Donate to Science & Enterprise

S&E on Mastodon

S&E on LinkedIn

S&E on Flipboard

Please share Science & Enterprise

Essay – Ten Years and Counting

4th of July fireworks

(A. Kotok)

6 July 2020. If you dig deep into the Science & Enterprise archives, you’ll find this site began posting on 6 July 2010, exactly 10 years ago today. Since that day, we’ve been privileged to report on the intersection of science and business, a slice of the economy that’s earned enormous interest from investors, and today with Covid-19, the public as well.

Since July 2010, we set as our mission to report on real events and developments, focusing on actual happenings, such as research discoveries, venture funding, grant awards, IPOs, and licensing deals. And as a result we avoid stories based on rumors or recycled hype. At the same time, we respect our readers’ time, keeping most stories to about 500 words, and also our readers’ intelligence. We try to explain the science of new discoveries in everyday language, but we don’t oversimplify it. If the science is complex, we’ll describe those complexities and expect the reader to follow along.

Writing about science, of course, is great fun. One of the real joys of producing Science & Enterprise six days a week is learning something new every day, and being among the first to report on these developments. I still find some of this science mind-boggling, even as the stories are being written. A good example is the genome-editing technique Crispr — clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — which we first reported on in August 2013, not long after its first journal publications. Crispr continues to spawn new research discoveries in medicine and agriculture, including fast Covid-19 diagnostics, as well as many new business opportunities. And while I understand the science behind Crispr, just the idea of altering DNA by design still seems to me like something out of science fiction.

We’re also privileged to be report often on the growing presence of smartphones and artificial intelligence in science. In addition to taking selfies and sending texts, mobile devices make it possible to collect enormous volumes of data faster, easier, and in more ways than ever before. At the same time, we’re seeing rapid advances in artificial intelligence, with machine learning and computer vision algorithms to process and make sense out of these massive data stores. So far, we’ve experienced only the beginning of A.I.’s influence on science, health, business, and many other aspects of our lives.

The joy of business

Following the business side of this equation is also a joy. While managing editor of Science magazine’s careers site, before starting Science & Enterprise, I reported on several scientists turned entrepreneurs. That’s where I first got interested in the interaction of science and business, as well as scientists who become business people. Despite severe economic downturns, new businesses based on research discoveries continue to be formed in the U.S. In February, we reported on a survey by AUTM that shows in 2018, the last year data are available, nearly 1,100 new businesses commercializing research in academic labs were formed in the U.S., about three new companies every day.

This infrastructure that enables research discoveries to be turned into useful products and services is a result of a law that most people never heard about, the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. Authored by Senators Birch Bayh of Indiana and Bob Dole of Kansas, the bill gives universities in the U.S. the rights to intellectual property produced in their labs, when funded by federal dollars. (I had the privilege of meeting the late Birch Bayh in December 2010, at the 30th anniversary of the bill’s enactment.) AUTM, the organization of university technology transfer specialists, tracks the annual benefits of the Bayh-Dole Act to institutions and local economies, but the full consequences of the law to the American economy and way of life are incalculable.

Government enables science, and the businesses it creates, in another way, by immigration and academic exchange laws that foster international students and scholars at American institutions. Read the bios of researchers and entrepreneurs featured in Science & Enterprise stories, and more often not, those scientists earned their undergraduate degrees somewhere else, bringing their knowledge and talents to university labs in the U.S.

The Trump’s administration’s animosity toward science is exceeded only by its hostility toward immigrants, particularly those with brown or black skins and funny-sounding names. Those hostile actions today threaten the health of the U.S. and the rest of the world, which depend on research discoveries, and the businesses they create to get those discoveries turned into diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments.

After more than 6,400 posts in the past 10 years, I want to thank the loyal visitors to Science & Enterprise, who now view over 10,000 of our pages each month, more than double the page views of last year at this time. Let me also thank our sponsors, both individual companies and agencies providing sponsored content. Yes, Science & Enterprise is also a business, and we have a new media kit to tell more about that side of our enterprise.

And most all, thanks to my wife Sharon Bandy Kotok, for the love, encouragement, and support over the past 10 years (and a few decades before that). Sharon patiently listens to my recitation of each day’s stories over the dinner table, and lets me know when something doesn’t make sense. Couldn’t ask for a better editor.

– Alan Kotok

*     *     *

Comments are closed.