The inspiration to learn more about science and its impact on our lives comes from many sources. We are naturally curious beings – we want to explore the world around us and to figure out how things work or why they came to be. Places like museums, zoos, botanical gardens and national parks feed our instinct to learn more about ourselves and the environment in which we live.
Our interest in science also comes from a strong societal desire to preserve human health. New diagnostic, treatment and disease prevention measures discovered in the last fifty years have revolutionized medicine. The next fifty years will surely see similar advances, especially in how we understand the inner workings of the brain and the roles that our genes and the environment play in shaping health.
Social responsibility motivates us to learn as well. Many difficult issues facing our society are rooted in science—issues like global warming, stem cells, genetic privacy, and the loss of animal and plant habitats. These issues have garnered the attention of our state and national policymakers, with good reason. They have an impact on our economy, human health, the health of our planet, and our collective societal values.
The scientific community at Northwestern University is dedicated to supporting and enhancing these interests. Our latest effort towards this goal is Science in Society, a new web resource designed to facilitate your exploration of science with reliable and thought-provoking information, directly from the experts.
The tools on the Science in Society site include a feature article section, which is meant to convey the exciting research activities and thoughtful perspectives of Northwestern faculty. Our goal is to explore not only the science, but the social, legal, economic, and ethical dimensions as well. For example, several Northwestern research groups are investigating how to preserve a woman’s fertility in the face of life-saving but fertility-threatening cancer treatment. Our first article, featured now, looks at an experimental and innovative procedure they are developing. The next article, which will be published in early February, will examine the ethical considerations associated with the promise of this new technology.
The news section contains local, national, and international stories of relevance to your life. The site also features a multimedia library where you can view lectures designed for the general public right on your computer, or download them to an iPod or portable video player.
Science in Society will also serve as a one-stop resource for seminars and other events at the university designed to engage the public in matters related to the sciences. For example, the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center regularly sponsors symposia on cancer awareness. The Cells to Society program holds seminars on health care disparities related to gender, race, and economics. There are even activities at the elementary and middle school level, including the LABS program, a summer camp designed to foster a sense of curiosity and scientific imagination in our budding scholars. You can also keep up to date with these seminars and events via automatic email reminders and RSS feeds.
Above all we hope this site will convey the excitement and promise of scientific discovery, and the practical impact of these issues on your lives.
As with any scientific endeavor, this site is an experiment of sorts. We expect to make modifications and adjustments based on your feedback and response. I invite you to keep in touch and tell us how we're doing by writing or giving me a call.