Correspondence | Published:

Criticism: what to do about science's bad public image?

Naturevolume 444page265 (2006) | Download Citation



Although you are right to state in your News Feature “In the name of nature” (Nature 443, 498–501; 2006) that environmental activists such as those who fire-bombed a research facility in Olympia, Washington, are misguided, I found your focus on personal flaws and oddities to fall short. Yes, there are many vegan weirdos out there, but some of them are hard-core genetic engineers working in my laboratory. Science and anti-science have a surprising overlap in subculture. (Count the vegetarians at the next Nature office party.) So it's not just subculture that is driving this small, radical and somewhat erratic movement, but a strengthening groundswell of distrust towards science and scientists.

As Nature is a magazine read mostly by scientists, it would be interesting to explore and analyse how we — especially we biologists — managed to become the bad guys. How and why did our public image change from harmless geeks to state- and industry-sponsored evil-doers worthy to be a target? More importantly, what do we do about it? And how do we communicate more effectively what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the opportunities and challenges of modern science are?

So I very much look forward to a follow-up article that won't just have me worried that the friendly tofu-lover I see in one of the Athens clubs tonight will burn down my lab, but will stir me to engage the public in a more effective way.

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  1. Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, Paul D. Coverdell Center, University of Georgia, Athens, 30602, Georgia, USA

    • Boris Striepen


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