I’ve got a piece at Huffington Post today about scientific illiteracy and public disengagement–and some possible answers. An excerpt:
Take clean energy, the industry of the future. Globally, the clean energy economy is booming–and China is now its clear leader. The U.S. fell into a distant second place last year in clean energy investment and finance, as China spent $ 34.6 billion to our $18.6 billion.
A similar story emerges in the biomedical arena, where our research investments haven’t kept pace with national health priorities. For instance, Alzheimer’s disease is now the seventh leading cause of death in the US, and accounts for 34 percent of total Medicare spending. Yet in terms of research, it’s a stepchild: Funding through the National Institutes of Health is currently less than $ 500 million per year.
How do you make Americans more focused on the centrality of science to our future? It isn’t easy given the nature of our national conversation–with serious science news vanishing from the media–and our already limited attention constantly directed elsewhere, including debating whether to elect global warming denying candidates to Congress this November 2.
One initiative I’ve begun working with to help counteract this trend is the Geoffrey Beene Gives Back® Rock Stars of Science™ campaign (100 percent of net profits from this designer menwear brand funds cancer research and other causes). The idea is to pair together researchers with top musicians–e.g., Joe Perry meets NIH director Francis Collins [as pictured in the airport ad above]–to raise the visibility of the scientific life and endeavor, and to call for a greater commitment to finding cures to the most devastating diseases. The first installment appeared as a public service ad in GQ last summer, and the next one hits just after the election, in GQ’s December “Men of the Year” issue.
The point to emphasize here is that our scientists are heroes, not geeks. They’re the last caste of explorers, and represent the very epitome of passion for a career. They don’t do what they do for personal enrichment, but rather, because they get a crack at solving the greatest remaining mysteries. Their lives are adventure stories.
You can read the full Huffington Post piece here.