Welcome to the new Science in Society blog. It's official. We're live.
The goal of this blog is to share Northwestern University's broad range of scientific interest and perspective. Accordingly, we've assembled a group of thoughtful individuals representing the university community: scientists & non-scientists, staff, faculty, and students.
You can read about my background here. In a nutshell, I come from an eclectic mix of biochemistry, molecular biology, hockey, and art. And I'm passionate about communicating science with the public.
Why? For starters, it's just plain fun. Science is truly a discipline always on the edge. Walk into a research lab - doesn't matter if it's chemistry, physics, or biology - and it's possible you'll witness an experiment being done for the first time in the history of man. Of course, it may fail miserably. Such is the process of science. Yet when it works, it leads to new experiments and collaborations, which lead to things like cancer therapies, the internet, solar panels, and tankless hot water heaters (homeowners, you need one of these).
It's also true that scientists have an obligation to to inform and educate the public at large. Much of the basic research done at universities across the country is funded by your money (the taxpayer-funded budget for the National Institutes of Health last year was ~ $29 billion). It's only reasonable that you ask, "What advances has my money helped support?"
Public policy also enters into the equation. We collectively need to make tough decisions about how to move forward on issues like stem cell biology and climate change. Key to making informed decisions is a basic understanding of 1) the problem, 2) available solutions, and 3) the downstream consequences. For any given issue, perfectly rational and educated people will disagree about 1-3. It happens all the time in labs, town halls, and pubs across the globe. The key is having a scientific understanding of the problem, along with its moral, legal, and social implications.
We hope this blog will highlight the issues and encourage the debate. Please join us!