Those are the words of Dr. Carl Safina, a renowned ecologist and winner of the MacArthur “Genius Grant” for his work studying the worlds oceans and how they’re changing, from his column in the most recent issue of APS News, “Why Communicate Science?”
Safina makes the case for scientists engaged with the real world, not just enough to secure funding (although that’s important), and not just in the sense of translating scientific jargon into English. Because while explaining the most recent journal articles does have value and might sometimes be appropriate, what he really thinks the world could use is scientists who are active citizens and facilitators of good thinking:
I’m getting at something less prescriptive, more amorphous, more persistent and more penetrating. I’m saying that scientists should be a much greater presence in society, should be brighter on the public’s radar, and that how, exactly, we do it, is up to each of us.
Don’t think you need to teach the public a lot of science facts. Instead, show what science is, what it means, why we need it. Find a way to have a presence. Choose what to comment on, how to be involved, and what actions and issues to engage in. Be a source of wisdom.
The public doesn’t need to keep up-to-date on journal publications. What people do need to know is that scientists are people, that science is an honorable, trustworthy, and powerful endeavor that people should look to for answers, and as a way to help think through decisions. Every child asks, “Why is the sky blue?” People need to know that scientists are the ones among us who never stopped asking that question–and who found the answer.
In that spirit, I am going to try to use this site as a platform for engagement, along with some explanation/translating. Science is cool and interesting and relevant to your everyday life. It pursues answers to puzzles that are worth considering for their own sake (Schrödinger’s cat), and answers to problems from the real world (how are we going to feed 9 billion people come 2050?).
My scientific focus is materials science and physics, and my interests include economics and energy. So expect things to start off a bit in that vein, but we’ll see where it goes!