Science Next


240 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.95
ISBN: 9781934137185

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“Despite subsidized Big Oil, infrastructural collapse, food inspection system failures and ever worsening wildfires, this volume brings hope into focus with reports of innovation that will enhance lives, from caregivers to those running out of fresh water, from No Child Left Behind to university research.”

Publishers Weekly

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“I’m excited about Science Next because in its pages I sense visions of the future that combine knowledge with a concern for justice, marrying what we can be intellectually with what we can be morally. Innovation is not simply the abstract victory of knowledge; it is not just the research that gave me years to live; the next science can advance human flourishing and serve the common good. That’s the kind of world I want to leave for my children, and for yours.”

Elizabeth Edwards, author of Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers

“This elegant book lucidly covers an impressive amount of territory and sheds light on the current horizons of science. As such it will be invaluable to informed citizens, scientists and policy makers alike.”

John Kao, chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation and author of Innovation Nation

Science Next is exactly the book we need, with more provocative ideas per ounce than any volume you are likely to read this year.”

Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food

Science Next addresses important topics in science policy in prose that is beautifully written, clear, and to the point.”

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University and author of Food Politics and What to Eat

Science Next illustrates the profound connections between science and the many facets of our society. I have enjoyed hop-scotching through the book, and others who are concerned about the need for evidence-based policies in government and industry will too.”

Harold Varmus, Nobel Prize-winning author of The Art and Politics of Science

Emerging from the Bush era when right-wing ideology frequently trumped mainstream science in government, America needs bold new approaches to the most important issues of our time, such as global warming, stem cell research, national security, and improving communication in the digital age. This is the informed citizen’s essential guide to science policy from the premier progressive think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action.

With foreword by Elizabeth Edwards.

Excerpt from Science Next

Welcome to Science Next, a collection of some of the most exciting and far-reaching ideas about innovation for a new American century.

The writings in this volume emerged from a literary experiment that has been evolving during the past year on the virtual and paper pages of Science Progress (, which is a project of the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.–based policy-research institute. The mission of Science Progress is to provide an opportunity for scientists and non-scientists to share ideas about ways that scientific and technological innovation can contribute to human flourishing.

Given its genesis in a Washington think tank, the Science Progress conversation focused first on “inside the beltway” policymakers—a much-maligned but invaluable American species. Derided in the vernacular of Capitol Hill as “wonks,” these public servants and their minions are burdened with the enormous responsibility of translating the nation’s collective knowledge and wisdom into practical, political, and economic action.

We at Science Progress have grown increasingly inspired, though, by the range of smart ideas outside those conventional circles and by the public hunger to become more a part of the process of bringing the art of science to good governance. With Science Next we take the conversation to a new level, and invite you to be part of it. After all, “wonk” spelled backwards is “know.” And it is knowledge—including public knowledge and understanding of science as an engine of progress—that will reveal solutions to today’s most pressing problems, including climate change, energy independence, and national security.

The phrase “science progress” is, arguably, a bit awkward. Some would say it is redundant; others, less sanguine about where science is going, might call it contentious. But we who have been cultivating the pages of Science Progress find the construction provocative in the best sense of the word. It reminds us that we are the inheritors of the Enlightenment’s confidence in the possibility of improving the human condition—a possibility predicated on values of individual freedom, social equality, and democratic solidarity, and one that values reason as superior to dogma or blindly “received wisdom.” From this stand- point, scientific inquiry is the paradigmatic exercise of Enlightenment values.

You got a problem with that? Well let’s go at it, because one of the things we love about science is that it is nothing if not argumentative. Both as a way of thinking and as a wellspring of novel ideas and products, science is a tumultuous truth-seeking process and even further, we contend, a revolutionary force for human liberation. This under- standing of science as progressive does not deny that the power of science may be misused. Nor does it exclude the importance of other sources of inspiration or belittle the need for guidance and even regulation to ensure that the products of our progress are distributed fairly. But it does assert that the core values of science are democratic and antiauthoritarian. And it reflects a philosophical commitment to perpetual change and improvement over certainty and stasis.

The very words “science” and “progress” took on their modern meanings in the nineteenth century, and it should not be surprising that they came of age around the same time. It was an era in which micro- scopes and telescopes were drilling down and up into nature, while stethoscopes were revealing the body’s mysterious inner space. Systematic investigation involving the careful manipulation of isolated variables was beginning to prove itself superior to mere observation, speeding the shift from mere anecdote to real evidence. The possibilities that could emerge from human insight were beginning to seem endless. Science as progressive, however, boasts philosophical and political skeins stretching much further back into the American historical experience. Francis Bacon’s utopian New Atlantis is often credited as being the first literary work to express the modern idea of progress in terms of advancing science and technology. It was a vision that was to have a profound effect on later seventeenth-century thinkers, including those who provided the intellectual justification for the American Revolution. For all the founders’ disagreements, they shared the conviction that the new nation’s promise was necessarily bound up with its innovative genius. Even those bitter rivals Jefferson and Hamilton were of one mind as they made their synergistic contributions to America’s identity as a nation dedicated to modernity: Jefferson through the patent statute and Hamilton by laying the foundations for history’s most successful capitalist economy, which together have so rewarded and nourished inventiveness.

It is no coincidence that so many of the concepts at the very heart of how America has come to understand itself—ideas such as the frontier and the West—demand an experimental attitude in grappling with novel challenges. The optimistic “can do” spirit; the approval of bigness, boldness, and adventure; the lure of “the road”—all are associated with this sensibility and are at the heart of our veneration of this country’s great inventors, people like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, and Bill Gates. We hold these truths of perseverance and perspicacity to be, if not self-evident, at least within our grasp.

Even as America’s western frontier has vanished, the pioneer spirit and the virtues and values associated with it have maintained their powerful hold over the American psyche. Inspired by that vision, Americans have repeatedly heeded the call to cross new and ever more challenging frontiers—including those well beyond the comforts of our cozy planet. Indeed, few government initiatives have been so wildly successful in capturing the public imagination as the space program of the 1960s, which explicitly drew upon the American frontier spirit. “[W]e stand today on the edge of a New Frontier,” John F. Kennedy exhorted in 1960 as he clinched the Democratic nomination for president. “Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.”