My latest Science Progress column explores this question, inspired by the recently launched GQ/Geoffrey Beene Rock S.O.S. campaign (“Rock Stars of Science”), on the web here and in glossy portfolio here. (Thanks to Mary Spiro for drawing this to my attention in the first place).
The GQ photo spread, which you should all see–I’ve included one image at right–pairs together researchers with musicians in what turns out to be some seriously intriguing images–but whether they shatter stereotypes of scientists as nerdy and weird (as opposed to reinforcing them), I’m not so sure. As I write:
Some of the researchers featured in GQ get beyond the geek, but mostly, the contrast between them and the rock stars is sharp and heightened.
It is particularly difficult to miss the fact that while the rock stars are far more diverse, the scientists are all older, white, and male. Yes, it catches your eye to see such scientists rocking out. But it would be even more bracing to see female and racially diverse young researchers—with tattoos! Believe me, they’re out there.
Carl, they should have brought you in on this.
Still, I am a fan of the Rock S.O.S. campaign for the following reason:
I’ve long felt that when it comes to the cultural standing of science in America, our problem is a lot bigger than a poor educational system, bad test scores, or rampant scientific illiteracy. It is at least as troubling that very few Americans can name Fauci, Varmus, or Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute—and that very few American kids want to be them. A scientific research career, if you can get it, is a pretty good life—one could set one’s sights far, far lower. But it’s not clear that as a culture today, we recognize this.
And so my conclusion–if we want to pair science with celebrity, this is just the beginning:
Next stop for Geoffrey Beene: In the pages of Sports Illustrated, I want to see young, athletic scientists catching passes from Peyton and Eli Manning.
You can read the full column here. What do you think, is the Rock S.O.S. campaign a good thing?
Links to this Post
- why scientists and rock stars don’t mix « weird things | June 12, 2009