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Science in Action: Advice on Convincing a Skeptical Public

Scientists have the obligation to promote science as a public good worthy of taxpayers’ dollars. But how do they convince the public to listen to them at the other end of the scientific process when science has something important to say on public issues? In what ways have they succeeded in galvanizing public action in a direction justified by science, and in what areas have they failed? Scientists should be more active in communicating the merits of a rationalist approach to decision-making, leading by their own example in the public space. In education at all levels, science should encourage students to think, “How would a scientist approach this policy decision?”

William H. Press, Ph.D., Raymer Professor in the Department of Computer Science at The University of Texas at Austin, addressed these urgent issues and argued that scientists should make greater efforts to clearly separate fact-based conclusions from value-based judgments, even when both are useful.

This event was sponsored by the Baker Institute Science and Technology Policy Program in conjunction with Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering and Wiess School of Natural Sciences. Support for the Civic Scientist Program is generously provided by Benjamin and Winifer Cheng. 

Join the conversation online with #BakerCivSci.






Featured Speaker

William H. Press, Ph.D., is a computer scientist and computational biologist with broad interests in the physical and biological sciences. He is the Warren J. and Viola M. Raymer Professor in Computer Sciences and Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin. Press is also a senior fellow emeritus at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Press was a member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology for both terms of the Obama administration, and he is a past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1994. In his research career, Press has published more than 150 papers in the areas of computational biology, theoretical astrophysics, cosmology and computational algorithms. He is senior author of the “Numerical Recipes” textbooks on scientific computing, which have more than 400,000 hardcover copies in print. His current research is in bioinformatics and big data problems in biology. For more than two decades, Press was professor of astronomy and of physics at Harvard University, during which he served as department chair and in various other positions of university service. From 1998 to 2004, Press was deputy laboratory director for science and technology at the Los Alamos National Laboratory with responsibilities that included all aspects of managing a research and development organization with an annual budget of $2 billion and more than 12,000 staff. Press received an A.B. in physics from Harvard College and an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology. 


6:00 pm — Reception
6:30 pm — Presentation



Tue, April 4, 2017
6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
(GMT-0500) US/Central

Event has ended


James A. Baker III Hall, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston, Texas 77005

Doré Commons