2021. 09. 07.

A Brief Talk with Branislava Lalić

Branislava Lalić

• Professor of meteorology and biophysics at University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Agriculture (PFNS)

• Expertise and interest: modeling physical processes describing atmosphere-biosphere interaction

• Co-Change leader of the RRIzing lab together with Mila Grahovac

The Co-Change Lab called RRIzing Lab at the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Novi Sad focuses on several RRI keys. In a previous interview, we introduced how the Lab members worked on gender equality; here, we discuss their open data and science education journey.

A university is a science education practitioner. So what would you like to change in that term?

When we talk about science education, we should think about it at different levels. Here, we focus on science education at the university level -undergraduate, graduate or PhD level. And that's okay, as we are scientists working at universities. But suppose science education is not adequate at high schools. In that case, you cannot be very optimistic at university because education is not starting at age 19, and here, at the university, we are just at the end of this process.

By experience, we see with my colleagues that the number of students on STEM studies (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), except IT, is generally reducing. So I think that it should be taught more excitingly. I would like to motivate my colleagues to prepare some popular books for middle or high school students because there is a massive gap between 21st-century science and high school students books. It's challenging to be in touch with the latest scientific inventions, results, but we could prepare some small useful textbooks for teachers to present these results and these discoveries to their students in high schools.

Have you already started to find some colleagues who would like to take part in writing these books?

Unfortunately, not because it's pretty difficult to motivate people to perform such a massive job without any kind of reward. I’m not entirely optimistic about that, and I'm not so sure that even if I had some budget for it, I would be able to motivate people to do this. I'm afraid that only a slight quantitative impact will be achieved on science education because it is tricky to measure the institutional change in science education.

So the question is, how can you make your colleagues believe that going to high school can be an essential and very entertaining part of a professor’s job?

It’s not easy at all, although if you want to make a popular lecture about climate change, that can be organized easily. But suppose you're going to introduce sensitive topics and speak with the students about critical thinking, about problem-solving, which is the essence of science education. In that case, we face strong resistance from the high school administration. We wrote with my colleague to some of the high schools in Novi Sad, and just one of them (Gymnasium “Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj”) responded.

Luckily, you are also working on open science, especially the open access, open data aspects.

And here is the challenge: we have several repositories. One university-level repository, two repositories at the faculty of agriculture, and a national repository. These were developed quite independently, which presents a technical issue: how to merge these repositories. As for open access, people commonly know about gold open access, which is extremely expensive and available mainly for international projects. But we will do our best to promote green open access in general and green open access for data sets. Some of my colleagues have an enormous amount of data from field experiments. Experiments sometimes last for more than 60 years at a faculty of agriculture, which means an unbelievable amount of data. In general, colleagues are unaware of the possibility of putting datasets in a data repository. And on the other hand, some datasets are not large enough to be a part of some scientific paper. But they can be very important still. Making such data open to the general public and the scientific community is our motive in this endeavor.