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IQT’s “Journal Club:” Surveying the General Public about the “Culture” of Quantum Technologies (QT)

A new paper in Communications of the ACM assesses the current investment level and market readiness of the quantum computing landscape.
By Kenna Hughes-Castleberry posted 15 Mar 2024

IQT’s “Journal Club” is a weekly article series that breaks down a recent quantum technology research paper and discusses its impacts on the quantum ecosystem. This week, we focus on an article published in The European Journal of STEM Education done by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, Aarhus University in Denmark, the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University in Denmark, and the University of Pisa in Italy. In this study, the researchers ran a survey through the Quantum Technologies Education For Everyone (QuTE4E) pilot project to better understand how the “culture” of quantum technologies (QT) is conveyed, making the ecosystem more or less inclusive. 

With continuing advancements in quantum technologies (QT), the imperative to bridge the gap between cutting-edge scientific innovation and public understanding has never been more critical. Recognizing this, the Quantum Technologies Education For Everyone (QuTE4E) pilot project, run by researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, Aarhus University in Denmark, the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University in Denmark, and the University of Pisa in Italy, embarked on a comprehensive survey to illuminate the key concepts in QT that hold the most value for outreach and education efforts.

By dissecting the fabric of QT outreach through the lens of this unique framework, the study aims to equip educators, communicators, and enthusiasts with a nuanced understanding of how to engage diverse audiences effectively. In doing so, it seeks to foster a more informed and enthusiastic public ready to navigate and contribute to the quantum era. The findings were published in the European Journal of STEM Education. 

Looking at QT “Culture”

The study, which ran from December 2021 to June 2022, aimed to identify essential quantum concepts that should be highlighted in outreach activities or “culture.” It strongly emphasized the core concepts of quantum mechanics, such as superposition, measurement, and quantum state, suggesting these topics hold significant value in engaging the public’s interest. However, it also highlighted a debate within the community regarding whether QT should be viewed primarily as a discipline of physics, computer science, or a distinct field altogether. This debate influences the selection of concepts for outreach, as it calls into question the relevance of certain topics, like qubits and spin, in non-specialist contexts.

Improving Quantum Outreach

The findings of the QuTE4E study have profound implications for designing QT outreach activities. They underscore the need for a nuanced approach that considers QT’s interdisciplinary nature and the target audience’s diverse backgrounds. The emphasis on core quantum mechanical concepts suggests a foundational approach to outreach, aiming to inspire and educate the public about the fascinating and often counterintuitive principles underlying quantum technologies.

Moreover, the study’s insights into the discipline-culture framework suggest that effective QT outreach must go beyond mere knowledge dissemination. It should aim to familiarize the public with the “language” and culture of quantum physics, thereby demystifying the field and fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of its potential. This approach not only combats misinformation and hype but also prepares society for the transformative impact of QT.

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is the Managing Editor at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, quantum computing, and AI. Her work has been featured in National Geographic, Scientific American, Discover Magazine, New Scientist, Ars Technica, and more.

Categories: Education, quantum computing, research

Tags: education, journal club, outreach

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