"A New Mission for American Science"

By Chris Mooney | August 8, 2008 12:28 pm

That’s the title of my latest Science Progress column. The argument is that amid all this talk about energy, we need to get the scientific community as a whole more integrally involved–and indeed, get American science as an institution to fully embrace what will surely be its new, generational mission: Pursue the energy innovations that will save our economy, our climate, and our planet.

Now, to be sure, the idea that we need energy innovation is already out there, big time–but its poster child today is basically T. Boone Pickens, rather than any scientist. That’s got to change.

You can read the whole piece here.


Comments (2)

  1. Agricultural Research Services, the in-house research agency of USDA, has been doing this. They work very closely with their customers (which include farmers) on agricultural based energy programs. The problem is, all the bioenergy research money goes to the DOE, and very little of it trickles on down to ARS.

    ARS Research in Biobased Products & BioEnergy – This link lists many of the ARS biofuel initiatives.

  2. Alas, in the end the Al Gore’s and the T. Boone Pickens’ are more important because they represent money sources, the government and investors, and scientists can’t do anything without that money. Can they?

    Yes, everybody is talking about energy these days. But they’re not necessarily talking about it as a scientific opportunity so much as a business one.

    Wind power is good enough to pay off now, so it is more business opportunity than scientific now (but imagine there is room for scientific improvement). Solar is very much more of a scientific opportunity.

    And it’s not going to be a scientific opportunity for every scientist. What could PZ or Sheril Kirshenbaum or Tara Smith do to make an energy revolution?

    What is needed are people with narrow specialties in physics and engineering for major moves in solar, wind, tide and geothermal.

    The most science-centric articulations of the idea should probably be aimed at talented high school and college kids who are deciding now what field they want to go in. That’s who scientists need to speak to, not so much the general public.

    Maybe high schools and colleges should have a “scientific opportunity day” where speakers explain where tomorrow’s opportunities lie. “Hey kids, get in on the ground floor of an industry that will make tomorrow’s millionaires and billionaires.”


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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