An interview with Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate in defense of science

An interview with Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate in defense of science

Sir Paul Nurse actively reflects on these questions, from the perspective of those who have achieved great things and no longer need to prove themselves.

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 2001 for his research on the cell cycle, the Briton is the chief scientist. Francis Crick Institute In 2010. This biomedical research center is located in London and has more than 2,000 professionals in biomedical sciences. In 2021, the biochemist addresses a key question by publishing his work What is life?

Convinced of the central role of science in democracy, Paul Nurse travels the world to defend his ideas, from conferences to award ceremonies, including interviews, such as the one he gave us during his visit to Montreal. Here is his view of the Nobel Prize and the place of science in democracy.


Quebec Science – How has the Nobel Prize changed your life since 2001?

Nurse pee I often say that winning a Nobel Prize is like getting a new job. Overnight, I was asked for all sorts of things, invitations to events multiplied, and several times [professionnelles] They introduced themselves. However, this new workload could somehow kill a scientific career.

Question: Do you regret these changes?

son No, I was clearly in heaven! We often think that a Nobel Prize means more money or more scholarships, but this is not necessarily true. Personally, I did not find [qu’il était] Easier to publish the study. Plus, I don't have enough time. I receive one to three requests or invitations daily.

At first I was really overwhelmed. Today, I am fortunate to have administrative support from the institute, but one person in his lab does not get any.

READ  Pascal Senelaert joins the Academy of Sciences

Q: Is it dangerous to give too much importance to one person?

son This recognition is not necessarily dangerous. The real danger arises when a Nobel laureate believes he or she possesses the truth. You really have to be careful. If we express ourselves on a topic outside our scope of expertise, we should specify that it is merely an opinion. There are many things I don't know, and to pretend otherwise would be unwise.

Question: Are you afraid to speak publicly about certain topics?

son Yes, of course. I do not sign petitions or take a position on topics I know little about. Sometimes I get asked questions and I say, “I don't know.” I'm happy to express my opinion, even sometimes in an assertive way, but I'm always worried about the consequences.

Question: You often defend the importance of science in society, why?

son I believe science should be at the heart of government for two reasons. First: It is a reliable source of knowledge. Good policies are built on good scientific knowledge. Second: The various applications of science exist in all aspects of society.

I will go further: here lies the challenge that democratic societies face; We must make science accessible to everyone! We must find a way to interest people in all these issues, whether in medicine, physics, or climate change… The population must have the knowledge necessary to discuss the topics. [ou problèmes] complicated.

Q: What is the role of scientists in all of this?

son We must be patient, communicate our values ​​and argue sometimes. I think this is our main role. Hence the importance of speaking to the media that influence politics and thus society. I am an optimist and an idealist. I think the public looks positively at science, but loses hope in politics. There will always be extremists or conspiracy theorists, but most of the population will trust science, as long as we are consistent in our work.

READ  Many. Art exhibition in the cultural space "Santamaria" Brissac

I also think we need to maintain connections with people in the political class. The weakness of scientists is that we only talk to politicians when we want money. If my friends were only talking to me for money, they wouldn't stay that way for long. I'm a leftist, but I work for the Conservative Party [du Royaume-Uni]. We must work together to create good policies and make real changes.

QS Communicating science, is it a privilege in your view?

son Yes ! Scientists do not value their work enough. Especially those who make discoveries. I know it's hard, we're underfunded and we don't get paid much, but we're lucky to get paid to pursue our curiosities. Explaining and communicating our findings is not a huge task, but executing them skillfully is complex. It is important not to look down on people.

Question: What can we do to communicate better?

son Through education! In science lessons, we sometimes imagine ourselves teaching the next generation of scientists, but in the classroom, only a minority will end up in the field. In fact, we are preparing future generations of citizens. This idea should be a major driver of education.

Learning the periodic table by heart is useless. Understanding how useful science is and understanding the steps that led to the creation of the periodic table is important. By teaching how science works, based on good science communication, people will have more confidence.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *