January 15, 2009
PR View by Paul Oestreicher, PhD
CNN's sacking of some of its most experienced science journalists and producers could not come at a worse time. We are in desperate need of another science boom and greater public understanding and support will surely help propel the effort forward. Our healthcare, our environment, our energy needs and our economy all depend on it.
Thirty years ago, the US ranked third among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering. Now, we stand in 17th place. Only about 10% of the US population knows what a molecule is and about half can define the purpose of DNA. So, we need more interest and investment, not less. We need more people informed, involved and inspired.
Beyond the issue of competitiveness, there is consumer health and safety. Indeed, there is worry that a growing number of patients are not taking their medication because of inaccurate or sensationalized reporting on adverse drug reactions. Enhancing science literacy will create a more engaged, more rational health consuming public. To help accomplish this, we need to increase, not chop, the number of knowledgeable professionals sifting through the ballooning mass of information who can ask good questions, provide context and perspective, and differentiate the myths and the facts.
Other news outlets are cutting back, too. I know the economy is tough. Even so, CNN, please reconsider.
Paul Oestreicher, PhD is president of Oestreicher Communications and adjunct professor at NYU