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Speaking of Science 2015

A year’s worth of noteworthy quotes

Dec 31, 2015
Bob Grant

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What we are sorely missing in the Congress today are those who are science-minded. We are skating on thin ice.

Mary Woolley, president of science advocacy group Research!America (January 5)

Unnecessary quarantines do not save lives; they lose lives.

Amy Gutmann, chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, on the quarantining of US health-care workers who had returned home from treating Ebola patients in West Africa (February 26)

The currency of science is fragile, and allowing counterfeiters, fraudsters, bunko artists, scammers, and cheats to continue to operate with abandon in the publishing realm is unacceptable.

—New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan, in a Mayo Clinic Proceedings commentary about problems in science publishing (April 3)

I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years.

Ellen Stofan, NASA chief scientist, speaking during a NASA panel discussion about the search for water in the universe (April 7)

I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale. Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes.

—Harvard stem cell researcher George Daley, in a Nature news story about a paper in Protein & Cell by a research team reporting the use of CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing in human embryos (April 22)

The Ask Alice article, “Help! My adviser won’t stop looking down my shirt,” on this website has been removed by Science because it did not meet our editorial standards, was inconsistent with our extensive institutional efforts to promote the role of women in science, and had not been reviewed by experts knowledgeable about laws regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. We regret that the article had not undergone proper editorial review prior to posting. Women in science, or any other field, should never be expected to tolerate unwanted sexual attention in the workplace.

—A notice posted by Science Careers staff about the retraction of a controversial advice column post advising a female postdoc who was uncomfortable with her advisor’s inappropriate sexual behavior to “put up with it” (June 1)

A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, in a papal encyclical letter (June 18)

Scientific research has a gender gap, and not just among humans.

New York Times editorial about the importance of including female laboratory animals in basic research studies to ensure that findings apply to both sexes (July 18)

Over a lifetime, I have written millions of words, but the act of writing seems as fresh, and as much fun, as when I started it nearly seventy years ago.

—The closing line of On the Move: A Life, the 2015 autobiography of neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, who died on August 29. The book was the last he published during his lifetime.

Because it’s 2015.

—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, responding to a reporter’s question about why he chose to appoint a gender-balanced cabinet, which included the country’s first-ever Minister of Science, a medical geographer named Kirsty Duncan, and Navdeep Bains, a businessman now serving as Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (November 4)

When I’m ninety, will I look back and be glad about what we have accomplished with this technology? Or will I wish I’d never discovered how it works?

—University of California, Berkeley, molecular biologist Jennifer Doudna, who helped develop CRISPR technology, on the need to exercise caution in the editing of human genes (November 16)

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