Volume 91 Issue 20 | p. 3 | Editor's Page
Issue Date: May 20, 2013

Popular Science

Department: Editor's Page
Keywords: Good Eats, editorial, Alton Brown

Attentive readers know that C&EN is celebrating its 90th anniversary throughout this year. Now I am pleased to invite you all to C&EN’s 90th anniversary celebratory event at the ACS national meeting in Indianapolis in September. As our way of thanking ACS members, readers, advertisers, and friends for their support over the years, we are hosting a late-afternoon event featuring the television personality, celebrity chef, and author Alton Brown on Sept. 10. Brown is widely known for the TV series “Good Eats,” which interweaves the science behind food and cooking with history, culture, and humor (C&EN Online, July 28, 2008). He is the host and commentator for the Food Network Series “Iron Chef America.”

The event is free, but seats are limited and tickets are required. Get your ticket when you register for the ACS meeting in Indianapolis, one ticket per person. Registration and housing open on May 29.

You may wonder why we are bringing Brown to Indianapolis. It’s because his talent matches one of C&EN’s vital functions: communicating science, and the importance of science, to a wide audience.

Communicating science and its importance to the public has never been so critical as it is these days. Funding of science is threatened and antiscience sentiment is on the rise, even when humanity’s most basic needs—sustainable food, water, and energy; good health; and a livable planet—are fundamentally scientific problems. Meanwhile, funding institutions are requiring researchers to disseminate their findings more broadly than ever. Creativity, discovery, and advancing the field are not enough. The knowledge has to be communicated, too—and not just to readers of the primary literature but to the widest audience possible.

Nowadays, the ability to talk about science is an essential skill for researchers. Every step of doing research and development requires communication, from getting funded, to carrying out the work, to getting published, to getting products commercialized. Competition for funding is tight; researchers are under increasing pressure to favor applied research over basic research. Scientists need to be their own articulate advocates for the science that they do. And research is increasingly collaborative, across disciplines, geographic regions, and time zones. Communication is key when working with a team. Communication is like oxygen.

Practicalities aside, communication satisfies a universal human yearning. As Richard N. Zare said when he received the Priestley Medal in 2010: “I wonder how many artists would paint if they could not show their paintings to others, or how many composers would write music if they could not share it with listeners. Finding out something new is not sufficient for me; it must also be communicated” (C&EN, March 22, 2010, page 19).

For 90 years C&EN has been a partner of scientists in explaining research advances to an audience beyond the readers of scholarly journals. You can see how through The Watch Glass, the visual blog by Contributing Editor Deirdre Lockwood, which has been gaining many fans. The blog’s random walk through C&EN Archives yields stunning images and fascinating reminiscences of the chemistry enterprise over the past nine decades. And monthly on this page, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Josh Fischman and I share with you the fruits of our meanderings in C&EN Archives, the database of C&EN stories all the way back to 1923.

As a year-round gift to C&EN readers, all C&EN Archives stories featured on this page each month and in The Watch Glass are freely downloadable for a limited time.

Still, C&EN’s audience is much different from that of mass media. And that brings me back to Brown. Fans of his award-winning TV series and best-selling books come from all walks of life and possess all levels of scientific sophistication. We all can learn from him how to talk about science with our parents, children, neighbors, or members of Congress.

So on Sept. 10, after the last talk at your must-attend symposium has concluded and the curtains have descended on the meeting exposition, come and join C&EN to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.


Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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