage had “an advertizing equivalent value
of almost £2 million” in one year8.
Ironically, it was the RSC rolling its eyes earlier this year when it
denounced the government for using a “lazy stereotype of the chemist as
unhinged scientist” in an anti-drugs campaign fronted by a Crazy Chemist9, 10.
Judging if a year of chemistry (or biodiversity, or astronomy) has been a
success will not be easy (or facile, to use a word found in many
chemistry papers). Many factors influence whether, for example, a
student decides to study chemistry at school or university. If student
numbers increase, who can say that a particular campaign made a decisive
difference? And if numbers fall, who's to say that they would not have
fallen further without various activities? But that should not deter
scientific communities from making the case for their subjects at every