Tag Archives: science policy

Alexander wept and science triumphed

Solvay_conference_1927“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

-Die Hard (1988) (Yes, really.)

This recent editorial in Nature (subscription required) complains that truly groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting scientists like Newton and Einstein can no longer exist in the current world of science. The author, Dean Keith Simonton of UC Davis’s Department of Psychology, laments that there are no entirely new fields of science to be founded, nor great breakthroughs to be had from relative laymen. This is not a new argument, but understanding the culture underlying it is critical to knowing one’s context in the larger body of human knowledge.

Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/File:Bust_Alexander_BM_1857.jpgI want to take a moment to discuss the idea, and the portions with which I sympathize (the ability of an individual to accomplish something enormous) and the portions I find preposterous (a profound nostalgia.) Ultimately, though, the article helps to elucidate something very important: the great scientific achievements of the past millennium were almost entirely accomplished by people who would, by current standards, still be graduate students or (at most) postdocs. The ever-increasing times before young scientists become independent faculty mean that the current scientific establishment is taking on the structure of a pyramid scheme.

From the archives: Science policy and you

The BSR staff works hard to give you only the freshest, most relevant science news. Unfortunate side effect of being relevant: some of our articles don’t age as well as others. Because the pace of discovery is so unpredictable, sometimes a scientific story can change almost as soon as it is written about. (As an aside, this is why you should subscribe to the BSR, so you don’t fall behind on the latest Berkeley science happenings.)

Today, I bring you a piece from 2006 that is still very relevant. It’s about how you (yes, you!) can get more involved in science policy. Temina Madon, a Berkeley grad and executive director of the Center of Evaluation for Global Action and the Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases, was a Fellow with AAAS working in Washington D.C. at the time of the article. She profiles some famous scientists-turned-policymakers, and lists ways that you can become better informed and more active in shaping the policies that matter to you. Read it here, and please let us know in the comments if you have any information to add about the world of science policy.