Notable Science Quotes

Brexit's effect on science, melding disciplines, and more

By The Scientist Staff | August 1, 2016


Being in the E.U. gives us access to ideas, people and to investment in science. That, combined with mobility [of EU scientists], gives us increased collaboration, increased transfer of people, ideas, and science—all of which history has shown us drives science.

—Nobel laureate Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute and immediate past president of the Royal Society, speaking four months before UK citizens voted to leave the European Union in the historic “Brexit” referendum (BBC News, February 26)


For science to thrive it must have access to the single market, and we do need free movement. We could negotiate that outside the E.U., which will probably end up costing more money and we would have little influence [in deciding research priorities]. Or perhaps we should just reconsider this entire mess and see if there is something that can be done to reconsider this once the dust has settled.

Paul Nurse, on how the June 23 "Brexit" vote to leave the European Union could impact scientific research in the U.K. (BBC News, June 29)


Convergence has grown from a little seedling to a sprouting plant, but to become a great tree and orchard yielding fruit for decades into the future, it needs to be nourished, expanded, and cultivated now. Students need to be educated, collaborations need to be encouraged, and resources need to be committed to make sure convergence thrives.

—Nobel laureate Phillip Sharp, on the need to merge historically disparate disciplines, such as physics, computer science, mathematics, and the life sciences in order to achieve long-standing goals in biomedicine (MIT News, June 23)


By bringing together doctors and data like never before, precision medicine aims to deliver the right treatments in the right dosage at the right time—every time. It helps target the causes of a condition rather than just the symptoms. This is one of the greatest opportunities we’ve ever seen for new medical breakthroughs, but it only works if we collect enough information first.

—President Barack Obama, in a Boston Globe opinion piece about his administration’s efforts to make personalized medicine a broader reality (July 7)


Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.

—Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, in a recent tweet (June 29)


Tyson is a very smart man, but this is a very stupid tweet, and a very stupid idea. It is even, we might say, unreasonable and without sufficient evidence. Of course imagining a society in which all actors behave logically sounds appealing. But employing logic to consider the concept reveals that there could be no such thing.

Jeffrey Guhin, a University of California, Los Angeles, sociologist, criticizing Neil deGrasse Tyson’s controversial #Rationalia tweet (Slate, July 5)

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