“Your generation of scientists is more aware of the fact that you have to be aware.”
This was the main takeaway from Abby Notterman’s talk entitled “Beyond the Bench: the Socially Responsible Scientist.” Notterman, who is a practicing lawyer and bioethicist, gave several talks on Thursday and Friday as part of a teach-in entitled “Rethink: Fostering an Inclusive Science Community.” The event, which was organized by the Princeton Citizen Scientists in collaboration with other student groups, was meant to foster conversations about how to create a more open and inclusive scientific community and how to encourage more socially aware scientists.
Notterman’s presentation raised many key questions, not only about the responsibilities of a scientist to promote moral and social good, but also to whom scientists should be held accountable.
Throughout Notterman’s presentation and later discussion, it was clear that Notterman, as well as the graduate students in attendance, agreed that scientists are held accountable not only to their contemporaries but also to those outside of the scientific community and to those future generations that will potentially experience the effects of current research.
During the discussion, Erin Flowers, a first year Ph.D student in the astrophysics department, remarked on the responsibilities she feels towards non-scientific communities. According to Flowers, one of the important things she needs to do as a woman of color in astrophysics is to “[think] about the people who are going to come after you.”
After the day’s events, Flowers sat down with the ‘Prince’ to speak further on social awareness and science. Flowers said that being one of few women of color in her field prompted her to attend the event.
Flowers added that she felt encouraged not only by the many people of color who attended but also by many white and non-LGBTQ+ individuals in attendance.
For future progress, Flowers, along with other graduate students and presenters, agreed that there needs to be institutional support to ensure that conversations, workshops, and events such as “Rethink” become more common.