Biology in public policy

Ruth Schwartz Cowan, Jane Maienschein, Eliot M. Meyerowitz, Maxine Singer

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More than twice as many of the incorporators of the Academy were in the physical sciences and technology as in the biological sciences. However, as the life sciences grew and diversified in the 20th century, so did the Academy's involvement with the issues raised by these disciplines. From the institution 's 1897 report on forestry in the United States - which contributed to the creation of today 's national forests - the Academy expanded its purview to the conservation of natural resources, the uses of noxious gases in warfare, food and nutrition, ecology, sex and reproduction, immigration, drug addiction, medical research, biological warfare, anthropology, and many other subjects. From such a diverse array of potential topics, the speakers at the colloquiumhad to be selective. Ruth Schwartz Cowan, professor emeritus of the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania, described committees focused on population and on genetic engineering to provide examples of the tension that can arise between private and public interests. Jane Maienschein, Regent's Professor and director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University, drew on her experience as a congressional fellow to raise several prominent questions about Academy reports and the messages they seek to convey. Eliot Meyerowitz, George W. Beadle Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, discussed how Academy committees are put together to achieve a balance of interests. Maxine Singer, president emeritus of the Carnegie Institution for Science, recounted some of her personal experiences with public policy debates over genetic engineering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9345-9348
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - Jun 24 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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