Marc Zimmer’s recent book, The State of Science: What the Future Holds and the Scientists Making It Happen, is an exercise in restraint. The very first subheading in Chapter 1 asks “What is science?” That’s a very big question. Zimmer, a Professor of Chemistry at Connecticut College who has been teaching and communicating science for over two decades, attempts to answer it in five paragraphs, with examples.
If that sounds ambitious, that’s because it is. Zimmer, whose previous books focused primarily on fluorescent proteins and their applications, tackles much broader issues in this brief volume. He examines, amongst other topics: racism and sexism in science, problems with peer-reviewed publications and funding, bioethics in the age of CRISPR, and the challenges of science becoming increasingly politicized. It would be nearly impossible for a career scientist such as Zimmer to introduce any one of these topics without some editorializing, and he wisely makes no such attempt. He is transparent about his own biases--many of which will be shared by fellow scientists--but that doesn’t make his introduction to these topics any less effective.