NextGen Results

NextGen VOICES: Results

We asked young scientists to answer this question:

If you had 5 extra hours per week to devote to advocacy for science, how would you use that time?

In the 4 April 2014 issue, we ran excerpts from 20 of the many interesting responses we received. Below, you will find the full versions of those 20 essays (in the order they were printed) as well as the best of the other submissions we received (ordered alphabetically by author name).

Would you like to participate in the next NextGen VOICES survey? To make your voice heard, go to

(Can't get enough NextGen? See the results of previous surveys at Future of a Generation, Definition of Success, Experiences that Changed Us, Big Ideas, Experiments in Governing, Science Communication's Future, Science Time Travel, Work-Life Balance, and Enduring Ideas.)

Follow the NextGen VOICES survey on Twitter with the hashtag #NextGenSci.

Essays in print

I would go to middle schools and high schools and give presentations to students demonstrating what real science is. There's a certain dullness to science education in secondary schools around the world. Students are taught in a very uninspired way that can often stifle curiosity. Many schools lack the funds to buy the materials necessary for exciting experiments, and laboratory classes are often burdens to the students. I believe that they need to be shown that science isn't the endless stream of words and formulas that they find in textbooks. To me, the phrases "wow," "no way," and "really?" should represent what students think of science, instead of "I hope I don't fail."
Hani I. Naga
Vagelos Scholars Program in the Molecular Life Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: haninaga{at}

If I had 5 extra hours each week to devote to advocacy for science, I would organize and carry out teacher hikes where we would discuss current science topics/debates, many of which become self-evident on a hike. We don't learn to appreciate the world around us from textbooks, nor do we become enthusiastic about meetings with Powerpoint slides. However, most of us enjoy informative conversation, and most of us could use a bit of exercise in the outdoors. Teachers (of all kinds, not only STEM teachers) exert tremendous influence over our next generation of citizens. Teachers are smart, curious, and captivating; teachers appreciate knowledgable conversation and debate. When a teacher is interested, the students become interested. Teachers are the most effective advocates for science. Carl Sagan stated, "Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge," and it is the teachers who will change the way of thinking.
Helen Petach
AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, DC 20523, USA.
E-mail: helen.petach{at}

I would volunteer my extra time and resources toward sharing my passion for science with younger students in underprivileged schools. As a former middle school science teacher, I have witnessed the unfortunately low emphasis on science at younger ages, especially in low-income schools, yet I have also seen it excite and change the mindset of the way young students interact with the world. If we want to change the understanding gap between academics and the public, then we need to share our passions with younger generations in order that they may understand the problems, policies, and choices that they will face in the future.
Ken Luzynski
Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution, Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, 1160, Austria.
E-mail: kenny.luzynski{at}

I would give lectures to school pupils and students about science and how it serves society and improves lives. I would also write newspaper articles about harnessing science for the betterment of communities.
Othusitse Ricky Madibela
Department of Animal Science and Production, Botswana College of Agriculture, Gaborone, 6, Botswana.
E-mail: omadibel{at}

If I have extra hours per week, I would like to help the students in the poor mountainous areas in Western China to learn the latest scientific advances. In spite of the rapid economic development and the top ranked GDP of China, there are still many poor areas in China. The learning conditions for many primary and secondary school students in some of the mountainous areas in Western China are still very poor. Computers and Internet are not available for many primary and secondary schools there. The teachers there may also be "village teachers" who have not received higher education. Consequently, the students there lack understanding of the outside world. Therefore, if I had 5 extra hours per week, I would like to go to the primary or secondary schools in the poor mountainous areas in Western China. I would take my computer and the most recent scientific knowledge I have learned, and I would teach them the latest scientific knowledge. For example, I would teach them about cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and Big Data. I think learning the latest interesting scientific knowledge would broaden their horizons and stimulate their passion for science. I do hope more young scholars and scientists can spend their spare time to participate in this meaningful event.
Kaile Zhou
School of Management, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei, Anhui, 230009, China and Key Laboratory of Process Optimization and Intelligent Decision-Making, Ministry of Education, Hefei, Anhui, 230009, China.
E-mail: kailezhou{at}

I would train to become a magician. Then, once I have honed my skills, I would go to a school and fascinate all the kids. When I have their full attention, I will reveal all the tricks. But before they lose interest or become deluded, I'll bewitch them with more sophisticated illusions. Then I'll explain that the green rabbit I pulled out of the hat is glowing by expressing green fluorescent protein, that the fog is solid carbon dioxide that sublimates at atmospheric conditions, and that I pulled the right card out of the deck by using a mathematical algorithm. And I will say to the kids that if they study science, they will touch that magic. For science need not to prove itself true, interesting, or useful, but to reveal the unknown and enchant with new riddles. For science is just magic without the lies. For a society which is fascinated by science doesn't require scientists to fight for the social acceptance of a theory (be it gravity or evolution), convince funding agencies of the importance of their research, embark on likeable disciplines, or publish that many papers in that few years.
Corrado Nai
Department 4, Materials and Environment, BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, 12205, Berlin, Germany and Department of Microbiology, Free University of Berlin, 14195, Berlin, Germany.
E-mail: corrado.nai{at}

Visual spam is everywhere. On the billboards by the highway, on the publicity posters in the streets, and even in the political propaganda glued to the walls of my science faculty. There is no escape from being posted on the vacuous contents of life. Many times I find myself wondering, "What if it were as easy to find out about new science discoveries as it is to learn about brand new models of cars, drinks, or women's clothing?" Maybe if we had a little information about the mysteries of nature, we would be inspired to pursue a branch of science to satisfy our personal curiosity and to add knowledge to mankind. If I had 5 hours a week to spare, I would start placing posters on my college walls. They would begin with "Did you know…?" and then provide text about interesting scientific facts. I would include related unsolved questions and end with the phrase "Would you help spread the word?"
Nicolás A. Capitelli
Departamento de Matemática, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 1428, Argentina.
E-mail: ncapitel{at}

I will create a cartoon whose heroes are children (boys and girls) who solve world's problem thanks to science. Each science specialty (physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, computer science, and so on) would be represented by one character. Those children would be the new "scientific superheroes." The "bad guys" would be a society of grown-ups who are against change and sharing of knowledge. The idea is to give to children a model with whom they can identify. The long-term objective is to stimulate scientific vocation. When asked the question "What would you like to do as a job?," young children would answer not only "doctor, teacher, pirate, or princess," but also "scientist." This project would probably be more time consuming than 5 hours per week.
Mathilde Laurent-Brocq
Institut de Chimie et des Matériaux Paris-Est Equipe Métaux et Céramiques á Microstructures Contrôlées, 94320, Thiais, France.
E-mail: laurent-brocq{at}

