Here’s to the undiscovered country and all that we may find there
I am privileged to inherit a magazine of outstanding editorial quality, integrity and curiosity. A magazine that embraces the world of chemical science and its global communities; that not only informs and interprets but also reveals and relishes the science happening around us every day. I must offer my warmest thanks to Bibiana for her work and energy over the last five years to forge the magazines we have today, as well as the members of the magazines team at the Royal Society of Chemistry who continue to work tirelessly and with the utmost professionalism.
My own knowledge of chemistry is meagre, childlike when compared with that of my colleagues. Yet Chemistry World demonstrates how science is relevant to everyone, not just scientists. Discoveries never go stale; they are made anew by each person when he or she first encounters them. I have made dozens of discoveries this week: that the computer on which I am writing this editorial exists, in no small part, thanks to the pioneering work of John Goodenough; that myths of mercury rivers in a Chinese tomb might be true; and that the fictional worlds of CSI and Silent Witness are humdrum compared to the drama unfolding in US forensic science. I challenge anyone, whether flautist or scientist, to dismiss the relevance and intrigue of science.
Science captures the political imagination as well. While Barack Obama is encouraging foreign scientists to work and live in the US, his neighbours to the north seem to be making a scientific research career an unattractive proposition. Coincidence, no doubt. The Canadian National Research Council’s ‘rescue’ of a world class NMR facility at the 11th hour provides slim hope, though local researchers are mindful of a succession of facility closures and a long-term decline in research funding. Across the Atlantic, George Osborne has made some positive noises to support science infrastructure in his autumn statement, but we must wait and see if the investment has a real impact on labs, research and scientific careers in the UK. Perhaps Osborne’s offer of postgraduate loans will help – what student could resist the delicious, dangling carrot of debt? At least we have the Research Excellence Framework to sort the wheat from the chaff and ensure all those taxpayer pounds are being well spent…
Let’s hope 2015 sees a renaissance of national science research investment and awareness. Perhaps as the world faces truly global challenges of climate change, disease and energy (to name a few), science can step in once more as saviour and hero. Certainly Chemistry World will do its part to show the relevance and vitality of science now and in the future. I encourage RSC members, readers and scientists of all stripes to join the discussion and make sure our (your) voices are heard.