Physics and Society

If you would like to participate in discussions about this topic, please visit the specific forum.

(Group Leader: Dr. Aristotelis (Telis) Gkiolmas, University of Athens, Greecey)

Undoubtedly, there is a very strong connection between Physics and whatever is happening in the society – at a local and at a global level – and this connection ought to be reflected in Physics’ education [1]

Some very important issues in the society need Physics in order to be understood, studied and – ultimately – to be resolved. As such issues, one could mention: 

The use of nuclear power as an alternative, the pros and cons of many other renewable sources of energy, the Greenhouse Effect (one of the greatest threats for human life today) and its outcomes, such as global warming and the climate change [2], the use of mobile phones for communication, the various forms of weapons that the Armies of different countries develop, the spread of information and communication through waves and through a variety of electronic media, the pollution in all its forms and so on. 

Therefore, it becomes evident that we need to have students (of all levels: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education) that are well and in-depth educated in the Physics about social issues.

It has to be noted that pseudoscience tends to play an important role in the actions of citizens but also – in certain cases – in the decision of governments around the world and it is the duty of us – educators of Physics, to do as much as we can against this trend [3]. The treating of the coronavirus pandemic that threatens the whole world is the most recent and by far the most important example.

Apart from that, the issue of “active citizenship”, that appears in almost all of the Curricula in Europe and in Northern America, is very strongly related with understanding Physics in social frameworks [4], since Physics and the deep knowledge of it can help the contemporary children, adolescents and youth to participate in the future decisions that concern their lives. In many cases, this would even help them to shape these decisions and apply them correctly, towards the common good.

Therefore, we consider it as of extreme importance, that GIREP should have a Thematic Group about “Physics and Society”. Thus, we gladly call all educators/members of GIREP of all levels of education (primary schools, secondary schools, technological institutes, universities) to participate in this group, sharing ideas, proposing things, organizing activities and publishing various pieces. It is up to every colleague to join in, if they want!


[1] Whitelegg, E. & Parry, M. (1999) Real-life contexts for learning physics: meanings, issues and practice. Physics Education, 34, 68-72.

[2] Summers, M., Kruger, C., & Childs, A.  Understanding the science of environmental issues: development of a subject knowledge guide for primary teacher education. International Journal of Science Education, 23 (1), 33-53.

[3] Hansson, S., V. (2017). Science denial as a form of pseudoscience. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A, 63, 39-47.

[4] Barrett, S., E. & Nieswandt, M. (2010) Teaching about Ethics through Socio-scientific Issues in Physics and Chemistry: Teacher Candidates’ Beliefs. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47 (4), 380–401.