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Google's Page urges scientists to market themselves

February 19, 2007

News.com

I like Larry Page. I’ve respected him, but I didn’t know I liked him before tonight. I just read about his urging earlier this week to members of AAAS to take their research out of halls of academia and engineer it into something that will benefit society, or, at least, make sure their findings can be consumed by someone who will. He also encouraged them to be politically active.

…take their scientific studies, market them better and make them readily accessible to the world. That way, the world might have a better chance at solving problems like energy consumption, poverty and global climate change.

“Virtually all economic growth (in the world) was due to technological progress. I think as a society we’re not really paying attention to that,” Page said. “Science has a real marketing problem. If all the growth in world is due to science and technology and no one pays attention to you, then you have a serious marketing problem.”

To that end, Page urged the group to take on more leadership roles in society, i.e., politics, so that they could control more funding for research and development. He also said that scientists should get in the habit of investing part of their scientific grant money to marketing budgets, in order to get the word out to the media about their research.

This concept of science having a marketing problem is not new. I’ve heard this discussed for years. However, I’ve not seen it discussed in such a public forum and it’s great to see it getting wide spread coverage. Also, Page’s emphasis on entrepreneurship (not included in the above quote) resonates with me. I believe entrepreneurship (and federally subsidized education) is what’s made our country the dominant world power.

So, we have:

  1. Science should make every attempt to ensure research is accessible in order to maximize the potential that science benefits society.
  2. Scientist should be politically active.
  3. Academia should treat entrepreneurship as a positive outlet for their research.

All very obviously positive thoughts. It’s important to note that scientists need to be politically active now more than ever. Finally, Page provides us with some real world examples of how today’s science can be today’s solutions:

– Build fewer roads in underdeveloped parts of Africa. Instead, he suggested ultralight planes capable of traveling at up to 145 kmh and which would consume less gasoline than ground vehicles.

– Solar energy installations in the Nevada desert were capable of producing 800 megawatts per square mile (2.5 square km), somewhat less than half the 2000 megawatts of a nuclear power plant, he said. (A midsized natural gas-powered plant generates around 400 or 500 megawatts).

– A major limitation to wind power is the need for a distribution grid to move power from regions where wind blows to where populations are centered. He said 80 per cent of the electrical grid of Europe and North Africa could be served by an ambitious wind distribution grid cross-connecting the two regions. “Are we going to build that grid? I don’t think so. But I think it would be a good idea.”

As I write this I’m watching: “Who Killed the Electric Car“. Very relevant. It’s a good watch. Definitely infuriating.

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