Maybe it's time to let science advocate for itself. Science has come to acquire solemnity, whereas it should be about curiosity and amazement. Being able to work in science means having the privilege of seeing the world as a child and getting paid for it. It means being able to break apart as many radios as you want to and not being yelled at when you're not able to put them back together, but this time your radio can be basically anything, from a fly to the understanding of time and space. I believe in taking science into the everyday world of as many people as possible, trying to get the scientist into real-life scenarios. Schools and kindergartens should be able to visit research labs, but also scientists should be able to spend a few hours a week in educational institutions, and not only that, but every cultural space available. We need more likable science geeks and more socially adequate PhDs who are able to not only educate but entertain. I'd use my time trying to bring the sexy back to science, or at least making sure to make someone laugh and learn something while trying.
Pablo Adrián González
Laboratorio de Agrobiotecnología, Departamento de Fisiología y Biología Molecular y Celular, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina and El Gato y La Caja (
E-mail: pablo201083{at}

The goal of the advocacy is to make science available and interesting to a much broader audience than the scientific community by using its special properties—novelty and inspiration—while making it comprehensible for everybody. To reach general public and send an effective message, science should exploit the power of social and mainstream media. However, bringing media and science together represents a challenge and requires various skills, from understanding scientific literature to being able to market and communicate it further to broader audience. Thus, for fruitful advocacy, at the beginning, I would devote 5 hours per week to learn from the experts what and how people want to hear from us. Afterward, I would use this time to engage in tweeting interesting results from articles I read, posting about new achievements on a widely used Web portals, or finding ways to participate in TV/radio shows and give thought-provoking talks. If we learn how to use all these social media tools, possibilities are endless and just dependent on our creativity. In the end, if we as scientists don't speak loudly, how will others know and understand the importance of science?
Marjana Brkic
Department of Neurobiology, Institute for Biological Research, University of Belgrade, 11000, Belgrade, Serbia.
E-mail: marjana.brkic{at}

"So, what is it for?" "Well, it's just interesting." Most scientists have given this answer when asked about the purpose of their research, at least once in their lifetime. Although a genuine response, it emphasizes the rarity in making that effort to taking one's research into development, from abstract to practical, from interesting to useful. The simple fact that the question feels justified is a problem in itself. Does the public not understand the importance and value that scientific research bestows upon society? Most would agree that medical research or technological advancements are important but, for example, exploring visual illusions as neural correlates of consciousness can leave some confusion as to how this translates into a healthier life or a faster smartphone. The simple matter is that some research seems purely useless and when it acquires purpose, a "D" is added to the "R" and considered as a profitable enterprise for companies. If I had 5 extra hours a week, I would create a blog that would emphasize the potential practical applications of "useless" research. It would elucidate connections between findings in different fields and potential applications, and crowdsource opinions to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration and debate the most urgent direction for the translation of breakthroughs. Through this, the public would see science as a product of many people and its potential for good as simply a limit of imagination. Finally, scientists would be inspired to find translational uses for their research, creating novel developments that force interdisciplinary collaborative progress.
Javier Elkin
Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, WC1N 3AR, UK.
E-mail: javier.elkin.10{at}

Access to scholars somewhat depends on gender, location, and luck, among other things. The reality is that women are expected to hold the same burdens of scholarship as men do, in spite of the struggle and challenges of balancing work and family. Juggling multiple roles can lead to overload, stress, conflicts, and inability to balance obligations at home and work. Having an extra 5 hours, as a young woman scientist, I would take a leadership role in the advancement of diversity in scientific fields. There is a dire need to support diversity in both academic and corporate scientific workplace. Part of diversity could be achieved by developing a structured program on mentoring and encouraging young girls to pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology (SET). The extra time could be used to hold regular meetings and address issues affecting young women in science without interfering with one's academic or social activities. I would share with future scientists experiences and values of achieving a better balance between productivity and caregiving. This will contribute in broadening women's participation in SET workforce. Moreover, the initiative will advocate awareness of life-changing patterns in our society.
Regina Maphanga
Materials Modelling Centre, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, Polokwane, Limpopo, 0727, South Africa.
E-mail: maphangarr{at}

I would devote that time to developing the presence of science on media outlets like Youtube. The new generation of scientists is accustomed to instant gratification; information is at their fingertips in short phrases on a single Web page. Youtube channels dedicated to STEM topics, such as SciShow, have videos with hundreds of thousands of views. Using animated diagrams to describe a cell process or writing out a mathematical concept on a digital screen allows inquisitive young minds to digest the content more easily. Narrated by a witty voice-over in 10 minutes or less, these videos teach a concept without scaring away a student like lengthy journals or hour-long lectures tend to do.
Megan Noll
Department of Biochemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: megnoll{at}

Imagine I had 5 more hours to speak about science to the public community. I would spend those hours at the hospital, sitting alongside family members of patients. A 5-minute talk with the physician about the health status of their relative is often all the information they receive. I believe that those people deserve a better understanding of the current scientific knowledge about the disorder affecting their relative. In return for giving them a better understanding I would try to convince them that the impact of nonscientists will be crucial in the next two decades of science. To reach the next level in science, we will need the entire community to support us with ideas and technology share (such as computer power and electricity sharing). With 39 million hospitalizations in the United States every year (according to 2007 data), this group forms a highly accessible and motivated source of scientific supporters. Only in times of crisis do we realize the threats of disease that wait ahead of us in life, and I believe this is the perfect moment to activate this group of people to contribute to science in the next decades. Therefore, I advocate for "the community project" to be the next big breakthrough in scientific research.
Elias Adriaenssens
Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3QT, UK.
E-mail: elias.adriaenssens{at}

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I live in California, a perennially blue state, and thus cannot constantly write my Congress(wo)men about the scientific validity of climate change and the imperative for legislative action. However, I am sure there are scientific counterparts of mine living in distinctively red states who wish they could start coloring them more toward science than deceit. With my 5 hours a week, I would create a consortium of concerned young scientists advocating for legislative action on climate change, with a thrust toward scientists in red states. Our major objective would be to write state and national representatives, imploring that they make the hard decision and look long instead of short, valuing societal over personal gain, and enact a price on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that would put renewable technologies on an equal playing field with fossil fuels. The only chance for action in Washington is a ground-up movement of voters demanding responsibility, and what better place to start than with those who understand the implications of climate change the best?
David Garfield
Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94702, USA.
E-mail: david.garfield{at}

