"The concern for man and his destiny," said Albert Einstein, "must always be the chief interest of all technical effort: Never forget it among your diagrams and equations." All science academies and societies must live up to this call for social engagement.
I by no means suggest that basic science be given short shrift. Indeed, robust research must be encouraged more today than ever before. Nor do I recommend diluting such traditional functions of professional groups as the sponsorship of specialized conferences, the publishing of research results, and the maintenance of high professional standards. These are bedrock functions, and it is crucially important for academies and societies to pursue them.
However, beyond these internal activities, scientific and engineering organizations have external responsibilities, for there is a social compact to fulfill that is at once utilitarian, ethical, and educational in character.
Every city, state, and nation has pressing goals in social...
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