There’s an advertising feature in the latest GQ that champions 17 “Rock Stars of Science.” Each ad includes a genuine rock music star alongside three or four genuine scientists, some Nobel laureates among them. The idea is to make science sexy.
Will it work? Chris Mooney, co-author of Unscientific America, is one of the minds behind the campaign. if you want to know more about it, head on over to his Intersection blog, where he writes about the risks of the project:
Was it an absolute requirement for them to carry on like this (see right) to make their point?
Unfortunately yes–if they were to break through to a public besotted by “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars.”
“Scientists must venture outside their comfort zones to show the public how cool – and how important – their work really is,” opines Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, and one of the 2009 Rock S.O.S.â¢ founding fathers. “I’m thrilled to see all of these big-name musicians using their star power to shine a spotlight on science.
It is too soon to tell if this experiment will accomplish much. I hope it does something. With Debbie Harry on board, folks from my generation might pay attention, although I suspect GQ’s audience skews younger. So far, though, the researchers are mostly taken from the life sciences (plus one astronaut). What would happen if, say, we tried to do the same with climatologists? I’m thinking James Hansen (already kind of a rock star, with his penchant for getting arrested in front of coal-fired power plants), Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, Phil Jones?
Would this kind of slick public outreach only further alienate those who, thanks to slanderous propaganda campaigns, are already skeptical of the entire field’s integrity, or would it engender more respect? Is it too late to salvage climatology’s reputation among the far right, or should we even worry about that?
Actually, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Grist magazine have made baby steps down this path with a series of profiles, the latest of which features glaciologist Julienne Strove. But this approach — “the climatologists who are helping to save the planet–and your ass!” is a far cry from the Rock Stars campaign.
Me, I’m just glad to see that somebody’s making an effort. Better to experiment than to sit back and moan about how science is getting short shrift from our educational system and the mainstream media. The Rock Stars of Science are to be congratulated for daring to be different. Here’s a list of them:
- Stephen B. Baylin, M.D., Deputy Director, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins; Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) Dream Team Leader
- Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate; AACR President; Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UCSF; Member, Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) Scientific Advisory Committee
- Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A. (ret.), Former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, Director, Health and Medicine, Center for the Study of the Presidency/Congress.
- Dr. Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Autism Speaks, Founding Director, University of Washington Autism Center.
- Frank L. Douglas, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO, Austen BioInnovation Institute
- Bernard A. Harris, Jr., M.D., MBA, FACP, former NASA astronaut; Founder and President, The Harris Foundation
- Catriona Jamieson, M.D., Ph.D., Asst. Professor, Medicine, Hematologic Malignancies, UCSD, Director, Stem Cell Research, Moores UCSD Cancer Center
- Emil Kakkis, M.D., Ph.D., President, Kakkis EveryLife Foundation
- Frank M. Longo, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, Dept of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University Medical School, Founder, Pharmatrophix.
- Joan MassaguÄ, Ph.D., Chair, Cancer Biology and Genetics Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Executive Committee, Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center
- Mehmet Oz, M.D., Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery, Columbia University; Director, Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine, NYPH, Host, Doctor Oz Show
- Eric M. Reiman, M.D., Executive Director, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Chief Scientific Officer, Banner Research Institute
- Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate; Institute Professor, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT; Chairperson, Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)Scientific Advisory Committee
- Charles L. Sawyers, M.D., Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Executive Committee, Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center
- Craig B. Thompson, M.D., President/CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), Chairman, Executive Committee, Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center
- Mehmet Toner, Ph.D., Helen Andrus Benedict Professor of Surgery (Bioengineering), Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School; SU2C Dream Team Co-leader
- Michael W. Weiner, M.D., Director, Principal Investigator, ADNI (Alzheimer’s Disease Neuro-Imaging Initiative) Professor, Medicine, Radiology, and Psychiatry, UCSF