Monday, November 17, 2008

The Science and Entertainment Exchange

The Science & Entertainment Exchange is a program run by the National Acadmy of Sciences that attempts to bridge the gap between the entertainment community and the science community by connecting science experts with producers, writers and directors. More specifically:
Spanning the range of science topics, The Exchange can find experts that will work with you to identify and effectively portray the science details that complement a storyline. We can help flesh out ideas that depend upon accurate details relating to insects, extraterrestrial life, unusual Earth-based life forms, or the mysteries of oceans. We can refine concepts relating to emerging science concepts in areas such as space travel, multiple dimensions, nanotechnology, computer technology, and engineering. We can find experts in environmental and ecological issues, health, medicine, and disease, and U.S. educational practices. We are also well positioned to work with you on public policy issues that relate to science such as stem cell research, global climate change, and teaching about evolution and the nature of science.
On Wednesday, November 19, the Exchange is running an invitation-only symposium in Los Angeles hosted by Seth MacFarland. It will serve as "the platform from which to formally announce The Exchange" and give entertainment industry types and scientists a change to network.

There really isn't much information on the official web site about how the program will work, but I think it's encouraging that its program director will be science writer Jennifer Ouellette, (who doesn't get any mention on the official website at all, what's up with that?). She will be bringing both a great fascination with science and constructive attitude to the position. She explained her approach on her blog, Cocktail Party Physics:
... I'm convinced that while the constant snark directed at science in movies and TV might be entertaining to those in the "geek clique," it is not, in the long run, constructive, or conducive to fostering change in how science is portrayed in Hollywood. It's easy to point fingers and toss off zingy crowd-pleasing one-liners; it's a lot more difficult to actually offer well-considered workable alternatives in a format that is easily accessible to those in the entertainment industry. It should be a "win-win" for both science and Hollywood in terms of fostering creative cooperation between the two groups. I think the Science and Entertainment Exchange has the right idea, and I'm delighted to have the chance to put the hypothesis to the test.
I hope she's right, and the Exchange is able to help Hollywood create more realistic depictions of science on television and in the movies. I'm a bit skeptical that it will have much influence. There are already producers and directors who tout the fact that they have science advisors, but seemingly ignore the advice of those experts for the sake of an exciting story. I'd love to be proved wrong. We'll have to wait and watch.

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