Sociologists -- especially those who study sexuality -- have for years done research that was considered controversial or troublesome by politicians or deans. Many scholars are proud of following their research ideas where they lead -- whatever others may think. But at a session Monday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, sociologists considered the possibility that some of their colleagues may feel enough heat right now that they are avoiding certain topics or are being forced to compromise on either the language or substance of their research.
Seeding Labs, a five-year-old, Harvard University-based effort to collect used and surplus laboratory equipment and distribute it across the developing world, aims not only to transport microscopes but also to forge connections. “You can’t do science in a vacuum, regardless of whether you’re in the U.S. or the Congo,” says Nina Dudnik, Seeding Lab’s founder and a Ph.D. student in molecular biology at Harvard Medical School. “Having the research capacity in the Congo only strengthens us here and vice versa.”
The importance of science to the American university extends well beyond research or teaching. As a new collection of essays demonstrates, science is central to the economics of the modern research university, the mission of universities (as seen by those who run them and politicians), and the make-up of the academic workforce.