"Our sense of wonder grows exponentially; the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery."

-- E.O. Wilson

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

'Art and Politics of Science'

Just a blurb today on the recent memoir "The Art and Politics of Science" by Harold Varmus, English major turned cancer research scientist and Nobel laureate, eventual head of NIH, and now President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, as well as a science adviser to President Obama. I give this volume a "B" though those particularly interested in the 'process' of medical science in this country may readily find it to be an "A" read. I might have preferred a tad more science and a tad less of the art and politics, but that would defeat the very purpose Varmus had in mind. Even with that said, plenty of interesting passages here about the evolution of cancer/oncology research in this country, and the interaction (trials and travails?) of medicine and government/bureaucracy.
For those not involved in science, who may imagine science as a smooth, meticulous, step-by-step advancing process, this volume will help rectify that false image. Science is, and always has been, a bumpy, non-pristine road, 4 steps forward, 3 steps back, with large elements of art and politics intervening, for good or ill.
For those concerned with science communication, the last chapter, in which Varmus details his advocacy of "open access publishing" and his role in the founding of the Public Library of Science (PLoS), will also be of great interest.

Fuller reviews from The Washington Post HERE and from the NY Times HERE.

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