Undeliverable Message

Ian A. Paul, Ph.D. iapaul at FIONA.UMSMED.EDU
Wed May 10 11:58:33 EST 1995

>Wise Young writes:
>> As a group, we scientists have
>> failed to convince society of our value.  Governments world-wide are
>> beginning to reduce funding of the growth in science that has led to our
>> present state.   The free ride is over.  If we do not act soon, a shrinking
>> set of occupied permanent posts will be all that remains.  We must come out
>> of our cocoons and understand that if we expect to be funded by society to
>> pursue knowledge, society must realize that the knowledge is beneficial to
>> society.   
>> Wise
>Wise Young is correct.  Scientists as a group have performed abysmally in the
>area of public relations.  Whether we like it or not, we have to understand
>that from the lay public's point of view research, particularly basic
>research, is a luxury.  As such, the layman expects justification for
>the expense.  While the benefits of new drug or treatment development
>are obvious and tangible, the benefits of molecular subtyping of receptors
>or analysis of open field exploratory behavior are not.  This, of course,
>does not diminish the importance of this kind of research as any working
>scientist knows.  However, it does mean that we need to make the public
>aware of the importance of this kind of work and its enormous benefit/cost
>ratio.  For example, how many taxpayers and/or their representatives
>realize what a tiny fraction of the national budget is devoted to research
>or the financial return from that investment?  If they don't know this
>it is fundamentally our fault as scientists for not educating them.
>Moreover, I would contend that this pervasive ignorance on the part of
>the general public is largely responsible for a constellation of related
>problems which scientists encounter.  These include the rise of 
>antivivisectionist groups seeking to block the use of animals in research
>and "flat earth" movements such as "scientific creationism".  While
>scientists did not produce these problems, the insular, "ivory tower"
>mentality pervasive in our profession has allowed these ignorance-based
>movements to develop unchallenged.  By not challenging them, we provide
>the public with the message that we are either arrogant and unresponsive
>(as some of us undoubtedly are) or that we tacitly accept the validity
>of these movements and the assertion that our use of public resources 
>is unjustified.
>Best to all,
>Ian A. Paul, Ph.D.
>Chief, Laboratory of Neurobehavioral Pharmacology and Immunology
>Division of Neurobiology and Behavior Research
>Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
>University of Mississippi Medical Center
>Jackson, MS  39216
>WWW URL:  http://fiona.umsmed.edu/~iapaul/dnbr.html
Ian A. Paul, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Neurobehavioral Pharmacology and Immunology
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
Division of Neurobiology and Behavior Research
Box 127
University of Mississippi Medical Center
2500 North State Street
Jackson, MS  39216-4505
Tel.:  (601) 984-5883/5898
Fax.:  (601) 984-5884/5899

"Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis 
for a system of government!  Supreme executive authority derives from 
a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!
I mean, if I went around saying I was an emporor because some moistened 
bit had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away...."

                             - Dennis ("I'm 37, I'm not old!")
                               Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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