Sheril Kirshenbaum is the Director of The Energy Poll at The University of Texas at Austin and the author of two books, Unscientific America (with Chris Mooney) and The Science of Kissing. She works to enhance public understanding of science and improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril Kirshenbaum believes scientists, policymakers, and the public should talk more.
The vast majority of Americans do not see the ways in which science holds relevance in their lives, and too many scientists are unable to explain why their work matters. Meanwhile, partisan politics, a new media environment, and religious ideologies have magnified the growing rift between science and mainstream American culture. Science should be a value shared by all, but it will take far more than political will to bridge what C.P. Snow once described as a "vast gulf of mutual incomprehension" between scientists and everyone else. The scientific community must find new ways of reaching out or we will fail to influence the public, inform the decision-making process, and rise to meet the greatest challenges of the 21st century.