Communicating Research to the General Public

Chemistry and Society

We live in the most advanced scientific and technological society in history. New discoveries have led to improvements and benefits in our daily lives, but also to new societal problems. It is through chemistry that we can make major contributions to improve the quality of life in America and to advance the human condition around the globe. Chemistry is the key to eradicating disease and reducing poverty. Chemical research and technology can provide clean water and nutritious food, meet energy demands, and help lead to sustainable development everywhere.

Chemistry brings a wide range of goods and functions to everyone and thus is vital to our democracy. Science literacy is necessary for the democratic process to work. By science literacy I mean an appreciation of science, an understanding of the benefits of technology and the potential rewards and risks associated with advances in both, as well as a recognition of what science is capable of achieving and what it cannot accomplish. Science literacy enlightens and enables people to make informed choices; to be skeptical; to reject shams, quackery, and unproven conjecture; and to avoid being bamboozled into making foolish decisions where matters of science and technology are concerned. Science literacy is for everyone--chemists, artists, humanists, all professionals, the general public, youth and adults alike. The level of science literacy in any society is a measure of what it values and its resolve to put these values into practice.

Science and technology are the engines that drive our economy. A top priority for Wisconsin is to support research and development in modern science, encourage creativity and innovation, and foster collaboration in order to ensure a healthy economy. Explorations for alternative, renewable, and sustainable sources of energy to meet the demands of modern society should be supported by business and government. Let us sharpen our focus by supporting incubators for technology transfer and open innovation at research parks in strategic locations across the state.

The University of Wisconsin Chemistry Department is a leader in education and in research. Our undergraduate students receive the best education offered both for chemistry majors and for the general student. Our graduate programs offer students from Wisconsin and around the world the best research opportunities, training and education for highly skilled careers in science and technology. Our public service through outreach is recognized and emulated around the world. Many of our faculty and alumni have served in high positions in federal agencies (e.g.,NSF, NIH, DoE), in professional organizations, in industry and other parts of the private sector, and at the state and local levels. It is through scholarly work in basic and applied research and in education that we continue to serve Wisconsin, the Nation, and the world.

Bassam Shakhashiri Bassam Z. Shakhashiri
Professor of Chemistry
William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea
Director, Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy
University of Wisconsin-Madison