But let us not mislead the public about the significance of individual, incremental steps in the arc of science, nor promulgate the notion that "crowdsourcing" scientific discovery will get us where we need to go.
On July 14 (Bastille Day for my colleagues in France), astronomers the world over will be closely watching their computers as NASA's New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission probe will come within "approach" distance and fly by the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.
For scientists and scholars toiling at their research and publishing their findings, the most immediate reward from the scientific community is a citation, when fellow researchers read their work and include it among the footnotes of a newly published paper.
The basic premise of social networks -- allowing users to build a custom group of friends and colleagues with whom you can choose to selectively interact -- is its broad appeal. But this premise has, in fact, been around for many decades in science research.
If a cure, and ultimately a prevention, for such disorders as schizophrenia, autism or Alzheimer's can be developed in our lifetime, it will save trillions of dollars in medical and patient-care costs and a lifetime of family heartaches.
Imagine the surprise of students on guest worker visas when, after arriving at UC, they are told that although the contract the union negotiated states that health care coverage is available to all postdocs, it will not be extended to them.
Federal funding for research is neither a gift nor a handout to scientists. Instead, it is an investment that pays dividends many times over to the American taxpayer. Will our elected leaders cut the very programs that provide greatest benefit both now and into the future?
The U.S. has spent the last 70 years making massive investments in basic and applied research. The irony is that while the U.S. government has had a robust national science and technology policy, it lacks a national industrial policy.
Scientists and engineers representing a wide variety of cross-disciplines can debate research findings in online forums, and society will ultimately benefit from the resulting scientific discourse that will open up limitless new avenues for search and discovery.
Increased and predictable funding and incentives for research and development are essential, as is a workforce skilled at filling the resulting jobs. But it's also important that America's approach to research shift from safe and incremental research to the "high-risk, high-reward" research.
Did you ever consider why the thing scientists do is called "research"? Where did the "re" come from? If it derives from "repeat," as some might suggest, then it is no surprise that the answer to that question really defines why science is what it is.