In preparation for the March For Science (to be held in Washington, DC and other locations across the country on April 22), PLOS Pathogens Research Matters Editor Glenn Rall revisits the initial goal of the Research Matters series: an Open Access collection of essays from scientists telling the world why basic research in their field matters.
In the escalating national and political debate about the importance of science, we may have overlooked one simple, but essential truth: science is done by scientists. And scientists are people—we are mothers, grandfathers, and daughters; gay, transgender, and straight; Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians, of other religions, agnostic, and atheist. Despite the richness of our backgrounds, we are drawn together by a powerful magnet: the desire to know more. Many participate in research that directly changes lives, through the development of new drugs and vaccines, more robust or sustainable crops, or development of life saving procedures or tools. Other scientists focus their efforts on illuminating basic processes at a molecular, cellular, organismic, or population level, confident that revealing more about the world around us has inherent value.
Regrettably, however, scientists are often mistaken for the information they produce: as analytical and cold as a data table full of values. This Research Matters collection tells a different story. What follows are first person narratives of the motivations that drove people into careers in science, the surprises along the way that shaped those careers, and the exhilaration of seeing a new, true thing for the first time. Our pasts and our paths are varied, but our common currency is knowledge. It is our sincere hope that the importance and impact of research science takes on new significance when one becomes familiar with the motivations and histories of the people who made fundamental contributions to science. With that goal in mind, we invite you to meet some of these diverse individuals, and listen to their first-person tales of discovery.
Glenn Rall is a Professor and Associate Chief Academic Officer at Fox Chase Cancer Center. His laboratory studies viral infections of the brain and the immune responses to those infections, with the goal of defining how viruses contribute to disease in humans, including cancer.
Featured Image Credit: University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, Flickr