Inland Northwest Concerned Scientists promote education

By Marco Vargas, Reporter

Local scientists and science professionals, including several EWU professors, have banded together to promote scientific knowledge and values to the public, while also shining a light on the effects science has on local and regional policy decisions.

The informal, nonpartisan group called Inland Northwest Concerned Scientists was founded in 2017. The group holds Science Cafe events in an effort to educate the public about the importance of science and how it affects everybody.

“We think it’s important because we need to know what the policy is going to do,” David Syphers, an EWU assistant professor of physics, said. “Science is the best tool that we have for predicting what is going to happen in the world and what’s happening right now. If you’re making policy and you’re not really paying attention to science, it doesn’t lead to good outcomes.”

Krisztian Magori, an EWU assistant professor of biology, who helped propose the organization, and several other professors thought that it was a good idea to promote scientific categories to further enlighten citizens.

The organization also featured Javier Ochoa-Reparaz, an EWU assistant professor of biology, as a speaker during a Science Cafe event on March 18, where he explained the connection between microbes in the gut and the brain.

“The overall goal is to make the public more aware of science and understand it better and care more about it,” Syphers said. “We have some specific ways of achieving that goal. The Science Cafe is a way to reach out to the public and get them to talk to scientists.”

Syphers said that the organization might also be helpful to spread the word and give notice to the public about science programs in universities.

“It’s not just Eastern,” Syphers said. “We also work with the people at Gonzaga and WSU medical schools. Making the public aware of the science that is happening locally, a lot of the public doesn’t really know that we do research. Making the public aware that doing science at universities is useful. And I, as a citizen, care about the world and the policies that are happening. It really helps me as a citizen to feel that I’m contributing to the world and getting people to understand better.”

During the process of sharing scientific research with citizens, the Inland Northwest Concerned Scientists organization has found Science Cafes to be the most effective form of communicating with the public about science. Syphers originally proposed the idea to have professors come and share different scientific facts.

The overall goal is to make the public more aware of science and understand it better and care more about it.”

— David Syphers, assistant professor of physics

“We wanted local experts to talk about some cool science topics and get (students and public citizens) to show up,” Syphers said, also mentioning that the science talks are opportunities for citizens to come and ask questions about the topics.

Syphers said that he and the other professors are confident with the progress, but see room for growth as they host science talks in the cafes.

“The Science Cafes have been starting to max up the capacity of where we can host,” Syphers said. “We welcome participation from everybody. We feel very passionate.”

Climate scientist Dr. Steve Ghan will be leading a discussion about climate change on April 25 at the Riverpoint campus. Admission is free.