Of course, the big news this week was the Science March. With practically every news outlet hosting think-pieces and op-eds about the march, it seemed like other articles about science and science policy were pushed out of the public eye a bit. I’ll share a list of science march articles at the end, but for now here are a few of my favorite non-march related articles from the past week.
1. Diversity Problems in the March for Science
Ok, one march related article. This is a great summary of the diversity problems that have plagued the Science March from the beginning, in its organizing and its messaging. I don’t want to write too much about this article because I won’t say it as well as they do, so please just take a look at it.
2. This Slate article about why Trump should not appoint a science advisor
I do not agree with this article, but I understand the sentiment behind it. Any scientist that Trump will appoint to the office will likely be self-serving, they will do what Trump wants. They won’t stand up for actual science or promote the use of facts and data in the Trump administration. I think that this is true. But on the off-chance that he would appoint someone qualified, our country can only benefit from someone that supports science and science based policy in the White House.
3. The Policy of Pathogen Research
Since the eradication of small pox, the virus has been kept under heavy security, with only two stocks maintained, one in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and one in Russia’s State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology. These restrictions on a dangerous pathogen were put in place through a global agreement, and to help prevent a horrible disease from returning.
These kinds of regulations are a crucial part of pathogen research. While we must study pathogens to understand how they work and how we can cure them, it must be done safely. However, government regulation can be too heavy handed, preventing what would be safe research from taking place.
This is a debate which is only going to become more prevalent as synthetic biology takes off, as we decide what should be allowed and how to safely conduct research.
4. How to regulate biotechnology
Case in point for the last article, this Slate article describes howe we regulate biotechnology such as CRISPR, and why the regulations that currently exist need to be revamped. It’s crucial that regulations come from a place of knowledge. If we regulate too quickly and from a place of fear, we can very easily restrict research too much, losing economic and scientific dominance as well as preventing potential medical breakthroughs. But if we regulate too slowly or too little, we may allow dangerous technologies to get into the hands of people and organizations who will use them for harm. This balancing act is one that we will watch unfold throughout our lifetimes.