Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2004, is passionate about the power of science to benefit humankind. In this interview with Adam Smith, chief scientific officer at Nobel Prize Outreach, he shares his views on how science can be used wisely in politics and society, and the role scientists play in achieving this.
These videos came from a digital Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative event, organised by Nobel Media in partnership with AstraZeneca and in association with Jagiellonian University, Warsaw Medical University and the University of Warsaw in Poland.
What is the connection between science and democracy?
Ciechanover recognises the importance of scientists having freedom to express what’s on their minds, which can be threatened by direction from governments.
Coronavirus has thrust scientists into the limelight alongside politicians. How do you feel the relationship between science and politics is working?
Ciechanover considers it very important for scientists and politicians to work together, while recognising that politicians have other considerations beyond science. Cultures can vary greatly between countries, and political decisions need to reflect this.
People are exposed to a lot of scientific information, but they aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with it. What should we do about that?
Ciechanover highlights the need for science to be reported accurately. Scientists must explain their work effectively to wider society, particularly because science is fundamental to our health and other important aspects of our lives.
Is the role of science more than what you can do in the laboratory?
In Ciechanover’s view, scientists should have many concerns beyond their research, such as equality and diversity, which helps to build trust with society at large. Scientists play an important role in society – Ciechanover sees science as the secret for advancing a country and serving as its economic engine.
What do you think about the increasing reliance on journal impact factors and publication metrics for judging scientists’ output?
Like many scientists, Ciechanover is concerned by the trend towards assessment based on metrics such as impact factors. He also believes that it’s crucially important to remember that the reason to go into science is to pursue knowledge, rather than prestige.