Scientist Citizens

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Science  13 Mar 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5920, pp. 1405
DOI: 10.1126/science.1173003


President Obama's inauguration speech delighted scientists when he stated, "We will restore science to its rightful place." But he went on: "What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility.… This is the price and the promise of citizenship." For scientists, one often-overlooked responsibility is explaining their work to people. This is not an unreasonable price for receiving public funds to do research. And it promises to combat ignorance, guide sound policymaking, and garner more support for science, while simultaneously inspiring and recruiting new young scientists. Now more than ever, issues such as climate change, obesity, stem cell research, green technology, and evolution are migrating from scientific journals to the nonscience community, from school halls to the halls of Congress. It's critical that scientists venture beyond their laboratories to put these issues into the correct contexts and help the public understand what is known, unknown, and under debate.