Don’t Blame Scientists!

Dr. Nathan Lewis, George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry, has been on the faculty at the California Institute of Technology since 1988 and has served as Professor since 1991. He has also served as the Principal Investigator of the Beckman Institute Molecular Materials Resource Center at Caltech since 1992. From 1981 to 1986, he was on the faculty at Stanford, as an assistant professor from 1981 to 1985 and as a tenured Associate Professor from 1986 to 1988. Dr. Lewis received his Ph.D in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Do you think that part of the slowdown comes from the fact that scientists conceal research for their own benefit? 

Nate Lewis: I think that there is more of a perception problem in this particular instance than a real systemic problem. First of all, in energy technology as opposed to studying fundamental observations like the issue of, did the climate researchers not release all the data that they might have otherwise have wanted to release into the public, or should have released? That doesn’t really affect whether or not the earth is getting warmer or not. Of course it is getting warmer. And of course glaciers are melting. You can’t hide the fact that glaciers are all melting all over our planet regardless of whether or not you did or didn’t release one data point here or there. It doesn’t change anything that anybody with two eyes open can’t see. 

At the same time, in energy technology, you can’t hide it if it works or not, because either this device saves energy and people buy it and find it out, or it doesn’t. Either your car gets more miles per gallon on the showroom than the next one, or it doesn’t. Either the solar farm makes electricity, or it doesn’t. It’s pretty hard to say that you’re eliminating or slowing down the rate of progress in this area because you’re concealing the fact that you can really do a lot of good things with clean, cheap energy that you didn’t’ tell anybody about. So, I don’t think it’s really an issue in that part of this problem. 

Recorded on February 3, 2010

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