ESEP 9:25-28 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00101

Knowledge is power: In a world shaped by science, what obligation do scientists have to the public?

Elizabeth Halliday*

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Redfield 3–24, MS# 32, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02540, USA

ABSTRACT: Since beginning my graduate studies in science, I have occasionally found myself struggling to find the right words to explain exactly what it is I do, and why it matters, to non-scientist family and friends. The difficulty of ‘translating’ science highlights one of the incongruities between scientists and the public in society today: the general public claims interest in science and science news, despite having only a tenuous understanding of basic science concepts, while scientists, although generally eager to share knowledge, resent oversimplification and fear misrepresentation in the popularization of their work. In this article, I address the extent of the scientist’s responsibility to enhance scientific understanding of the public, and attempt to reconcile an understanding of what the public needs or desires from scientists with what researchers are actually trained to do.


KEY WORDS: Science literacy · Science communication · Science journalism · Graduate education


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Cite this article as: Halliday E (2009) Knowledge is power: In a world shaped by science, what obligation do scientists have to the public?. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 9:25-28. https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00101

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