...because I'm Passling (is this a thing?) my own piece. But some thoughts that were left on the cutting room floor are still wandering around my head.
What happened to public science?
After the natural historians, we ended up in the Industrial Revolution. We rejected the Enlightenment, embraced Romanticism, and stumbled over the religious and social controversies of Darwin’s Origin.
More immediately, we endured the reality of a pair of World Wars. Little Boy and Fat Man. The Cold War. Drones. Somewhere along the way, many of the pinnacles of science and technology morphed into weaponry. It became easy to conflate demonstration with destruction.
I asked Tim Vogels for recommendations of scientists who are good at publicly showcasing their work.
“Tesla was,” he suggested. “I don’t know if anyone is quite as good as he was. Thomas Alva Edison, I think, was good at it.” It is telling that the best examples come from a century ago.
There's something about the tangibility of Tesla and Edison that made them more real to us—and made science feel relevant. I don’t get that relevance from a journal article. Nor do I get it from GIFs or roses dunked in liquid nitrogen. If you really want me to see the relevance, show me the translations and applications. Introduce me to the paralyzed teen who is remembering what it is like to move again. I’d like to shake his hand.
One of the central tenets of open access is that taxpayers should be able to read the results of federally funded research. But the question of whether researchers have a specific responsibility to demonstrate their work to the public remains.