The Michaelmas 2020 issue of The Oxford Scientist is here! This magazine was put together in difficult circumstances. Especial thanks are therefore owed to our brilliant team, our writers, illustrators, and our readers, who have kept the spirit of science communication alive in spite of being locked down in their homes and college rooms.
To provide some light relief from the seriousness of the pandemic, we decided to use cartoons to complement many of this issue’s articles. The illustrator Ralf Zeigermann drew these in the approximate likeness of Venki Ramakrishnan, the current President of the Royal Society and Nobel Laureate famous for discovering the structure of the ribosome. We hope you enjoy this feature of our Frontiers of Science issue!
It’s high time to not focus on doom and gloom more than necessary. Let’s instead have a look at a possible silver lining of these times: the pandemic has brought science in public focus as it has perhaps never been before. Interviews with epidemiologists made headline-news (page 19), as did heated debates on how to best ‘follow the science’. We witnessed successes and setbacks in vaccine development and learned how integral uncertainties and careful conclusions are to the scientific progress (page 13). And perhaps for the first time did many of us observe the drama of translating science into real-life politics – even though this is an age-old problem (page 16).
Next to highlighting science itself, this pandemic has shown that science communication is a cornerstone in our fight against future pandemics, at the base of which lies our own willingness to grasp the discoveries that are waiting out there (page 14). In that spirit, this issue includes some of our finest science picks ranging from stories about brain alteration far ahead of Elon Musk’s Neuralink device (page 10), over the unlikely connection between Zack Efron and ageing research (page 26), up to the surprising role of citizen scientists in current research (page 20) – and many more.
Let’s keep in mind that we can all be scientists, in how we explore the world, in how view twitter feeds and news channels, in how we voice our opinion and in how we read magazines such as this one. And so we hope you’ll follow ‘Venki’ on his journeys in this issue as he explores the Frontiers Of Science.
Angus and Linus