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World Science Festival: Can Scientists Close the Knowledge - Action Gap?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg.jpg 

When I posted my blog early yesterday morning about the opportunity for self-reflection that the World Science Festival promised I did not have a preview of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's opening speech. I said:

It is my wish that scientists and participants will have the time to reflect on ways some scientists have not been scientific...They will have the time to reflect on contemporary instances when some scientists have sold their souls to the highest bidder at the detriment of the people's welfare.

The Mayor talked diplomatically about this selling of the scientist's soul. He did not talk about how some scientists yielded to pressure from big business and politicians. Or how some of them twisted the truth about data that linked tobacco use to cancer. He did not talk about scientists down-playing the effects of gas emissions on climate change. Rather, he talked about the gap between what we know and what we do laying the blame in the most part on the politicians.

He gave examples of pretigigious science institutions in New York:  Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Environmental Research and Conservation. He praised the work they do. "Their efforts are shrinking the still enormous gaps between what we know and what we don’t know on these important subjects," he said.

"But vast as those gulfs are, they’re dwarfed by another one. And that is the tragic lag between what we know and what we do. For example, in the 1950s, the head of the American Cancer Society and other respected scientists were already linking smoking and cancer," he said.

One of the things we know, for example, of immense relevance to millions of Americans today that Mr. Bloomberg did not mention is our current knowledge of the manufacture of electric or solar cars. A gap exists between that knowledge and the will to mass produce these type of vehicles.

As New York celebrates the first World Science Festival I wonder if scientists in particular and the public in general can find ways to close the gap between knowledge useable to sustain life on earth on one hand and economic and plolitical ideologies that stand in the way of applying that knowledge.

1. Here is the full text of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Speech on the gap between what scientists know and what politicians and businesses do.
2. Surprising solar cars hibernating in the gap
3. One way you can close the gap

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