Caltech has launched a new web resource, the Caltech Science Exchange, dedicated to clear and credible explanations of high-profile science and engineering topics.
Through the Caltech Science Exchange, the Institute aims to help visitors make sense of scientific issues that capture public interest and attention, but often are the subject of confusion or controversy. The site currently features multimedia content explaining the science behind COVID-19 and other viral threats. New topics, including voting and elections, sustainability, earthquakes, and genetics, will be added in the months ahead.
"We live in an advanced technological society, yet often the scientific underpinnings of the technologies that so prevalently affect our lives remain obscure," says Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and professor of physics. "Serving the public as a trusted source of information, explaining what we know and what we don't know and how we got there, fit naturally and powerfully in Caltech's intertwined missions of forefront research and education."
The Caltech Science Exchange benefited from recommendations by a faculty committee representing the Institute's six academic divisions.
"It's crucial that people trust science and understand the scientific issues that affect their lives," says Pamela Bjorkman, Caltech's David Baltimore Professor of Biology and Bioengineering and chair of the Institute's Public Understanding of Science Committee. "As scientists, we have an opportunity as well as an obligation to help build that trust by engaging the public in our work and our findings."
The Caltech Science Exchange includes infographics, illustrations, videos, and other features that explain essential scientific concepts and answer frequently asked questions.
The COVID-19 section, for example, addresses questions including "How are vaccines developed?" and "How does disease modeling work?" It also considers questions from the public, such as whether SARS-CoV-2 could have been created in a lab. (According to Bjorkman, the answer is "no.")
Visitors are encouraged to submit questions via a form on the website or by using #CaltechScienceExchange on social media. They also have the opportunity to explore topics more deeply through recommended articles from Caltech and other trusted sources.
"The Institute has a long history of bridging fundamental research to the needs of the day," says David Tirrell, Caltech's provost and the Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. "Today, there is a pressing need for clear, credible information on science and engineering, and we are pleased to provide this platform for informed scientific discussion."