Under the microscope: Why risks should be taken - Better vision
Susan Greenfield is a British scientist, writer, broadcaster and member of the House of Lords. She is the author of numerous science books and her first novel '2121: A Story for the 22nd Century', is published by Head of Zeus.
Sunday 01 February 1998
Usually even if the conference is general sessions are divided into areas of interest. All this compartmentalisation of subject is good for the cognoscenti but usually far too detailed for anyone outside of the area. The marvellous advantage of my day was that it did not have to be highly specific to my subject. Rather, since the sponsoring organisation was the technology transfer company of the University of Oxford (Isis Innovation), and since the delegates were a mix of academics and industrialists, the range of topics had to be very broad, presented as overviews.
Twenty years ago, there had not been a weighty accumulation of information about the brain so it was easy to follow what people in different areas were doing. Perhaps it is in the rosy retrospection of middle age that I remember those times and types of session as ones full of boisterous debate. Above all, it was such fun compared to the highly serious and strained atmosphere that can cloud discussions in these parlous times of acute financial restraint and hence of parochial bitching and political chicanery. I saw in my seminar the chance for recapturing, if only for a day, the heady atmosphere of that arguably more innocent time.
In retrospect two interesting features struck me about the day. First, that the majority of the research under discussion was not funded from the public sector, but from industrial sources. The second was that, remarkably, at least three of us had not started off as scientists. One had studied languages, another - perhaps alarmingly the neurosurgeon - had read politics, philosophy and economics.
Is there a moral here? Could there be a connection between the type of science that is done by people from unconventional backgrounds, and the type that is unusual enough to scare off the cautious public sector, yet exciting enough to attract those who need vision to survive? If so, is the natural conclusion that conventional science training is breeding a conventional science approach? And is it a Good Thing? I feel the essence of scientific research is that one is asking big questions, and thus taking a risk: why else perform an experiment where the results are more or less known? Curiously the private sector is more comfortable with risk than the public. A more positive idea might be that we ought to be alert as to how science is taught, in that we could communicate a flavour for the joy of the truly novel, of coming up with new ways of looking at things - as arts people have always done. Alternatively, perhaps that day was all just a coincidence, or merely I have a quirky choice of friends.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The way the police have treated Cliff Richard is completely unacceptable
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
- 4 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 5 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Tim Vine wins for second time
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head