Experimental research resources have expanded unbelievably during the recent decades. Numerous research groups world-wide need to do similar experiments to find optimum parameters for getting some intermediate parts of their projects done. Publishing the results in journals seems to be a reasonable way to share the procedures and findings. However, we still see that a considerable amount of time and funding must be spent to repeat the same experiments and find the details of these optimized conditions. By creation of some comprehensive online databases, these parameters could be organized and shared with others. This would help various research groups to focus only on their main cutting-edge project goals and save their time and financial resources. This is also favorable regarding environmental health issues, by reducing the production of hazardous wastes due to continuous repeating of similar optimization experiments. The same databases were created for metals and alloys in 1950s and were available in libraries as multiple-volume handbooks. They were extensively used to help researchers and engineers to know the expected mechanical, physical, and chemical properties of the alloys by small changes in their chemical composition or other manufacturing parameters. Now that Internet can make everything easier than mid-20th century, doing this should be more feasible for the new areas of science and technology. If I have several extra hours per week to advocate science, I will help to generate such databases, at least in my own field of expertise.
Hamed Arami
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
E-mail: arami{at}

Dr. McNutt's Editorial in the 3 January issue of Science evoked some of the feelings that I have been purposefully ignoring. Sequestration became all too real when I witnessed some of the brightest researchers at my university lose their funding. Dr. McNutt noted that our "best and brightest students…grow disillusioned and seek other careers or better opportunities overseas." When I see brilliant well-established researchers not get funded, I just wonder how I, a baby scientist about to be thrown into the real world, will ever get a grant. I still mess up my PCRs, after all. With 5 extra hours to dedicate to advocacy, I would want to sit down for lunches with all the congressmen and senators and tell them what science means to me, the next generation of scientists (us baby scientists), and most importantly, our country. Maybe if I tell them that it takes an insane amount of love and passion for science to live on $20,000 a year as graduate students and dive headfirst into the unknown that is our current R&D situation, then they will see that funding science means funding dedicated, brilliant people who advance our country's well-being behind the scenes, on old and scratched-up lab benches. I'd round up all the hungry graduate students who will excitedly talk about their projects and remind the congressmen that science is an unstoppable driving force behind innovation. I just hope they will pay for lunch.
Irina Tiper
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.
E-mail: itiper{at}

First, I would turn off my computer, smartphone, television, iPad, and all other electronics. I would round up a group of children from my neighborhood, the local school, the skate park, or the mall. I would take them outside to a city park, a lake, a creek, a garden. I would bring binoculars and set up a spotting scope and encourage them to look up, look down, look all around, and let their imagination run wild about how what they see got there, how it functions, and how many more questions still need to be answered. In short, I would try as hard as I could to connect young kids to the natural world around them, instilling an interest in science without a single text, tweet, or blog post.
Elizabeth M. Phillips
School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195–5020, USA.
E-mail: emp11{at}

I will use the time to initiate the Chinese Scientist Oral History Project, which will document the history of science through interviews with leading Chinese scientists, telling their stories of scientific discoveries and personal stories. This unique collection of interviews will offer fresh insights into science and scientists in China. To this end, I will plan a schedule for conducting an interview every week. First, I will spend 2 hours carefully surveying the backgrounds of leading scientists in each field and selecting the best candidate willing to share his or her stories, especially autobiographical anecdotes about both career successes and failures. Second, according to the survey information, I use 1 hour to elaborately prepare the questions for the interview. Third, I will conduct a face-to-face video interview for an hour, allowing each scientist to talk candidly about his or her motivation, career path, frustrations, and triumphs, as well as family and childhood. Finally, I will make the interview video and transcripts free online via my designed Web Archive: "Voices of Science in China."
Fengbo Li
Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, 310021, China.

If I had 5 extra hours per week to advocate for science, I would use that time actually DOING science! In my opinion, the best way to advocate for science is to do science and generate exciting results that demonstrate the value of science to society. However, because of the risk of losing funding to support my position, I am instead spending those 5 hours (or more!) submitting proposal after proposal to funding agencies that can fund less than 10% of the applications that they receive. Moreover, because of limited funding to support myself and my co-workers, my salary has not increased over the course of the past 7 years as a postdoc and as a research faculty member, even though I work 7 days a week, late into the night, and I balance multiple "innovative" projects, and I routinely publish results in high quality journals. With children to support, I have taken on two additional part-time jobs, including community college teaching and editing scientific manuscripts, to support my family. So, if I had the luxury of 5 extra hours per week to devote to science advocacy, I would head to the bench and do more experiments! Doing science is the best way to advocate for it.
Michael G. Kemp
University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
E-mail: michael_kemp{at}

Top Online Essays

We are all born curious—that is simply the nature of humanity. However, as we grow and start asking questions, we receive one-word answers or no answers at all. Without a doubt, this is discouraging us from inquiry and encouraging us to take things for granted. Accordingly, the best way to advocate for science is to foster, rather than suppress, curiosity inside the classroom. This, I believe, is the only way to re-establish a true culture of exploration and re-prioritize spending toward science, especially in the United States. I think a crucial, and oftentimes forgotten, aspect of scientific thought is how far it can permeate other fields if you simply remember to ask the right questions. It follows that if I had 5 extra hours per week, I would build up public education systems to allocate more time to not only to teaching science, but also to integrating scientific thought into other subjects, such as English and even the arts. By combining scientific values with different fields, we can nurture students young and old to be curious and analytical when viewing the world. In other words, we can foster a society of informal investigators. Regardless of career trajectory, they will appreciate the importance and necessity of scientific discovery. Beyond that, by inoculating kids young and unequivocally, we would also be successful in breaking down longstanding barriers to the scientific community, namely gender and racial discrimination.
Nikita Agarwal
Department of Biochemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104–6024, USA.
E-mail: agarwn{at}

1. Advocate for the establishment of local and regional organic food systems globally as a means to improve ecological sustainability and health. 2. Advocate to create an infrastructure for knowledge sharing among farmers independent of industry and government influence. 3. Advocate for diverse outreach and engagement strategies to help the public know their food quality and their food system. 4. Advocate for increased global investments in basic, clinical, and translational science that aims to differentiate diet quality by food source or origin and to understand how differential diet quality patterns relate to epigenetic and microbiome changes and health outcomes. 5. Advocate for health systems to become models of caring about food quality and food origins.
Lisa Bailey-Davis
Center for Health Research, Geisinger Health System, Danville, PA 17882, USA.
E-mail: ldbaileydavis{at}

We have embraced the move from printed to online journals; from the ashes of index cards have sprung digital PDFs and reference management software. How we publish may be evolving, but let's be honest about what it is that we publish. If research articles were more informative, more accessible to the layman, and more engaging, then the impact would be huge. Simply put, the advocacy of science can be achieved by admitting that we have yet to find how best to communicate vast swathes of data. On the face of it, we have moved on from the printed press—but then why has nothing changed? Imagine the impact of scientific articles that take advantage of the interactive media available to us on the Internet. Goodbye illegible pictures, countless schemes, and analytical data riddled with transposition errors introduced anywhere between the bench top and the author's desk. Instead, think high-definition videos and graphics, audio and manipulable data files! How about games as teaching tools? Such improvements would serve as a catalyst for the promotion of science. These articles will appeal to larger audiences while simultaneously exciting and informing. In this way, science can step forward and impress its discoveries upon the next generation of young researchers. Science is being undersold by slow adoption of technology in publishing. I hope to dedicate 5 hours per week to champion an expeditious discussion about the adoption of digital media in publishing. If a picture paints a thousand words, then what can interactive media do?
Sean Bartlett
Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2 1EW, UK.
E-mail: sb956{at}

