Hope and Controversial Science

A sense of hope. It’s the overwhelming sentiment that I’ve heard people talking about in reaction to President Obama’s inaugural address. A hope for peace, a hope that the US will repair itself, and even, a hope for Science. As I listened to Barrak’s speech, I found myself filled with hope on so many different levels. If you missed the speech, you can check out the video plus the full transcript on the new whitehouse blog.


Here’s the link:

I’m sure you’ve seen many sound bites from the speech, but I wanted to expand on one thing that President Obama said that filled me with hope:

“We’ll restore science to its rightful place”

As a scientist, Barrack had me cheering on my couch at this point in his speech. There’s been so much damage done by US politics to Science. I’m no expert, but basically, there’s been an attack on Science by policy makers in the US. For example, Bush introduced the first true budget cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1970 (ref). The NIH is the “Nation’s Medical Research Agency” and by cutting the budget, Bush took away funds that make science happen. But it’s not just funding, the outgoing administration also made specific attacks by restricting the kind of research that could happen in the US. For example, President Bush introduced criteria for stem cell research. With the mention of Science in President Obama’s speech, I’m filled with a sense of hope that the US will be able to get back on track, especially with respect scientific research in controversial areas.

That thought, the one about controversial areas of research in Science, got me thinking about, “What are the most controversial areas of scientific research these days?Stem Cell Research is right up there. Cloning and Genetically Modified Organisms, they belong on the list. Evolution. It doesn’t really belong, but I’ll have to admit that there is controversy. Biobanks, Climate Change, String Theory, Animal Testing, Nuclear Testing… I’m sure I’ve missed some controversial areas (you can feel free to add to the list). My hope is that this new administration restores science funding and opens the dialogue around these issues in an effort to “restore science to its rightful place” in society.

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Joanne often gets really excited when she talks about Science. Luckily, she works in the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory, the educational arm of the Michael Smith Labs. She likes all kinds of science but has a special spot in her heart for biology, technology, and well, sports. As a scientist and educator at UBC, she hopes that she never becomes so specialized that she loses her global perspective. (When she gets around to writing an intro post, I'm sure that she'll link to it here).