Krauss about the role of scientist celebrities

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (*) has published an insightful article authored by Lawrence M. Krauss (physicist, public figure, see Wikipedia / public website), about the role of scientist celebrities:

Scientists as celebrities: Bad for science or good for society? (HTML version, PDF version)


Richard Feynman (teaching).

Four of Krauss’ statements that are, in my opinion, essential to the article:

«We should be encouraged, not discouraged, if at least some scientists successfully break out beyond the confines of science to become genuine public celebrities. Whatever their background and experience, they are a priori no less worthy than those other figures from sports, politics, or entertainment who help steer public opinion.»

«I became a scientist because science fascinates me, and at the same time I like to explain it. I was driven as a young scientist primarily by the desire to have an impact on the scientific enterprise, just as by nature I was equally driven to communicate this interest. Nevertheless, my original fascination was only possible because of scientists like many of those I have mentioned, who had the opportunity to reach out beyond the walls of academia to the general public, and I have chosen to take advantage of similar opportunities in my own career.»

«For scientists to have a public impact, they generally need to reach out to the public using those tools that have a public presence — from books to newspapers to radio, and particularly television and film — and not rely on their scientific accomplishments or reputation among their colleagues. Indeed, there need be little correlation at all between the two.»

«Public adulation should not be confused with scientific impact […]. Nevertheless, I am aware that I am better known to the public than a number of my more accomplished colleagues […] who have won the Nobel Prize. I don’t see the point in doing anything other than accepting this reality, but at the same time I am proud to have this privilege, and I recognize that it implies a responsibility to […] both promote science in the public arena and to adequately and accurately represent the scientific enterprise.»

(*) The 70 year old Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists «informs the public about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. The Bulletin was established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project.»