An efficient way to advocate for science is to connect our society (especially young middle/high school students) to the groundbreaking research happening today, not what was written in a textbook that takes around 2 to 3 years to write, edit, print, and distribute. One way to do this is to provide stimulating educational experiences in the biological and physical sciences where problem-solving is stressed. The point of these problems would not be to get a "right or wrong" answer, but to provide a flexible framework through which students could explore different variables affecting their eventual conclusion. This type of critical thinking is analogous to what researchers do, and gets students away from the "black-and-white" answers a textbook provides, which, not surprisingly, is usually all that's asked of students on their exams. By introducing our youth to the limit of scientific knowledge as well as the current shortcomings in scientific progress, we'll be training the next generation to advocate for the changes needed on the local, regional, and national level to advance the accumulation of knowledge by the scientific sector. As a scientific community, investing our "extra" time back into the next generation would ensure progress for the future, as well as a clearer connection between the problems we face and the potential solutions brewing in our heads.
Artur Anatoliavich Belov
New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.
E-mail: Artur.Belov{at}

I would bring young students in underprivileged high schools and middle schools to the best research university in their area. I would show them all of the wonderful things science is working on; let them meet the passionate people working toward these goals that make possible great changes in the world. But, most important, I would tell them that they themselves have the power to do these things. Make them really believe it. The world needs more scientists, and passionate and motivated students are the only ones who can fit that role. For many, that flame never has the chance to grow brighter—let's show them what they're missing out on!
Luke Blauch
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01002, USA.
E-mail: luke.blauch{at}

I would go to local high schools and re-teach high school seniors the principles and practices of the scientific method. Although we first learn the scientific method in elementary school and it is reiterated in middle school, it is a small fragment of the high school curriculum. In high school, the focus shifts to learning the specifics of a biological system so students often lose sight of science being hypothesis-driven even with laboratory practicals. Having a clear understanding of the scientific method helps anyone think critically about issues relevant to science and technology in the real world and to approach information broadcast on the Internet with a skeptical mind. It teaches people to rely on the source rather than the content, and that it is acceptable to disagree with someone or something if data are not sufficient. For high school seniors who are just of adult age and who will have to live, work, and learn on their own in the next year, having a clear understanding of the scientific method can serve as the backbone for academic and professional success.
Allison Joy Brager
Department of Neurobiology, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30310, USA.
E-mail: abrager{at}

If I had 5 extra hours per week to devote to advocacy for science, I would spend it going to elementary schools to generate enthusiasm for science in young minds. Like many leaders of laboratories, I am also a parent. Children are curious, and many are very interested in science in their formative years. We have many great teachers out there, but their efforts are often limited by funding, tight schedules, time, or politics. Helping teachers reach young minds, either by helping them enhance their curriculum or assisting in classroom exercises, is key for nurturing a strong appreciation for science in the next generation. Having more minds in our society with a good understanding of the scientific method and strong appreciation for how science is used to understand and solve problems will reduce our need to advocate science in general, and will improve our society as a whole.
Jerome W. Breslin
Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33612, USA.
E-mail: jbreslin{at}

I would go into schools and volunteer. Science literacy among the youngest citizens is important. A literate public will support efforts in STEM research and development because they know the beneficial results of such efforts. Most STEM professionals are in the background of daily life for the public. We see the healthcare professionals that provide the diagnosis or even give us medication but not the researchers that ran the clinical trials or the chemist that discovered the structure found in a rare plant discovered by an ecologist. Students play with mp3 players or text on a cell phone but remain unaware of technological advances made in recent history to allow these products to be widely available. I would like more people to know how public support of science is crucial to the rapid advances to which we have grown accustomed. I think advocacy efforts in schools are also important to workforce development. Students know teachers, retail workers, doctors, police officers, firefighters that look like them. The majority of youth may only be familiar with stereotypical images about scientists or even policymakers. If women or underrepresented minorities in STEM make an effort to advocate among the young, then students of all backgrounds will understand that diversity is an essential component to scientific progress. I think a few hours a week with children would have tremendous repercussions because these children will grow up to be the foundation of the workforce, voter base, and the future politicians that influence policy and progress.
Jeri L. Bryant
Department of Genetic Medicine/Center for Science Outreach, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.

I am yet to enter university to get a degree in science and am consequently an amateur, but I would devote those 5 hours to advocacy of the science of the environment. I have a passion for science but also the arts and am increasingly aware of how these two disciplines could unite in the advocacy of environmental awareness. I would start a student publication, a magazine or newsletter, in which important scientific articles regarding environmental issues can be explained in understandable, unbiased, and not oversimplified terms. The publication would also include submitted artwork, poetry, and other creative reflections on the social and political implications of science and the environment. Not everyone is interested in science, but through the arts, science's important issues can be communicated to a huge range of audiences. My advocacy of science would aim to demystify science's complexities for the betterment of something we are all responsible for: the environment.
Rose Joy Russell Crocker
Adelaide, South Australia, 5022, Australia.

Every month I would construct large public art projects focused on contemporary scientific study that would require public interaction in fun and exciting ways, and that would include the public in understanding the processes and implications of scientific discovery. Concurrently, I would host art auctions to raise money for research associated with the field that the monthly project is associated with.
Nicholas Benjamin Cueva
New York City, NY 10128, USA.
E-mail: ncueva{at}

I believe that the innovations of today is the leading power of tomorrow and neither 5 hours per week nor only one person is enough to bring the great idea into action. I have noticed that the common theme for discussions in today‘s society is genetic modifications. Opinions are diverse and often do not have any scientific background. The unknown is scary, so people are afraid to let applications of genetically modified organisms into everyday life. To destroy myths about genetic modifications, society needs a trustworthy source of information about new findings, research projects, and general knowledge. I would form an international team who would be as passionate about their profession as I am. For better realization of the project, the team should consist of people working or studying in different spheres, for example, science, education, IT, economics, and public relations. The goal of the team would be to form a strong international network of students, scientists, and other professionals who would be able to provide and spread evidence-based information on genetic modifications worldwide. The project would focus on people without scientific background because it is a challenge for them to catch up with all accessible information in research. The project would be a chance for people to see how science is applied to our everyday life.
Klaudija Daugelaite
Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Kaunas, LT-50393, Lithuania.
E-mail: klaudija.daug{at}

