Senator Flake recently released his list of 20 Questions: Government Studies That Will Leave You Scratching Your Head. Georgia Tech professor David Hu appears on that list 3 times. Hu wrote a thoughtful rebuttal, Confessions of a Wasteful Scientist, explaining why “wasteful” science can be revolutionary to society.
As a scientist, I believe it is our responsibility to convey the importance of our work to the people who fund our research (the tax payers) and our ethical responsibility to educate the general public. Not everyone is a scientist. There are plenty of hard working people who may not have the training to see the applicability of certain science questions. Science has also shown that people have limited attention spans- how much time do we expect the average person to spend trying to figure out the relevance of what may seem like an obscure scientific question? While I do think scientists should receive some benefit of the doubt, I also believe scientists have a responsibility to make the importance of our work clear. That is part of the reason I have started this blog- to convey important science-related news to people who aren’t necessarily experts in the field (although I do hope experts enjoy reading this blog, too).