Thus Spake Zuska

Seed Magazine Writing Contest

UPDATE: Unfortunately, this contest is only open to U.S. citizens because of laws regulating sweepstakes and contests. Apologies to any readers outside the U.S.

Seed Magazine is having a writing contest, and you’re invited! It’s actually the Second Annual Seed Writing Contest presented by Honeywell.

Throughout the 20th century, science changed our perspective on the world. It altered our sense of individual identity, compelled us to environmental consciousness, and shaped our view of the cosmos. Its legacy is apparent in what we learned: the three Rs, our As, Ts, Cs, and Gs, the consequences of splitting the atom, that the solar system is 4.6 billion years old…

Today, the mantra of competitiveness has gained new momentum in the US, reinvigorating a discussion about education and the public’s understanding of science. Science is high on the agenda of the European Union. And China and Africa have identified science literacy as a cornerstone of their respective development strategies. This begs the question:

What does it mean to be scientifically literate in the 21st century?

How do we measure the scientific literacy of a society? How do we boost it? What is the value of this literacy? Who is responsible for fostering it?

Essay submissions will be judged by a panel of Seed editors and special guests. Winning entries will be published in Seed magazine.

Submission Deadline: July 1, 2007

Maximum Word Count: 1,200

First Prize: $2,500 Prize

2nd Place: $1,000 Prize

Please send your submissions as a Word document along with your full name and mailing address to
writingcontest AT seedmediagroup DOT com

First price is a little over $2 a word – not bad! Get writing!

Personally, I think a society can’t claim to be scientifically literate when 50% of the population is systematically excluded from the pursuit of science and engineering as a career…so that’s one criterion. Feel free to include that nugget in your effort if you want.

Think about it. If the citizenry were all “scientifically literate” to some agreed-upon level of understanding of science and math concepts and could discuss and interpret scientific issues moderately well, but the actual practitioners of science remained predominantly white and male as they are now – would that consitute an acceptable level of scientific literacy? Contrarily, if we were successful in our attempts to diversify science, but the general population remain scientifically illiterate, that would not be a desirable state of affairs either, would it?

Is either of these imagined scenarios actually attainable? I think the first is more likely than the second. I think the first is quite possibly a necessary but not sufficient precursor to a diversification of the professional science ranks.