I would use the time to increase the success, retention, and career progression of young scientists. We all know how challenging it is to write an article, to obtain funds, to get a permanent position. Those of us who are lucky enough to survive in the scientific system accomplish these vital aspects of our career by following our instincts, learning from our mistakes or—if very lucky—guided by a mentor. Most of the skills needed to be successful in science can be taught in professional programs, graduate or otherwise. I nowadays "borrow" time from my research (in eco-physiology of Cyanobacteria) for lecturing at a 5-day workshop where we talk with early career researchers about writing, submitting and revising manuscripts, grant proposals, how to benefit from conferences, and how to give effective oral talks and good poster presentations. We talk about the importance of networking, collaborating, and mentoring, as well as how to improve creative thinking, efficiency, and life balance, and about responsible science conduct and research scholarship. Developing these skills early in the career of young researchers will help increase their engagement, retention, and career progression, allowing the next generation voices to speak up for science and society. If I had 5 extra hours to devote to advocacy for science, I will invest them in seeking graduate programs that offer seminars, workshops, or entire courses on academic success, and continuing to apply to funds to support this type of training program.
Paula de Tezanos Pinto
Departamento de Ecología Genetica y Evolución, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Buenos Aires, C1428EHA, Argentina.
E-mail: paulatezanos{at}

I would write articles related to physics, astrophysics, astronomy, and math in Wikipedia. I would also frequently read scientific news from Science, Nature, Physics World, NASA, Max Planck Society, and ESA to update and get more knowledge in science.
Duc Minh Do
Vietinbank, Hanoi, 84, Vietnam.
E-mail: duc51xda{at}

It was a graduate student who first got me interested in science during high school, so I would pay it forward and use the extra time to help serve as a science teacher for high school students. It is during this time that students are beginning to consider possible future careers (or more specifically what college degree they should pursue), and thus it is critical that junior and senior high school students be given adequate exposure to the exciting possibilities that a career in science can provide. Actively practicing scientists are able to give examples of the importance of cutting edge research, often more so than the antiquated books and lesson plans found in most high schools. Scientists could also use relevant examples to help students learn to think critically about scientific achievements, and to not simply believe everything that is reported in a newspaper. Although most of the students will not become scientists, this early exposure to "real science" can have a lasting impact on how they view science in general, and could help them navigate the milieu of pseudo-research that often finds its way into popular literature.
Michael Anthony Duran
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.
E-mail: m2duran{at}

While the Age of Exploration added an unfathomable amount of knowledge about the layout of the lands of the world, science is still waiting for an equally eye-opening discovery of the vast depths of the world's oceans. More than half a millennium after the peak of the Age of Exploration and half a century after the start of space exploration, the marine world has failed to receive its deserved period of intense study. Thus, if given 5 extra hours out of my 168 weekly, I would dedicate my efforts towards K-12 programs devoted to informing students of the magical powers that are waiting to be discovered underwater. Sponges with the ability to produce compounds that fight AIDS, organisms with tentacles used to develop drugs to treat cancer, and fish with anti-blindness properties are only a couple of recent marine life discoveries with the capability of positively affecting humankind forever. Epidemiological discoveries, plus remarkable new insights into biodiversity that scores of new species have contributed to, have all been made possible by probing only 5% of the world's oceans. Through the planning and implementation of classroom instruction, extracurricular science trivia competitions, and hands-on summer experiences, I want to excite kids about the number of diseases they could cure and the number of species waiting to be identified, for the sake of human health, evolutionary history, and the prediction of future ecological conditions. I find it imperative to make kids aware of the world that is waiting for them to dive into.
Nirupa Cortny Galagedera
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: ganirupa{at}

Many "scientific facts" are disseminated to the general public indirectly through entertainment such as television and movies, as well as more directly in the news or print media. To truly have an impact on how the public perceives science, it would be helpful to consider the entertainment industry on two fronts. First, snippets of information that lodge in the minds of the public often arise from "facts" in movies and television. Given this, it is important that these are accurate and not invented science-fiction. One would think that the genre of science-fiction could paradoxically be an exception to this principle, but even the most futuristic vision should surely be supported by contemporary understanding. To push general movies and television toward scripts that are more accurate about the daily work of scientists, I would use part of my 5 hours a week to create a network of sympathetic experts who could give their time to review scripts from the entertainment industry. However, for this to work, a second factor has to be considered. Specifically, communicating the importance of science to decision-makers needs strong lobbying work. I would use my time to create better communication channels between practicing scientists and both the government and the media. It is important to have mechanisms—and people—in place to react rapidly and, where necessary, to correct misconceptions that may arise in the public. There have been occasions in the recent past where mistakes were made, such as immunization and autism, and genetically manipulated food.
Lisa Genzel
Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ, UK.
E-mail: lgenzel{at}

I would use the time to create something educational and engaging to the public, specifically for adults. Children are the future, but adults are making decisions now that affect the future, so lack of scientific literacy among adults is very problematic. Perhaps I would make something like an engaging/interactive booth display that would draw in adults at a community fairs, farmers markets, trade shows, or other social activities. Very much like what children's science museums do for hands-on activities, but geared for adults, and in a setting that encourages participation and word-of-mouth awareness. It would need to be something (likely an experiment or visible demonstration) that could be accomplished quickly and would apply to some often misunderstood science-related element of everyday life. The results of the little experiment/demonstration should quickly be followed up with a simple description of the scientific principals that underlie the (likely surprising) results with attention to how the results, and understanding the why behind them, can help the person/their family. Of course, I would close with an invitation to investigate more and some easy-to-access sources of more information. Making the experiment/demonstration, as well as the information about the why of the results, easily accessible and directly tied to the person's interests (how it can help them/their family) is essential to it being remembered and acted upon.
Kerry Halladay
Western Livestock Journal, Greenwood Village, CO 80111, USA.
E-mail: admyrrek{at}

I will use 4 hours to write a post about an interesting scientific finding and post it on Facebook, and 1 hour for replying to comments and finding potential commentators whose majors are related to science to persuade them to do the same. As far as I am concerned, public awareness of science is poor and impractical, frequently deduced from pseudo-science hoaxes or sci-fi movies, which by their inaccuracy wear away the public's belief in science. They need genuine scientific stories and achievement. The critical success factor of the post is that it must be attractive to the general reader; thus a post must be clear and friendly to general public, and related to mundane problems. The key difference between this plan and other existing Facebook science pages is the responsiveness of the post. My replies would make commentators feel more involved in the interpretation of the presented findings and direct them to a scientific way of thinking. Finally, as not much can be done with 5 hours a week, encouraging other scientists' engagement is essential to scale up the activity. If well established, this activity can improve public interest in science, which, who knows, might in turn reverse the trend of diminishing funding.
Dung Huy Hoang
Department of Biotechnology, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Science, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-8657, Japan.
E-mail: h_huydung87{at}

