Haven’t the Foggiest
Georgina Glaser gives us an insight into the ‘Voice of Young Science’ (VoYS) network, and their latest weather-based quiz: Haven’t the foggiest.
Being in the early stage of your research career can sometimes feel daunting, and it is not uncommon to feel as if you cannot get your thoughts and opinions across. Even if you can, you might feel like your opinions are not valid because of your early career status. Luckily for us, we have the Voice of Young Science (VoYS) network. Though VoYS provide a variety of helpful workshops (such as on how science is used in the media, peer review etc.), one of their main aims is to empower young scientists and encourage them to speak up about their work. Equally importantly, VoYS encourage researchers to engage in scientific discussion.
One of VoYS’ most recent projects has been a weather-based quiz: ‘Haven’t the foggiest’. This project, which aims to stop the misuse of weather terms and misleading meteorological information in the media and in public discussion, was spurred into action by several meteorologist VoYS members. These early career researchers raised their concerns and, with the help of other VoYS members, put together this quiz to challenge everyone to test their meteorological know-how. Thousands have had a go at the the Haven’t the foggiest quiz already, test your knowledge and see how you compare!
The widespread issue of misleading and misused weather terms is not just a concern regarding incorrectly used scientific lingo; it can affect both how the public view meteorologists, and their trust in scientists. If the public are consistently hearing warnings about weather phenomena, such as hurricanes in the UK, which do not come to pass, this might lead to doubt in the capabilities of meteorologists, and a lack of precaution from the public when real weather crises do occur.
Of course, it is not the meteorologists who are to blame. In a place like Britain, where people constantly talk about the weather, a dramatic headline about a ‘monsoon’ or ‘heatwave’ is likely to catch the eye. In reality, meteorologists have specific definitions for these words and certain criteria for the weather phenomena must be met for them to be classed as such. In the media, however, ‘monsoon’ is frequently used to represent heavy rain (despite some monsoons causing droughts), and a ‘heatwave’ tends to simply describe a hot day (when in fact the temperature must exceed a specific threshold for a certain number of days).
The quiz doesn’t just cover the misuse of terms, but also tackles misleading statements, particularly those that we often see in the headlines about this year bringing ‘the coldest winter’, or how London will be ‘hotter than Athens’. The real goal of the quiz is to raise awareness among the public that they should be more critical of the headlines they see, but should also put their trust in meteorologists and put pressure on the media to report accurate, rather than ostentatious, weather stories. This quiz should also show young scientists that if they have concerns about the use of science in the media, particularly in their own field of research, then they can and should ignite change. Help from the VoYS network is just one of the ways that they can do this.
Article by Georgina Glaser for Sci@StAnd
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