Why Geeks Matter

Why Geeks Matter

Now that I have finished my exams, I have finally been able to finish reading Mark Henderson’s The Geek Manifesto without feeling guilty about avoiding revision.

Henderson puts forward an engaging case, enthusing geeks to get involved and get science spoken for, to make the geek voice heard. He does not use the term geek in a derogatory sense, but one which scientists should be proud to brandish. Geeks are those with an infatuation in a particular subject, and Henderson is calling for those who have an interest in any form of science.

Yet he is not just rounding up the geeks, he is calling for the scientific method which they know so well to be applied to the policy making processes. Stephen Curry gives a great review here and many other bloggers and journalists who have written about the book have been put together in a media round-up by Henderson himself.

A fantastic pledge has also been set up (which I have whole-heartedly joined) that aims to get every one of the 650 MPs in parliament a copy of The Geek Manifesto.  It is with the hope to give them a better understanding of why it is vital to have science and engineering at the heart of policy making.

But it’s not just the MP’s that need a copy of this book. There are many hundreds of scientists who still work blinkered at their lab benches, furiously studying away to achieve their goals. Many of them are afraid of interacting with the media, and sometimes rightly so. The section on “Engaging with the media” highlights this issue.

“Too many scientists remain unwilling to make themselves available to the media, to promote their work, or to respond quickly and saliently when scientific issues do hit the headlines.”

It is these geeks that will drive the revolution that Mark Henderson is striving for. It is these intelligent people that we need to get this book to. These are the ones that know the ins-and-outs of the scientific method, and have a proper understanding and background of evidence-based research. It is unfortunate, however, that many don’t have the courage, or the know-how to get involved, and hence need the extra confidence boost. Henderson uses plenty of scenarios in which scientists have spoken out against politicians, which I hope will encourage those that need it most to take part in this geek movement.

He explains that it isn’t only the working scientists that can actively influence policy making; it is also those who are genuinely interested in science. The postmen, musicians, bus drivers, bankers, and anyone else with a passion for science can get behind this cause. The beauty of this book is that you don’t need to be a scientist to understand and follow the ideas that Henderson has put forward.

What I want this post to do is to get my fellow geeks reading Mark Henderson’s book. The selection of case studies that Henderson refers to show how much science is becoming an influential part of politics. In order to increase the positive effect that science can have in policy making, the scientists need to get a better understanding of how they can help. Henderson has put together a compelling argument to improve communications between politicians and scientists.

For too long now neither group has been willing to share their knowledge and collaborate. The first step to solving this problem is for both parties to learn more about each other, and how they can work together to improve the way public policy is determined. By reading this book, I hope that many eyes will be opened as to the need for science to become an integral part of policy making. Every laboratory should have a copy of this book, and every budding scientist should read it. By applying rational thinking and using the methodical way of collecting and analysing evidence, us geeks can work together with politicians and achieve some great things.