I am a lecturer in Anhui Medical University (AMU), Hefei, China. AMU is a typical local college for medical education and training in China. Unlike students in Beijing or Shanghai, students in AMU have fewer opportunities to learn the latest clinical techniques or biomedical information. So, I would like to talk with students, the undergraduates or graduates, about the cutting-edge techniques and information of biomedical research in my spare time. I hope this activity could show them how to solve problems logically and encourage more young talents to do science in their future and for China's future. Although China is the world's fastest-growing emerging market, its scientific endeavors does not match its economic prowess. Public concerns over the spread of infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, and tuberculosis), environmental pollution, and food safety still exist. If possible, I would like to organize a volunteer group to convey not only the basic knowledge of science but also how to think in a scientific way to the public, which needs both the government financial support and the patience from team members. What I have is time and passion, because I am young. I am confident that more and more people will devote themselves to the sustainable development of China's science.
Yongsheng Ji
Department of Parasitology, Anhui Medical University, Hefei, Anhui, 230032, China.
E-mail: jiyongshengkey{at}

Researchers used to think publishing in journals was the end of their scientific obligations. However, when social media portals nowadays have vastly more audience than scientific conferences, journals, and newspapers combined, how should we make academia continue to be relevant in the world? Fortunately, I now have 5 extra hours per week to leave the ivory tower and advocate as a civic-scientist. I would devote my first 2 hours evenly across the week to improve public understanding of science in general so that the society can make better-informed lifestyle or policy-related decisions. Every day I expect to see messages resulting from viral marketing spread around the networks, saying, for example, that consuming compound "A" is good for health. However, is it based on sufficient evidence? As a formally trained scientist, I believe I possess enough skills to conduct a literature review on those claims and substantiate some of the collective wisdom or help correct some of those scientific fallacies. On Saturday morning, I would spend another 2 hours reading and contributing to science-related government Green Papers so as to remunerate the society of the knowledge I gained throughout the years. My last 1 hour would be spent on advocating my own research field, possibly by summarizing the importance and recent findings and presenting to lay audiences. Throughout the process I would also realize what scientific results would matter to the public and make difference to the world, which raise my curiosity and in turn to focus my research down the line.
Jing-Woei Li
School of Life Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 852, Hong Kong.
E-mail: marcowanger{at}

If I had 5 hours a week devoted to science advocacy, I would visit local high schools and universities to provide lectures and set up clubs and science camps in order to promote science to the younger generation. My goal would not be to target the students enrolled in science classes who already show an interest, but students in other disciplines, who may not understand the benefits and importance of gaining scientific knowledge. It is important to encourage all students to participate in some form of science education, and to understand the benefits of gaining knowledge through observations and testable predictions. Whenever you want to spark change in the world, the best way to do so is to inspire the next generation, and not just the next generation of scientists, but the next generation of politicians, business entrepreneurs, law makers, and industrial moguls. If they can grow up with a sense of respect for the planet, as well as respect for the scientific method, then this will ensure the incorporation of science into future decision making in our country. Although scientists play a crucial role in discovery, politicians and other nonscientists are the ones capable of changing our societal policies and economic goals to incorporate scientific findings. Raising a generation of science-minded nonscientists will guarantee a more sustainable future.
Yasmine Nicole Majchrzak
Department of Biology, Trent University, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8, Canada.
E-mail: yasminemajchr{at}

Speaking to the public about science is like generating social need for research. Without society wanting and needing science, we wouldn't have advancement in our respective areas of expertise. In the 5 extra hours, I'd go out to take photos and fit them with slogans that catch attention and explain science without field-specific words. I would try to find a direct link to humanity, how the result influences people who would notice my work. Sometimes, I'd film a short sequence or present a talk at a non-conference forum. Ideally, I'd like to befriend a celebrity who gets exposure to cover some stories. Getting a scientist on Dancing with the Stars, or creating a reality show from a lab—a lab willing to share failures, mishaps, unsupported interpretations, and unreviewed results. The greatest challenge of this idea is that it could only work if peer-reviewed journals would still be interested in publishing such results months or years after the public learned about them.
Natalia Martinkova
Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Brno, 60365, Czech Republic.
E-mail: martinkova{at}

Historically, Chilean society has disregarded scientific work. National development policies have helped: We lack a Science Ministry, resources for academic training are insufficient, and workplaces where we can perform our work are scarce. Due to these circumstances our work looms as something bizarre, strange, and interesting, but doesn´t appear in the labor framework that rules our society. Should I have 5 more hours a week for science, I would organize diffusion groups to educate society on scientific work. This initiative would be carried out through experimental workshops in high schools and through printed media related to current issues our society is interested in but at the same time unaware of. Topics such as transgenic food, cloning and bioethics, stem cells and their relevance in disease treatments, cancer and pesticides, and other topics. Another proposal that I would like to encourage would be the foundation of an academy for young scientists or for anyone who is interested in learning more about science or who wants to pursue any career related to this. The main aim of this academy would be guidance and clarification of doubts about our work, development of critical thinking and discussion of scientific articles. In conclusion, my approach is based on educating and transmitting our daily work to society. I believe this is the first step for science in Chile to get the development it deserves.
José Abelino Moya
Fisiología, Biología Molecular y Neurociencia (IFIByNE), Universidad de Buenos Aires, CONICET, Buenos Aires,
C1428EHA, Argentina.
E-mail: josemoyameister{at}

I would advocate for quality mentorship in science. The 2012 Executive Report from President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) reported that even though women and minority groups represent 70% of college students, they remain underrepresented among students who receive undergraduate STEM degrees. The report states that retaining more students in STEM majors is perhaps one of the fastest options to providing the STEM workforce the United States will need for its future economic success. The challenge then is how do we both recruit and more important, retain more minority students within the STEM pipeline? The key is in inspiring students early in the STEM pipeline. If I had 5 extra hours per week, I would devote it to mentoring and giving talks to high school and middle school minority students. I strongly believe that strengthening the quality of mentorship within the STEM pipeline is crucial if we are to diversify the STEM workforce. I was lucky to have had the exposure, support, and guidance of my parents, science teachers in high school, professors in college and grad school, and many informal mentors. I would also focus on advocating for the strengthening of mentorship channels by encouraging universities to provide incentives for their staff and professors to spend more of their time mentoring and improving their mentorship skills. In doing so, it may be possible to recruit and perhaps even retain more minority and also non-minority students in the STEM pipeline.
Fanuel Muindi
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
E-mail: fmuindi{at}

I will probably spend the time writing informative popular articles on the pros and cons of GM crop cultivation in Africa. At present the world's most needy continent is largely against production of GM crops because the message is being spread by politicians with very little understanding of how plant reproduction works. The seemingly informed ones are apparently lobbyists who only deliver a one-sided message that more often than not is negative. So as a starting point I will write articles aimed at the middle class, and then in due time I hope to help the peasant farmer whom my opinion is most likely going to benefit.
Hannibal Tafadzwa Musarurwa
Strand, Cape Town, 7140, South Africa.
E-mail: htmusarurwa{at}

