Fine Structure

Expert Labs Connects Science to Government

Science has a big gap between itself and, well, everybody else. Scientists get money from institutions, work on their projects and release data into back to the academic community and it's essentially up to bold journalists to sneak into the club, absorb an incredible amount of information and report it accurately to the public. Needless to say, this contributes to all sorts of relationship problems between scientists and the public.

The disconnect between these two groups doesn't do either party any favors. The public becomes disenfranchised with science because they (as taxpayers) put money in and don't see results because the results either never escape academia or are misreported because of a lack of understanding. Science funding is cut because the public drops science as a priority and the public benefit from research is reduced as less basic research is carried out.

Don't fret too much, science isn't doomed quite yet. There are a number of ways that people are already tackling this problem and they all try to increase communication between scientists and the public. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a kind of modern day Carl Sagan, does really effective science outreach on radio and television. His kind of explanations (and inspirations, no doubt) are indispensable when it comes to telling the public about science in terms that can be understood and appreciated. Sites like Science Works for US, a site I just posted about, connects the public with the purpose of science funding.

Despite the effort, by no means has science achieved it's outreach goals. Not only do we have to encourage sharing with the public at large, but specifically with the policymakers who have a huge say in the stance our country takes on science. This improves today.

Anil Dash, a friend and colleague, is working on something that is bound to result in cross-communication between science and government. Today he announced that he's director of a new non-profit that funds technology experiments that can help experts from the public connect with policy makers in the government. Expert Labs is not just an experiment in science, though. The government makes decisions on more than science, of course and experts from the public should be there to inform important decisions. I think this is a great way to connect experts to their government and I think it's going to be a great benefit for scientists that want to see some evidence-based decisions happen in government.

It's a trend, really. I like to think of Expert Labs as a cousin to the Science and Entertainment Exchange which pairs scientific minds with those in the entertainment space for an improved accuracy in movie-based science. It's the same idea, really. Give scientists a voice to accurately explain things to the public for the purpose of greater communication.

If you want to keep up on what Expert Labs is doing, follow them on Twitter or read up on their site. I think we'll see some really excellent results from all this outreach, Expert Labs included.