1,000 Scientists in 1,000 Days, Connecting Scientists and Teachers

The ability of America to compete in the world, particularly in the areas of science or engineering, is in trouble. A 2009 report by the National Academies, the country’s leading advisory group on science and technology, found that the United States ranks 27th out of 29 developed countries in the proportion of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science or engineering [1]. The report calls on federal and state governments to target early childhood education; strengthen the public school math and science curriculum, and improve teacher training in these crucial subjects.

In support of these goals, in September 2010, President Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, an initiative to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. During his State of the Union address in January, President Obama also called for investments in education, infrastructure and research.

Scientists in the lab

1,000 Scientists in 1,000 Days is a program that Scientific American launched earlier this month as part of its Change the Equation initiates with their parent Nature Publishing Group. It aims to make it easier for scientists and teachers to connect. They’re recruiting scientists who are “willing to volunteer to advise on curricula, answer a classroom’s questions, or visit a school” to talk about science or a typical day in the lab. Perhaps some scientists will answer questions by email or Skype. How they participate, and the frequency at which they participate, will be up to them.

An editorial in Nature earlier this month gets to the heart of the matter [2]:

In the younger grades, many US science teachers have no science training: in 2004, only 40% of fifth- and 80% of eighth-grade students were taught maths and science by teachers with a degree or certificate in their teaching field, according to the most recent figures from the National Science Foundation.

What is more, teachers have to juggle the often-conflicting demands to ‘teach to the test’, which requires a lot of learning by rote, with the need to imbue students with the inspiring wonder of science — and the process-driven critical thinking and evidence collection that proper research requires. Educators also wrestle with anti-science demands to ‘teach the controversy’ in disciplines such as evolution and climate change. According to the National Center for Science Education, at least eight anti-evolution bills have been introduced in US state legislatures since the beginning of 2011.

Overcoming the obstacles our country faces in early childhood education and achieving success as a nation depends on strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of discovery and innovation. If you’re a scientist, mathematician or engineer and want to help improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, head on over to the Scientific American site and add your name to the list of participants. The program hopes to have a directory of scientists available for teachers by this fall for the 2011-2012 school year.


  1. Highlights from Education at a Glance 2009. OECD Indicators; Table A-3.5. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2009.
  2. Those who can. Nature. 2011 May 12;473(7346):123.

2008 Presidential Candidates on the Issues of Biomedical Research and Healthcare

A major determinant of America’s health and competitiveness in the world is progress in the life sciences. Over the past twenty years, the life sciences have had a tremendous impact on human health through the understanding of the molecular basis of disease and the development of new diagnostics, therapeutics and other medical products. Given the significance of biomedical research on healthcare, I felt it was important to highlight the 2008 presidential candidates’ positions. A number of online resources are discussed in this post and listed at the end of the article. With the election less than two weeks away, it is paramount that voters know where the presidential candidates’ stand on these essential issues.

ScienceCures: Today’s Science, Tomorrow’s Cures

Last month, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) launched a new website, ScienceCures.org, a voter education initiative aimed at raising the profile of federal funding for biomedical research among the presidential candidates and the general public in the U.S..

sciencecures.jpgScienceCures.org provides a number of interactive resources to learn how NIH-funded scientists are working for cures in your state, what the American people think about supporting research, and how basic research leads to medical advancement.