Of Sharing and Humility in Science

The unique knowledge and freedom of science evoke novel responsibilities for scientists to stay tuned to, and to inspire, the desires of mankind. Scientists should be candid and honest when addressing the public and should not shun the full implications of ideas, of questions, or of the capacity for science and innovation to shape the future. For example, when members of the scientific community quote polls that show the public supports allocation of more money for basic research, they must not

Fred Cowan
Sep 27, 1998

The unique knowledge and freedom of science evoke novel responsibilities for scientists to stay tuned to, and to inspire, the desires of mankind. Scientists should be candid and honest when addressing the public and should not shun the full implications of ideas, of questions, or of the capacity for science and innovation to shape the future. For example, when members of the scientific community quote polls that show the public supports allocation of more money for basic research, they must not fail to voice the unavoidable underlying question: How much of your social security check might you be willing to sign over to science? Just how much of the present should we invest to secure what future?

In President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address this year and in his comments at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he tempered his support for...