Today’s generation of scientists need to think laterally, not just vertically.
Adam Bly: Today’s generation of scientists is tackling science and sees science in fairly substantially different ways than the previous generation. First and foremost they are coming about at a time when to be experts simply in one discipline is limiting, is not impossible, and is not without value. But to not be capable of connecting other disciplines, and being comfortable and fluent in this new interdisciplinary landscape is an . . . is an inadequacy. It’s something that I think would hinder, you know, understanding. And so I think the capabilities of thinking laterally as opposed to just simply vertically within a field is different. I think that scientists are also becoming more aware of their responsibility as citizens. One of the potential great silver linings of the war on science in the United States over the last seven years has been that it has galvanized the U.S. scientific community in important ways. And when the ideals of science are under attack; and where scientists themselves are censored; and where freedom of flow of information in a free way is hindered; and where, you know, a society is making its widely believed anti-scientific decisions; it has almost consequently led to scientists reaffirming the core values of being a scientist – what it is to be a scientist. In fact Sir David King, who is the British science advisor, has recently laid out a pretty visionary idea of a Hippocratic Oath-like thing for scientists so that all scientists have some sort of unification; some core values that we all subscribe to. So I think that scientists now see the connection of their work to society at large. They see how their work can be misused and misinterpreted. They see that the funding for their research is coming, in many cases, from tax payers. And so there’s a natural desire and “responsibility” on the part of scientists to have transparency and find ways of communicating. And I think that the fact that more scientists are blogging right now, or are blogging right now, are . . . is a sign of new ways of kind of bypassing traditional media outlets to create this direct communication channel with the general public. And it’s allowing the public to connect with scientists and scientists to connect with the general public in very, very powerful ways I think.
Science is also a more global enterprise today. And so there is value in being able to understand how to connect and how to navigate across cultures, and languages, and geographic boundaries. Science has always been a borderless enterprise, but today more so than ever before. And when you look at a project like the human genome project, that brought together, you know, 29 disciplines from 50 plus countries. The Large Hedron Collider in Geneva now is an $8 billion project which is employing half the particle physicists in the world coming from dozens, and dozens, and dozens of natures . . . nations; dozens and dozens of languages. Globalization has permeated science, and science has permeated globalization. And so I think that creates a new lifestyle now for being a scientist. So all of those things are making scientists more engaged and global citizens.
Recorded on: 10/17/07