By Benjamin Caballero MS, PhD Candidate, Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Although science is perceived to have a fundamental role in addressing major problems of modern society — from climate change to global healthcare — the persistent dwindling of its funding by government agencies is a global trend. It seems that the betterment of humankind is in jeopardy if this trend continues. But who is responsible for this? And more importantly, how can it be changed?
During the “Research Matters Communications Workshop for Early Career Scientists” at the George Washington University (GW) on October 9 organized by Research!America, Elsevier, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Society for Neuroscience and GW, this was among many questions sought to be answered. Nearly 100 scientists in different career stages felt that it was us, scientists, responsible for why science is poorly understood by general audiences, hence it is not a priority when decisions to fund it are made by elected officials. Scientists need to understand that the work performed cannot stay in laboratories. We need to cogently communicate our research, its importance and the implications that could have in the future to a broad public. We need to engage ourselves with society, advocacy and public outreach to explain why basic research is essential for the health and economic prosperity of every man, woman and child. This will be the first crucial step for science to become more engaged in the public agenda and away from the ivory tower.
The second step is to communicate research and its importance to policy-makers. Science and technology must be a central component of government priorities. Everyone can have a role in science advocacy, from the latest Nobel Prize winner to the common citizen. Everyone can be a hero for the development of scientific knowledge. Not for nothing the United Nations Humans Rights Council is recognized as a human right “the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.” If basic research funding continues to diminish, scientific progress will falter and we will never benefit from it. Governments need to embrace the development of science and technology understanding that basic research discoveries will in the long-term lead to innovations that benefit humanity.
Science is in need of heroes. It is important to realize that each and every one of us have a role and can become one. Inform yourself, ask questions to the experts and learn how your day-to-day life is benefited from the scientific endeavor. Be a part of human progress, become the hero science needs.
To read highlights of the Research Matters Communications Workshop, click here.