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A Year of Science Progress

Looking Back, To the Future

Cupcake with one candle SOURCE: iStockphoto Just over a year ago, we launched Science Progress. Our goal was to provide a forum for progressive science policy, a venue in which those concerned about the future of the country could assess the current state of science in America.

About one year ago, in October 2007, we launched Science Progress. Our goal was to provide a forum for progressive science policy, a venue in which those concerned about the future of the country could assess the current state of science in America, offer smart, informed proposals on topics like energy, climate change, the life sciences, and information technology and reflect on where innovation can and should take us in the 21st century.

There is no American progress without science progress.

We entered the scene against a backdrop of deep concern. Was our government truly committed to policymaking based on the best available evidence? Did elected officials appreciate that not a sector of a modern society can be sustained without constant efforts to innovate, that the very future of the country hangs in the balance? Is there freedom of speech for those appointed to protect the public from disease and improve their prospects of a society that promotes human flourishing?

Now, to top it all off, the current financial crisis is not reassuring about the future of funding for research and development, either by government or the private sector.

It will be years before we know whether we have turned the corner on these worries. Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that a serious conversation has begun. The ScienceDebate 2008 movement did not result in a presidential debate on science policy, but it did stimulate renewed interest in the importance of getting these issues on the radar at the highest levels of our leadership. Several major organizations have published analyses and recommendations for enhancing the role of White House science advice, and there is buzz about reviving some version of the congressional Office of Technology Assessment. The organized scientific community is making a greater effort to communicate with the public, including an increasing number of public events.

It seems to us that the movement to put the direction of American science back on the map is quickening and, through our contributors and readers, Science Progress has become part of that movement. We are pleased that traffic to our site has steadily increased over the year, as have subscribers to our weekly email. But the most important measures of our success are the dynamism and intelligence of our articles and blog posts and the feedback we receive from readers around the country. Besides several highly visible panels at the Center for American Progress and the National Press Club, we have helped sponsor such events as the World Stem Cell Summit. Several weeks ago Science Progress columnist Chris Mooney and I participated in a science policy panel at Ole Miss, as part of the run up to the first presidential debate. And of course the first hard copy of Science Progress was widely distributed to science policy experts in Washington, and we have organized a group of experts on financing science and technology to advance our understanding of the elements needed to promote regional centers of innovation.

We are excited about the new opportunities to make our case that will come with a new administration and a new congress. And next year Bellevue Literary Press will provide us with another way to reach the public with the first book to emerge from Science Progress. You can expect to hear more about this project, entitled Science Next, in 2009.

I’m very grateful to the people who do the heavy lifting, especially assistant editor Andrew Pratt and editorial director Ed Paisley. Kit Batten and Mike Rugnetta are two CAP staffers who guide and write for us, and we scored a real coup in recruiting the wise and experienced science reporter for The Washington Post, Rick Weiss, as a regular columnist along with Chris Mooney.

Ultimately, it was the leadership of the Center for American Progress, especially CAP’s president John Podesta, who took what we think was a winning gamble on this endeavor. Like our contributors and readers, they know that there is no American progress without science progress.

Jonathan D. Moreno is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor and Professor of Medical Ethics and of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Editor-in-Chief of Science Progress.

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