Science & Society

Scientific research and innovation are principally responsible for decades of economic growth, medical advances, and enhanced national security. Yet, society has failed to elevate these contributions—through education, communication, and access—in order to build public appreciation for science.

In recent years, that failure has contributed to an erosion of trust, with potentially dire consequences for the role science can play in our collective future:

  • Scientific expertise is being challenged, and consensus on topics from climate change to vaccine safety is no longer assumed to be valid.
  • Technology, in the form of automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence, has displaced workers, raised suspicions about scientific innovation, and generated fears of financial instability.
  • Political leaders are increasingly willing to distort research findings, target scientists for ideological reasons, and compromise scientific integrity in favor of special interests.
  • Institutional leadership has failed to support diversity in the STEM workforce and emphasize mastery of 21st-century STEM skills within underserved communities, limiting the available talent pool.

Launched in 2019, The Aspen Institute Science & Society Program seeks to reverse these trends. We aim to promote dialogue among scientists, journalists, policymakers, and educators; tackle tough questions; and develop strategies to generate greater public appreciation for science as a vital tool to address global challenges as well as foster a diverse scientific workforce whose contributions extend beyond the laboratory.

To achieve these goals, we plan to conduct high-profile research, convene experts and thought leaders in solutions-oriented strategy sessions, mobilize a vocal and diverse constituency of science advocates, and implement significant outreach efforts.

The Science & Society Program is housed within the Aspen Institute Health, Medicine and Society Program.

Support for the Science & Society Program comes from Johnson & Johnson; the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; the New York Community Trust–Wallace Special Projects Fund; the Rita Allen Foundation; the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust; Natália Pasternak Taschner, Ph.D., Question of Science Institute, Brazil; and Rick Stamberger.