Patriotism is defined as “having or showing great love and support for your country.” This Fourth of July, American bloggers Stephanie Schuttler and Emily Puckett show how supporting science reflects great love and support for the United States of America and is a democratic process in and of itself.
- Science inspires. Scientific and technological innovations made it possible to put a man on the moon and explore the depths of the ocean. These events are an inspiration to the public and motivate scientists to keep pushing the limits of what is possible. These achievements, like Olympic medals, are worn with great pride by citizens and scientists alike. Mars, here we come.
- Science stimulates the ECONOMY. Stronger research programs mean more STEM jobs, which ultimately makes the United States competitive in global markets. Research-based businesses (think biotech, aerotech, or medical research) and universities create jobs for scientists and support staff. Protections for our health, environment, and wildlife have created thousands of jobs across the country in the Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Geological Service to name a few. Scientists and support staff spend salaries in the community and support local businesses (think of all the pubs supported by graduate students alone!).
- Science benefits everyone. Some benefits of science are more tangible, like medical research, but the overall contribution of knowledge and technical advancements, is a benefit to society as a whole, even when we don’t know how and when they might be applied directly to daily life. This statement from The Economist on the invention of the MRI machine sums this concept up well: “[MRI] was made possible by contributions from numerous visionary scientists—including a handful of Nobel prize winners—over a period of more than 50 years, incorporating bits and pieces from many different disciplines, such as chemistry, mathematics, engineering, computer science, medicine and, of course, physics.”
- Science is an investment in our country. Like a small business, you have to spend money to make money. When we invest in science, we invest in infrastructure and baseline research to continue advancements. Research builds upon research.
- Science is transparent. The methods and results of scientific research are written and published in journals that anyone can access (although for some journals you do have to pay if you do not have access through a university). This is so other scientists can replicate the exact conditions of research experiments to determine if the same results are generated (i.e. reproducible). Access to research results supports an informed society! More papers and data are becoming open access, which means they are free. Citizens can access data and even analyze the same data sets on their own to check for reproducibility. Citizens can also participate in real science research through citizen science programs.
- Science is a system of checks and balances. To get results published in journals, scientists submit papers, which are then reviewed by experts in their field. In their papers, scientists cannot make unsupported statements; they have to be backed up with references from previous publications. They also cannot make statements about their findings unless their results back them up. If the papers do not adhere to these and other standards, they will be rejected by the reviewers and the editors. Scientists must also must disclose where they received their money from to support their research, thereby disclosing any conflicts of interest.
- Competing for grants is a democratic process. As mentioned before, science is an investment in our country and these investments (tax dollars) are limited. Therefore, scientists must compete for funds by submitting grant proposals to present their research and make their case. These proposals are reviewed, rated, and ultimately decided upon by experts (although the system is not perfect, and discrimination exists). Innovation, risk, and likelihood to success are good qualities that make grants competitive.
- Patents. Countries keeps the intellectual property from scientists’ patents and profit from it by creating new businesses and products.
- Science enhances diplomacy. When the scientists of one country work to help the citizens of another country through formal governmental arrangements- that’s science diplomacy, a form of soft power that builds good will and trust between different nations and cultures. Scientific collaborations across citizens of different nations, whether formal or informal are common (just look at our bloggers!).
- Science makes our country a leader. Echoing point #1, when we have scientific innovations that capture the world’s attention, we are seen as strong leaders.
Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) photos from ARKive via Lynn Stone and Raymond Parsons.