Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion: Read Me in the APS News

Many people have their 15 minutes of fame - mine started once the APS News (the monthly newsletter of the American Physical Society) hit mail boxes in physics departments everywhere.  That's right, if you open your October 2011 issue of to page 4 you'll see an exceptionally well-written letter to the editor about the need for physicists to stop blaming politicians for recent funding disappointments and get active promoting basic science research to the public.

In all seriousness, I would recommend that we all look into joining Scientists and Engineers for America, which "is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages technically-trained citizens to become more engaged in US politics and the policy-making process", or another organization like it.  The issues facing science funding are clearly political, but generally not partisan.  Pretty much everyone from both parties thinks it's a good idea to develop the science that will enable new technologies the way electromagnetism has enabled the development of wireless communication, but if we don't make our case effectively to the public some one else will convince politicians with short attention-spans to funnel resources elsewhere.


  1. Awesome Nick!  Congratulations.  And I agree.  We need to do less finger pointing at politicians and spend more time strengthening our case.  

  2. NN,

    I appreciate your post and especially becoming politically active. 

    I have a few observations: scientists and engineers need to get involved in the society as a whole, not just for preserving funding.  Learn the art of compromise and bluffs and hot air.  I know this is against the indoctrination of science, especially deterministic methods (QL42 might be happy!). 

    Most lawyers, accountants and business persons are in routine and extensive contact with each others.  Most scientists are either in basement labs, or in front of the screens and they will work for peanuts.

  3. Great comment Nick!  You're absolutely right that it is so important for us to reach out to the general public and help people understand why we spend so much money on things like the LHC and the JWST and why it helps all of us so much that we do so.  Almost no one today will argue that the space race wasn't worth it.  Sometimes we just need some help seeing today's projects from the same perspective. 

  4. You're absolutely right and I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the training that scientists and engineers receive affecting their ability to engage the public.  A lot of it comes down to language.  We are taught to use precise, technical language that sacrifices clarity and effect for accuracy. 

    The NRC grad school rankings are a perfect example - they are far more comprehensive and well-researched than those produced by U.S. News, but the U.S. News rankings are so much more accessible in format and language that almost no one without a Ph.D. pays any attention to the NRC's rankings.

  5. Nick,

    Thanks and here is an article in The New Yorker that deals in many of our (science) realms but is focused on finance - esoteric finance of trading options to make money and hit a homerun. Link: 

    The title of the article is Blowing Up.


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