A VOICE FOR SCIENCE
Have we ever wondered whether any act that we do has an effect that lasts for a lifetime?
In Chaos Theory, the Butterfly Effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.
For example, a huge tornado could be influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.
Sometimes the smallest things we do could make the biggest impact like paving the way for the future generations to reach greater heights. Prof. Dr. Abhi Veerakumarasivam has created this ripple for us in Malaysia and that ripple has turned into a huge wave that no one could have foreseen.
Back in 2016, Dr. Abhi was the first Asian and Malaysian to win the International FameLab competition held at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom.
FameLab is the longest running science communication competition in the world with a global alumnus of over 10,000 science communicators. It was a historic win and Dr. Abhi explains what he went through.
“To be honest with you, I’m still digesting the whole thing, it’s been a roller-coaster and I feel like I’m still on it. Being the first Asian to win it and being a scientist, you never plan for these things and the opportunities that actually came with it.”
Humbled by the attention that he has received after being an international champion, Dr. Abhi has always wanted a voice for Malaysian scientist on the international stage and now he knows he must be that voice.
“Now for the first time, people are listening, and this has added extra pressure being that voice. But this pressure is what I need as I realise my role as a scientist, it’s not about sharing my work with others, but also listening to others on the topics that really matter.”
Growing up in a typical middle-class family, Dr. Abhi explained that the level of dreams and aspirations he had was never this huge and being in this position is beyond whatever he had envisioned for himself.
“Winning FameLab was my Olympic moment, but I felt that it also had a greater message which was to inspire the next generation of scientists. In Malaysia, people appreciate science, but the level of knowledge needs to improve, and I felt like maybe this was one way to make that happen.”
FameLab was brought to Malaysia in 2015 by the British Council in collaboration with Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).
The objective of was to address the communication gap between scientists and the public. Dr. Abhi explains how science communication plays a vital role not only in Malaysia, but globally as well.
“I think science communication has three roles to play. The first one is fighting fake news and misconceptions as it is becoming a real problem, from the anti-vaccinators to the people that brush off global warming, the problem is that it is at a community level and an individual level. It is effecting people and we need to go to the ground and try and change that.”
Dr. Abhi then goes on to say that science communication also has a role to make sure that policies that are being made are evidence-based policies which also take the environment into consideration.
The final role science communication has is to make sure science continuously progresses.
“The world will always have its grand challenges, and we need to make sure the next generation of scientists, being kids now or the unborn, are in an ecosystem in where they celebrate science, are more interested in science and are way more innovative and creative than the current generation so that they can actually solve the problems of the future.”
Science is not only for scientists, but for everyone and all of us must champion it. Let us take the responsibility to build a better and brighter future, together. Maybe the Butterfly Effect has already begun.