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Do Chemists have
Chemophobia? An Update
Dr Katherine Haxton
@kjhaxton k.j.haxton@keele.ac.uk
Background
August 2013 – oral bite, vicephec 2013 (Liverpool)
May 2014 – students (finally) select projects
September 2014...
Literature
Multiple definitions of chemophobia:
- anxiety about learning chemistry [Eddy, J Chem Ed 2004]
- ignorance abou...
RSC Attitudes – UK ‘Public’
Chemists are approachable – 88%
Chemists make valuable contribution to society – 84%
Where do ...
Tale of Two Students – Zaynah & Harriet
Very ‘different’ to previous research experiences
New methods – focus groups, inte...
Terminology
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
aspirin acetylsalicylic
acid
2-acetylbenzoic
acid
water dihydrogen
monoxide
Averageofr...
Aspirin and Related
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
2-acetylbenzoic acid
acetylsalicylic acid
aspirin
safe fairly safe neutral fai...
Aspirin: Known or Unknown
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
ABA unknown
ABA known
ASA unknown
ASA known
aspirin known
Safe fairly sa...
Water vs Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO)
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
DHMO known
DHMO unknown
Water known
Water unknown
safe fairly ...
Is water a chemical?
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
scientist
non-scientist
YES ambiguous NO
“That would depend on what context the definition is
being used for. Technically a water is a chemical
compound - it's got...
“No. I suspect that, technically, it is one -
but I would use the word 'chemical' in
everyday speech to imply something
po...
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
None
GCSE
A Level
Degree
Post Degree
Natural chemicals are safe
Strongly agree agree neutral disag...
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
None
GCSE
A Level
Degree
Post Degree
Man-made chemicals are dangerous
Strongly agree agree neutral...
Conclusions
Small sample sizes but interesting results
Challenging but worthwhile style of project to run
Further studies
...
Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG
www.keele.ac.uk
Acknowledgements:
Zaynah Farak and Harriet Holt,
Dr Lisa La...
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Do Chemists have Chemophobia? An Update

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Presentation given in August 2015 at Variety in Chemistry Education 2015 #vicephec15 describing preliminary work into the effect of language on perceived risk of chemicals and misconceptions surrounding chemicals.

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Do Chemists have Chemophobia? An Update

  1. 1. Do Chemists have Chemophobia? An Update Dr Katherine Haxton @kjhaxton k.j.haxton@keele.ac.uk
  2. 2. Background August 2013 – oral bite, vicephec 2013 (Liverpool) May 2014 – students (finally) select projects September 2014 – June 2015 student projects June 2015 – RSC ‘Public attitudes to chemistry’ report published (a little too late for the students)
  3. 3. Literature Multiple definitions of chemophobia: - anxiety about learning chemistry [Eddy, J Chem Ed 2004] - ignorance about chemistry [Smith J Chem Ed 2008] “chemical illiteracy” - anxiety about chemicals [Berdosonov J Chem Ed 1999] “irrational fear of chemicals” Frequency of ‘chemophobia’ in books – SOURCE: Google ngram viewer 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
  4. 4. RSC Attitudes – UK ‘Public’ Chemists are approachable – 88% Chemists make valuable contribution to society – 84% Where do chemists work?: pharmacies (76%), laboratories (49%), hospitals (29%), pharma (17%), med reseearch (17%) http://www.rsc.org/campaigning-outreach/campaigning/public-attitudes-chemistry/ #chemperceptions
  5. 5. Tale of Two Students – Zaynah & Harriet Very ‘different’ to previous research experiences New methods – focus groups, interviews, questionnaires Ethics! [3 or 4 rounds with ethics panel per project] Subjective research (which conflicts with chemistry’s objective approach) Most useful data was from questionnaires Must challenge personal conceptions Limited peer-reviewed literature available Challenging to supervise and mark
  6. 6. Terminology 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 aspirin acetylsalicylic acid 2-acetylbenzoic acid water dihydrogen monoxide Averageofresposes Rate these substances 1 = Safe,3 = neutral, 5 = Unsafe
  7. 7. Aspirin and Related 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 2-acetylbenzoic acid acetylsalicylic acid aspirin safe fairly safe neutral fairly unsafe unsafe
  8. 8. Aspirin: Known or Unknown 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% ABA unknown ABA known ASA unknown ASA known aspirin known Safe fairly safe neutral fairly unsafe unsafe
  9. 9. Water vs Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% DHMO known DHMO unknown Water known Water unknown safe fairly safe neutral fairly unsafe unsafe
  10. 10. Is water a chemical? 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% scientist non-scientist YES ambiguous NO
  11. 11. “That would depend on what context the definition is being used for. Technically a water is a chemical compound - it's got a chemical formula of H2O and is formed via chemical bonds. But most of the time, no, I wouldn't classify water as a chemical. It's safe and nontoxic and I don't think of something I would use to wash off lab equipment as a chemical, really. Kind of like how by the technical definition a tomato is a fruit but you wouldn't put it in a fruit salad.” - non-scientist Is water a chemical? Please explain:
  12. 12. “No. I suspect that, technically, it is one - but I would use the word 'chemical' in everyday speech to imply something potentially harmful or artificial - in relation to drugs, cleaning materials, food additives, etc.” - scientist Is water a chemical? Please explain:
  13. 13. 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% None GCSE A Level Degree Post Degree Natural chemicals are safe Strongly agree agree neutral disagree strongy disagree
  14. 14. 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% None GCSE A Level Degree Post Degree Man-made chemicals are dangerous Strongly agree agree neutral disagree strongy disagree
  15. 15. Conclusions Small sample sizes but interesting results Challenging but worthwhile style of project to run Further studies - investigate conceptions around the word ‘chemical’ - does chemistry education make a difference? - impact of chemical language on assessment of safety (implications for laboratories)
  16. 16. Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG www.keele.ac.uk Acknowledgements: Zaynah Farak and Harriet Holt, Dr Lisa Lau (Chair of School Ethics Panel), Dr Rob Jackson, Dr Richard Darton

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