These are challenging times for science and technology. Bluntly, scientists and their discoveries are not trusted by a big chunk of the population. From climate change to pandemics, science is increasingly viewed as a special interest just like any other.
But science is not parochial like that. It’s something far more special than that. To my mind, science represents the pinnacle of what humans can achieve. Science has delivered us an image of a black hole’s event horizon along with life-saving vaccines. It has allowed us to read out the genetic instructions for ourselves and landed a nuclear-powered robot on Mars. Science is indeed a “special” interest of humanity. It’s our window into the universe.
Jim Olds is University Professor of Neuroscience and Public Policy at George Mason University. He served from 2014-2018 as head of the Biological Sciences Directorate at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), responsible for an annual budget of $750M. Olds’ former directorate funds the majority of non-biomedical research at America’s research institutions. While there, he was also NSF lead for President Obama’s White House BRAIN project, deputy lead for NSF on Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot and co-chaired the White House Life Sciences Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council. Prior to his time at NSF, Olds was the Director of George Mason University’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, Chair of the Molecular Neuroscience Department and the Shelley Krasnow University Professor of Molecular Neuroscience. Olds received his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Michigan and his BA in chemistry from Amherst College.