- There’s a need to balance hype with the educational and outreach efforts necessary to build interest and momentum.
- Recent research underscores that critical need for public education and awareness to keep pace as quantum advances.
- Central to the study is the introduction of a framework that organizes quantum physics into core concepts, everyday applications, and alternative viewpoints.
While quantum hype remains a concern for the quantum industry, there’s a need to balance hype with the educational and outreach efforts necessary to build interest and momentum, while attracting the necessary talented workers and scientists who will deliver on quantum’s very real potential, according to an international team of researchers.
A recent study, spearheaded by researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Aarhus University, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen University and the University of Pisa, underscores that critical need for public education and awareness to keep pace with these advancements.
The research, published in the European Journal of STEM Education, finds that it’s essential for both the future workforce and the general public to grasp the basics of quantum technologies, or QT, given its profound implications on society. The study is particularly relevant as these technologies are rapidly emerging out of the laboratory and into the real world.
The researchers say that quantum tech, a field buoyed by over $30 billion in public funding and at least 25 national initiatives, are poised to revolutionize various sectors, from computing to communication. However, the study points out a significant challenge: the absence of QT in national educational curricula, which leaves a gap in public understanding and acceptance of these complex technologies. To bridge this gap, the authors call for innovative outreach efforts to demystify quantum concepts for non-specialists and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
The Quantum Technologies Education For Everyone (QuTE4E) project, a pilot initiative under the European Quantum Flagship program, is one such effort aiming to bring quantum physics and technologies closer to the public. Through a variety of methods, including experimental demonstrations, games, and interactive tools, the project seeks to make QT accessible and engaging for all, regardless of their background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Central to the study is the introduction of the Discipline-Culture (DC) framework, which organizes quantum physics into core concepts, everyday applications, and alternative viewpoints. This framework not only aids in identifying the essential quantum concepts for public outreach but also addresses the interdisciplinary nature of QT, balancing the contributions of physics and computer science.
Survey findings from the study also indicate that concepts such as superposition, measurement, quantum state, qubit and entanglement are crucial for effectively communicating QT to the public. These concepts, foundational to understanding quantum mechanics, were rated highest for their outreach potential, underscoring their role in captivating and educating audiences about the wonders and possibilities of QT.
The study employed an iterative survey method to refine and enhance its questionnaire across multiple rounds, aiming to collect comprehensive and accurate data on outreach activities in quantum technologies. Initially, open-ended questions were posed to experts, whose responses formed the basis for a preliminary list of items. These items were then evaluated and potentially expanded upon by participants in the first round of the survey, allowing for a collaborative refinement process. This iterative approach was meant to ensure that the final set of questions, which included modifications such as the addition of a “Don’t know” option to the five-point Likert scale and a “country” option in the participant background section, was informed by a broader range of expert opinions.
The final questionnaire asked participants to rate the usefulness of various concepts/approaches for outreach, with the items rated including those suggested in both the preliminary and first rounds.
Despite the methodical approach, the researchers acknowledges limitations, including its reliance on inputs from a relatively small group of 36 participants in the final round, the rapidly evolving nature of quantum technology (QT) outreach needs, and a regional bias towards EU perspectives,
The researchers report the findings represent an initial step towards understanding QT outreach rather than a definitive guide.
Zeki Can Seskir, Simon Richard Goorney and Maria Luisa Chiofalo conducted the research.