The President's Page: Science and the public


  • Homer E. Newell


Scientific societies today are wrestling with questions of how to convey better to the public the significance and role of science in modern society. The need, which is so strongly felt today, to make clear the practical importance of science arises from widespread questioning and expressed doubts about the kinds and levels of scientific research that public funds should support, doubts that find tangible expression in shrinking budgets for basic research.

This crisis of confidence in science, and in technology as well, comes at a time when their contributions to human progress and welfare have been the most outstanding in human history. There is a wealth of examples from the past to show the tremendous value of science and technology to our country and to the world. A steady increase in health, longevity, and in our standard of living stems directly from the practical use of scientific knowledge. It is confusing, therefore, to scientists who feel justly proud of their work and their substantial contributions to the advancement of mankind, to find their contributions so sorely questioned. There has naturally arisen within the scientific community a series of soulsearching debates and a continuing lament over the sorry plight of science today.