I believe that encouraging scientific literacy is the best method of science advocacy. If I had 5 extra hours a week to devote to advocacy for science, I would spend them tutoring secondary education students in math and science. As they say, "Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." Equipping people with the tools they need to understand the applications of science to the world around them is what allows informed conclusions to be drawn from the overwhelming sea of information available on every important issue where science and society converge. When working with students, you have the opportunity to teach them the tricks of the trade when it comes to problem solving and to impart to them some of the experience you have in applying the same ideas they are learning to problems in the "real world," not to mention helping them in classes they may be struggling with. By enabling people to decipher the truths of science on their own, you are giving science the chance to advocate for itself.
Matthew Parsons
Department of Physics, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: msp73{at}

Almost every single person in science answers the question "How did you decide to become a scientist?" in the same way: "I had a great high school science teacher!" Teachers can have a transformative, life-changing effect on their students. And that, to me, would be the best advocacy for science—to get young people excited about it and carry this excitement throughout their lives. Answering the question, I would spend my 5 hours training high school teachers over Skype. I would try to educate them about the most recent advances in my own field of biophysics, explain to them what scientific investigators are currently excited about and what the hot topics of ongoing research are. We could discuss anything from the very fundamental principles behind the techniques that scientists are using to the global impact that we are hoping our research will have on the future generations. I would come up with short activities and exercises that teachers could implement in their lessons to get their students enthused about cutting-edge research. Using Skype would allow me not only to use my time more efficiently, but also to reach teachers in remote and isolated communities who otherwise would not have been able to interact with a professional scientist. I would especially love to extend these efforts to my home town of Samara, Russia. I believe that these 5 hours would be worth spent because of the potential multiplier effect and long-lasting impact that these Skype sessions might have in the future.
Maxim B. Prigozhin
Departments of Molecular and Cellular Physiology and Physics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305–5432, USA.
E-mail: m.prigozhin{at}

I would spend a lot of time in the classrooms of elementary schools, talking to teachers and students about what they are learning in science and listening to what excites them about science. Once I knew what could be done in the classrooms, I would come up with a plan of action (modest if I am the only one doing it) to increase the science curriculum in the local schools. Next, I would develop small courses for particular topics that interest elementary school children for summer school programs. These courses could be first taught to teachers to help optimize them for elementary school settings. After all these activities, I would use my time to coordinate science discussions around town where kids can go and learn about specific topics that are important issues of the time (roundtable about DNA sequencing, cloning of humans, climate change, alternative sources of energy, and others). Once the educational programs are implemented, I would initiate discussions with different adult groups. One possible starting point would be to have an event at a local mall or popular square (in the summer) where scientists could answer questions to the general public about specific topics (similar to the topics that are suggested for the students' roundtables). My goal would be to get my fellow scientists out of their laboratories and offices and into the open talking to the general public, not necessarily about their own projects but about science in general.
Marina Ramirez-Alvarado
Department of Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Immunology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.
E-mail: ramirezalvarado.marina{at}

There is no substitute for interpersonal interaction. With 5 extra hours per week, I would mainly focus on advocating science to families, i.e., children and their parents, specifically in regions untrusting of scientific concepts. If you can get parents to shift their perspective on matters, a pro-science message will be repeated at home. Simply advocating science to children at schools—no matter how entertaining the message—will be forgotten by the majority and may even be rebutted at home. The goal should always be making people comfortable with scientific concepts, no matter how small. Picking the battles is crucial, especially when discussing "taboo" topics such as evolution or vaccination, even in places like the United States—a Pew Study showed that 50% of Americans do not believe in evolution, and 30% do not believe vaccinations should be mandatory (Pew Study, Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media 2009). We, as science proponents, need to target science antagonists, not to show them the error of their ways, but to entice them with tangible, relatable concepts and ideas. So, educating an audience on how bacteria or cancers mutate to acquire resistance and reestablish disease is a topic that almost any person will find potable. Most important, it is a concept that can be comfortably accepted and contains scientific principles they may reject if presented in a different light.
Brandon Razooky
Biophysics Graduate Group, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.
E-mail: brazooky{at}

I would create a channel (like a blog) to write about how almost all of our modern conveniences were created by the results of some scientific research. It is true that in several cases the technology produced wasn't the original purpose of the research, but the scientific research was the responsible by the development of several different types of technology. The conception of nowadays basic home appliances like TVs, microwave ovens, and computers contains their roots in the research with the photoelectric effect, spectroscopy, and materials science, for example. Furthermore, modern medical diagnoses are obtained with the use of magnetic resonance, x-ray, and ultrasound procedures that are common because some scientist dedicated their research to improve the equipment, even if the foundations of those phenomena were not discovered with the aim of being used to cure people. In this line, the research with new medicines to combat resistant microorganisms, viruses, and cancer has saved millions of lives, mainly in the last century. It seems clear that scientific research, basic or applied, is absolutely necessary to lead us to a healthier and better lifestyle.
Wagner Eduardo Richter
Institute of Chemistry, University of Campinas, Brazil.
E-mail: wagner.richter{at}

I would use the time to promote science among children. Traveling to schools and educating children on the amazing world we live in is so important. Children are the future, and if we want to continue exploring and discovering, we need young, bright scientists to rise up and take the reins as new stumbling blocks appear. We admire Gregor Mendel's observations, Louis Pasteur's swan neck bottles, and Hershey and Chase's radioactive labeling for the innovative and out-of-the-box ideas, but there is no reason why we cannot do the same today. We need scientists with passion and creativity, and it is children who often have the most of both. By instilling a love for science at a young age, we encourage inventiveness and energy. If we open young minds to the wonder and mystery of the universe, it will stay with them as they grow and develop into forward-thinking young scientists. We must focus on not only solving the problems of this generation, but also on preparing the next generation to tackle their problems.
Taylor Ross
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: taylorro{at}

Human beings are curious by nature; science is the embodiment of that curiosity. There is no better way to advocate for science, in my opinion, than to sustain curiosity. I would devote my extra time to present the answers we have, their shortcomings, and the questions that still remain unanswered. I believe that the online environment is a place where such discussions can reach a lot of people, but they don't have, in lack of a better term, the human touch. If I had more free time, I would very much like to go to schools and high schools and talk directly to students about science, and how through science we not only get answers to our questions but also help create a better world for each and every one of us. I would take science out of the lab and bring it closer to them, "Science is in your pocket! Just take a look at your mobile phone!" In my experience, talking to young people about science made me feel as though they think that science is only for the extraordinarily gifted, the realm of quirky people in white lab robes. I would try to debunk the myth of science's exclusiveness. If the message "Science is for all" would reach as many young people as possible, that would be a great success story.
Alexandra Catalina Seclaman
Laboratoire de Geologei de Lyon, ENS Lyon, Lyon, Rhone-Alpes, 69364, France.
E-mail: alexandra-catalina.seclaman{at}

