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Can Dinosaur Fossils Make Science More Accessible?

Can Dinosaur Fossils Make Science More Accessible? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Illustration by Hännah Foote. From left to right: Caitlin D. Wylie and Lisa Margonelli.

A Zócalo/Issues in Science and Technology Event

Pretty much every dinosaur skeleton you see has been painstakingly excavated from rock by people with precision, skill, and creativity. What they don’t have are paleontology degrees, and what they don’t get is money or credit. In fact, fossil preparators are mostly enthusiastic volunteers who come from all different backgrounds and receive their training on the job. Their unsung work creates the foundation of scientific knowledge about life, environment, and evolution. This veritable army of citizen scientists has a great deal to teach professional researchers, who are struggling to connect with the public. Could studying and emulating the paths these technicians take to the lab help make scientific disciplines more inclusive? Why are fossil preparators outliers in serious scientific research? And might adopting outreach efforts akin to the glass-walled natural history museum labs where preparators work help build public trust in science?

University of Virginia social scientist Caitlin Donahue Wylie, author of Preparing Dinosaurs: The Work Behind the Scenes and a new essay on the topic, and Issues in Science and Technology editor-in-chief Lisa Margonelli visit Zócalo to talk about the power of looking beyond Ph.D.s and publications to recognize and connect to all who contribute to scientific knowledge.

Zócalo is proud to partner with Issues in Science and Technology, a quarterly journal published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Arizona State University, to present discussions focused on the intersection of science, technology and public policy.

Past Events in this Series

Scientists Don’t Have to Be Heroes | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Scientists Don’t Have to Be Heroes

How NASA and ASU Astronomer Lindy Elkins-Tanton Is Dismantling the Personality-Driven Culture of the Research Laboratory

Two decades ago, NASA’s Psyche mission principal investigator and ASU Interplanetary Initiative vice president Lindy Elkins-Tanton was working toward her PhD at MIT. It was a place she loved, but …

How Can Inventors Respond to the Real-World Effects of Their Inventions? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Can Inventors Respond to the Real-World Effects of Their Inventions?

A More Holistic Approach to the Field Can Make Technology Better for Society

What is it like to be an inventor? Are inventors responsible for the societal ramifications of their creations? And how could a more holistic approach to innovation lead future scientists …

How Will Robot Trucks Change American Life? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Will Robot Trucks Change American Life?

For All the Promise of Automotive Trucking, the Future of Our Freight System Has a Human Problem

Robotic trucks are beginning to roll out, carrying cargo and promises of revolutionizing freight hauling, reducing traffic, and lowering pollution. But previous waves of automation have eliminated millions of jobs …

Can Innovation Really Solve Society’s Problems? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Can Innovation Really Solve Society’s Problems?

To Reckon With Today’s Greatest Challenges, We Need to Rethink Innovation Itself

Since World War II, the United States has famously funded research to advance all fields of science and innovation, fueling new disease-fighting drugs, increasing economic productivity, and sparking an information …