Big Science

Here’s a link to an interesting article by Aaron Hirsch in the New York Times. He discusses the idea of Big Science, and mentions how much of the scientific community now relies on large institutions for processing or collection of data (i.e. genome sequencing centers or the Large Hadron Collider). I’ll leave it to you to read the article more fully, but I’d like to add to Hirsch’s concern about the future of Big Science.

As a scientist, it is scary to me that it is becoming so expensive to do science. Many of the results that appear in the high impact journals (like Science or Nature) require lots of resources and people. I doubt that science, especially biology, will soon be a garage experience, though there are people who believe in do-it-yourself biotech (like the DIYbio organization, the Biobricks foundation, and some Synthetic Biologists). Still, I pause when I think about how much of science has been centralized and is “owned” and commercialized by large institutions (see the Ventner Institute, for example).

Fortunately, there are movements to make science more accessible and welcoming to lay-people, like MIT’s Open Course Ware, where MIT has posted access to nearly every class taught at the Institute. As scientists, we’ll need to continue to work to make science accessible and open so that the public is not left standing outside staring at the “urban high-rise” (as Hirsch calls it), wondering what happens in there and how one gets inside.

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