I would look back in time to prove to the political elite how much in financial and internal revenue has been made over time from the relatively small investments made by previous governmental bodies from basic research. As the Western world keeps cutting this funding, we are losing our advantage, and quickly at that.
Ville Simell
Department of Pediatrics, University of Turku, 20610, Turku, Finland.
E-mail: ville.simell{at}

As a young faculty member, I would concentrate on training elementary school teachers (i.e., those that teach students up to around the age of puberty). In most North American classes, they spend a large amount of time with their students, which promotes a deeper teacher-student bond. If every elementary school teacher was well trained in communicating both the excitement of science, the methods it uses, and how to deal with scientific controversy (both those that occur within science and those occur between science and other interest groups), I feel we would enable an entire generation of more well-rounded students. This in turn would best help shape the future generation's perception of science. In addition, the typical career of a teacher means that the training they receive today has huge multiplier effect. Thus, efforts spent training the teachers reach a larger number of students, in an intimate fashion, than I could ever provide.
Gregory Robert Sivakoff
Department of Physics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2 E1, Canada.
E-mail: sivakoff{at}

I would create a sign saying "The Scientist is in, see how the scientific method can answer your questions" (or something like that). I would then set up shop in a coffee shop, pub, or park and just let people stop by and ask questions of a real scientist with the goal of answering their questions about science and figuring out how to frame questions/problems in their own lives as potentially testable hypotheses (e.g., Does my car get better mileage with tires at 28 or 32 psi?). Each week, there could be a different guest scientist (after all, no scientist knows everything about everything). Interviews with people that stop by or the scientist guest could be recorded and put out as podcasts. I think seeing the scientific method demonstrated, doing research into what's already known, formulating a hypothesis, testing it via specific methods, recording results, and interpreting them to form further hypotheses could get people to grasp what science is all about. Even if I couldn't answer all the questions because of a lack of expertise, I could help them look things up on the Internet and get them started down a scientific path of inquiry into what they're curious about. I think showing people how science is done, explaining its limits and why there's never 100% certainty of scientific ideas (scientific theories come closest) will help people understand more of how and why scientists arrived at and report results as we do.
Ian H. Street
Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.
E-mail: ian.h.street{at}

In a heartbeat, I would volunteer at high schools, tutoring students and presenting demonstrations that would pique interest in science. Science explains why natural things work the way they do, including humans, the world we live in, and the universe we are but a minuscule part of. Be it blasting a sawdust fireball into the air to explain the effects of surface area on reaction kinetics, or explaining how we can synthetically produce miniature brains, kidneys, and livers from stem cells, watching a long-haired teacher's hair stand on end while he touches a Van de Graaff generator to explain how electric charges move, or talking about the extreme density of black holes, so great so that even light cannot escape, many interesting things can be shown and explained through either basic science or complex science explained basically. Students in high school often have an idea already about what direction they want to head in for their future, especially those looking ahead to college, but the vast majority will not know exactly what they want to do. An interesting demo could be just the motivation a young adult needs in order to pick up a science class they weren't originally considering. It's important that students aren't put off by the potential difficulty of that class, though. Helping them maintain their interest in science through tutoring them in these classes is just as important as getting them in that class in the first place.
William Andrew Svitko
Vagelos Program for Molecular Life Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: wsvitko{at}

I would like to become more informed about resource allocation on a national level. Specifically, I would like to make the argument to legislators that more resources should be going to climate stabilization. A national movement on the order of the race to the Moon should be fostered. I would personally call my representative's offices.
Daniel Westcott
Chicago, IL 60651, USA.
E-mail: d-westcott{at}

Today it seems that many scientists devote their lives to advocating for scientific funding and science education, typically in well-organized agencies that spend years working to achieve their goals. However, with just 5 additional hours a week, I would finally take up a task that many young scientists, like me, have been asked to do. I would take up writing local legislators, encouraging them to renew or expand the budgets of scientific foundations and vote for causes strongly supported by scientific research. As scientists, it is easy to lament when Representative Lamar Smith of the House Science Committee tries to change the way the NSF decides which grants receive funding through peer review. Often we feel that the accomplishments of science should be evident to anyone who has an ounce of scientific literacy. But expecting politicians, or anyone really, to be scientifically literate enough to understand the process of scientific peer review or what returns on investment from fundamental research are is also ridiculous. Even within science, scientific literacy and real understanding often only span the field that the researcher is in. Decisions about funding in science ultimately come down to an understanding of what scientific research has accomplished and can accomplish. The legislators making these decisions should understand the realistic returns and losses of scientific research, the uncertainty associated with science in the development stage, and some examples of what can be accomplished through investment in research. Scientists need to speak directly to legislators about the need for particular government funded grants and bring up palpable examples of success from support of fundamental research.
Sarah Langlois White
University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.
E-mail: slwhite3{at}

As a young child, I was lucky to have parents who helped me develop a curiosity for how things work and an appreciation for science's ability to answer amazing questions in our lives. Unfortunately, many young children do not have parents with the capability or interest in helping them build a foundation of scientific curiosity. Without parental support, these young minds may be unconsciously relegating their future relationship with science to "just some course" that requires a passing grade to graduate. To change this pattern, I would dedicate 5 extra hours per week toward starting a community outreach program that helps parents promote curiosity and learning in their children through exciting, creative methods. Such a program would primarily focus on free weekly seminars to discuss simple scientific ideas and show parents how to transform them into child-friendly activities with inexpensive materials. Additionally, I would seek to build partnerships with the business community to incent the development of discount programs for participants for products and services related to educational advancement in scientific disciplines. What if, during the Super Bowl halftime show, Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed the possibility of extraterrestrial life and the incomprehensible vastness of the Universe? While unlikely, it would certainly spread the spirit of science to millions of young viewers. If the scientific community as a whole could find ways to better connect with parents through outreach, we could increase the chance of a young child finding a telescope and becoming inspired by the stars.
Matthew Witman
Pennsylvania State University, Malvern, PA 19355, USA.
E-mail: mwitman1{at}

In China, many universities are expanding access to the world of massive open online courses (MOOCs). However, most learners on these courses are well-educated students who seek to enhance their skills or advance their careers. MOOCs can hardly reach those who miss opportunities to study, change where they study, and study as they work. If I had extra hours per week, I would organize a small group of volunteers and introduce MOOCs to the disadvantaged and nontraditional learners, so that they will have a deep insight into MOOCs. We can provide support for them to sign up for their first MOOCs, choose free lectures from leading professors, and register an online class much like at a normal university. I hope the arrival of MOOCs in China represents a simple and straightforward way to put quality content in front of the "have-nots" rather than reinforce the advantages of the "haves."
Jiang Zhao
School of Automation Science and Electrical Engineering, Beihang University, Beijing, Beijing, 100191, China.
E-mail: jzhao{at}