Zerhouni on the Role of Science in Society
January 16, 2008
The NIH Director, Elias Zerhouni has a newsletter out which advances several arguments for the importance of science education. YHN may be occasionally guilty of taking the Great Zerhouni to task for some of his choices and directions as director and some of you may have a critical cant on anything he has to say. Well, this had some gems. If nothing else, it is a good rehearsal for your own thoughts on the importance of science.
There are a number of good points so I’ll just hit the highlights:
Our best hope for making a broad impact on the children of this nation would be to have a grassroots movement of scientists across the country, rallying for improved science education in their own communities.
Which I keep meaning to address in terms of scientific outreach on the local and personal level. All well and good to send letters to Congress bitching about the NIH funding. The question is, however, what are you doing to get your friends and neighbors to understand the importance of NIH funding? It starts with establishing the importance of the science.
Economists have estimated that as much as half of the post-World War II growth in GDP in the U.S. is attributable to technological progress that resulted from research and development.
Yeah, yeah. The typical way we need to talk to hook the “business” culture, which is a huge political hurdle. It’s the mindset. And we need to speak to it, distasteful as it may be.
A rigorous education in math and science can help prepare all students for good jobs, even those who will never wear a white lab coat.
Exactly. Should be a constant theme of anyone advancing science-as-an-endeavor. Better living through SCIENCE!
Children who learn about health and the science that underpins it will be better equipped to make smart choices—about diets and exercise, about smoking and drugs, and about choosing lifestyles that will help keep them mentally and physically fit.
Um, wow. He’s choosing examples that may not be the most traditional successes of science-for-healthcare. Talking drug abuse and diet/obesity. Shifting behavior through communication of the science! Damn, is he reading Drugmonkey?
We are working on this with our sister agencies in HHS and will be announcing some bold, new initiatives soon
I smell grant money. Perhaps this is where we parent-scientists need to get off our asses and partner with the local elementary schools. Yes, even if this outreach and education type of effort is not a usual part of our careers. (There are people who focus on this stuff.)
To many laypeople, science and technology are essentially one and the same. Many don’t understand that science isn’t about the high-tech devices we use or even what we choose to study. It is a way of knowing. It is a method of making sense of our world and of our universe. [Ed-emphasis added]
I don’t happen to live in a science-denial location but our national politics is affected by these themes. What are you doing about it?
All and all a pleasantly surprising communique from the Great Zerhouni.