A Look Back at the World Science Festival

Just posted to our site, from Brian Konzman, S.J.:

The fifth annual World Science Festival took place over five days in New York City in June. (You can find my blog posts from the festival here.) I attended four events on a range of fascinating topics, from the “elusive neutrino” to the disruptive technological power of the Internet. What was perhaps most intriguing, though, was one theme that pervaded all of the discussions. The panelists at each forum described how they struggled more with a crisis of public faith in their work than unraveling the mysteries of the universe. The gap between science and public understanding seems to be greater than ever.


The talks represented a fair sampling of the diversity of scientific research today. “How We Bounce Back: The Science of Human Resiliency” brought to light new research in the field of trauma recovery. “The Elusive Neutrino and the Nature of the Cosmos” concerned the science of some of nature’s tiniest, most difficult to detect subatomic particles. The grandiosely-titled “Internet Everywhere: The Future of History’s Most Disruptive Technology” brought tech-savvy thinkers together to discuss how the Internet has impacted society and how it might evolve further in the future. Finally, “Pandemic Fix: Seeking Universal Vaccines” examined the state of vaccine research and immunization today.

The panelists spent as much time talking about perceptions of their work as the work itself. Physicists bemoaned the lack of support from the public, and therefore from Congress, for projects critical to the advancement of fundamental particle physics like the cancelled Superconducting Super Collider. Epidemiologists signaled their alarm and disgust with recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, with thousands of cases of mumps on the east coast and tens of thousands of whooping cough on the west. Social psychologists complained of an entrenched popular psychology that damages victims of trauma, while the architects of the Internet try to counter the abandonment of the net’s foundational, dispersed-computing principles represented by the cloud.

This growing awareness of public skepticism might shock some scientists. After all, advances in our collective knowledge have led to marvels like modern medicine, space travel and mass transportation. When it comes to the scientific facts of anthropogenic global warming or the extensively shown safety of vaccinations, then, one might expect the public to give similar credence to researchers. It does not. Gallup polls indicate that greater numbers of Americans than ever think that the media greatly exaggerate the seriousness of global warming, leaving many scientists bewildered, wondering what causes this too-common ignorance and what to do about it.

Read the full review here.

Tim Reidy


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
David Smith
6 years 8 months ago
From worldsciencefestival.com:

The 2012 World Science Festival took place May 30–June 3 in New York City
About the World Science Festival
The World Science Festival is a production of the Science Festival Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in New York City. The Foundation’s mission is to cultivate a general public informed by science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future. The Board includes Alan Alda, the actor/author/director; Ann Ziff, managing director and co-chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Opera and a vice chairman on the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.; Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University; Brian Greene, Professor of Physics and Professor of Mathematics at Columbia University, and author of The Elegant Universe; Tracy Day, CEO and Co-founder of The World Science Festival, who is a four-time National News Emmy award-winning journalist; and Judith Cox, the President of the Science Festival Foundation, who was Deputy Director of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and instrumental in its New York and international operations.

Hmm.  Not very ''world''.  More like A New York City Science Festival.


The latest from america

Join Kirsten Powers, CNN analyst and USA Today columnist, and Rev. James Martin, S.J., Editor at Large of America Media and New York Times best-selling author, for a live show celebrating the 100th episode of Jesuitical.
America Media EventsApril 24, 2019
Prayers for Our Lady. Photo by Melissa Vida.
The air was still thick with smoke and the ash burnt the eyes of the onlookers, who were relieved to see the cathedral still standing. For many Catholics, the coincidence of the blaze occurring at the start of Holy Week speaks of the greater mysteries of Easter.
Melissa VidaApril 19, 2019
"Hillary and Clinton"
In Hnath’s play, Hillary has put all her bets on competence, while Bill unsurprisingly presses her to show more humanity.
Rob Weinert-KendtApril 19, 2019
The day before this issue went to press, we watched on our newsroom monitors the devastating fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris.
Matt Malone, S.J.April 19, 2019