Sunday, November 05, 2006

branding research as nanotechnology

A recent article on zdnet labels a paper published in Nature Chemical Biology as nanotechnology. I think that this paper would just as easily fall under the umbrella of protein engineering, chemical biology, or biomedical engineering. It seems like technology writers are so eager to find stories about nanotechnology, that they often mistake something that would be better described with more complex terminology for nanotech and thus mislead the public into thinking that the world of science is smaller than it really is. The taxonomy of research is a difficult task, but an important one. Highschool students are often clueless about what they should major in in college because they have not had a broad exposure to each of the disciplines of science and engineering. A classic example of this is systems biology. Many students that think they would like to study genetics in college would do better to study systems biology, but they are unaware that it is even something that can be majored in. The press should be particularly careful to show how large and diverse a landscape the scientific world is. Many people do not know what stem cells actually are, let alone that not all of them come from fetal tissue. If the press did a better job educating the public about scientific issues, there would be less controversy and less fear of what is to come.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure I agree with the statement that more and better press coverage results in better public understanding and less apprehension regarding science. The historical examples of the dangers posed by nuclear fallout in the 1950s and, more recently, global warming suggest that the public's emotional as well as intellectual response to scientific issues bears consideration.