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Science editor-in-chief visits campus with ideas for reinvigorating public confidence in higher education

April 10, 2023 By Natasha Kassulke
A headshot photo of Holden Thorp. Thorp has short blond hair and glasses. He is smiling and looking directly to the camera.

Holden Thorp Steve Exum

Holden Thorp, Science journals editor-in-chief, is coming to the University of Wisconsin–Madison April 17-18 and will give a public talk, meet with graduate students and appear on Wisconsin Public Radio, addressing one of the most pressing problems in higher education: how to engage in partnership with a public showing signs of lost trust in science and institutions of higher education.

Thorp’s talks at UW–Madison will include topics ranging from improving science literacy and communication with the public, to expanding opportunities for growing entrepreneurship, to fostering a healthy research environment that supports development of the next generation of scientists.

As coeditor of two books on higher education in the 21st century, Thorp calls on colleges and universities to support development of an educated and skilled public and to create new knowledge that will garner greater public investment in higher education.

“Holden Thorp is outspoken about connecting science with society,” explains Bassam Shakhashiri, emeritus professor of chemistry and the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea.

Shakhashiri has been instrumental in bringing Thorp to campus.

“His visit to our UW–Madison community will bolster the purposefulness of both our scholarly endeavors and our public engagement work,” Shakhashiri says. “As we live the Wisconsin Idea, we strive to ensure that the next generation of scientists is both highly skilled technically and properly educated to carry on their scientific and educational work for the common good of society.”

In addition to being an author and editor, Thorp is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellow. He came to Science from Washington University, where he was provost from 2013 to 2019 and where he is Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor and holds appointments in both chemistry and medicine. Thorp serves on the national board of directors of PBS and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors.

“Thorp’s messages will resonate across campus from students to staff and faculty. UW–Madison is driven by a strong commitment to the Wisconsin Idea, and we are always looking for new and diverse ways to attune our strategy and policies to meet the challenges of the day and show the public how research at UW–Madison benefits individual lives, communities and society as a whole,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “I look forward to hearing Thorp’s advice for how we can boost public trust in higher education and research and deepen our connections with various communities.”

Campus Events:

How Science Lost America and How to Get it Back

April 17, 5:30 p.m., HF DeLuca Forum, Discovery Building and online. Registration is not required

The COVID-19 pandemic quickly revealed to scientists that the public has reached a point where picking and choosing the parts of science to act on is effortless. Many scientists have been mystified as to how this happened, but historians and communications scholars have been laying out these problems for decades. COVID-19 denial, climate denial and many other policy issues follow a pattern that stretches all the way back to the Scopes trial in the 1920s. Meanwhile, science has refused to invest in the contextualization of science in a way that would allow for processing scientific findings. Thorp will discuss these forces and offer some ideas for long-term solutions.

Hosted by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Education, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Question & Answer Session with Holden Thorp, Editor-in-Chief of Science Journals and Science Advocate

April 18, 9-10 a.m., Orchard View Room, Discovery Building (room is accessible via the elevator behind Aldo’s Cafe). Register for the Q&A session here.

All UW–Madison postdocs and graduate students have the opportunity to meet Thorp and pose questions on a wide range of topics including science advocacy and communication, scientific publishing, entrepreneurship and university leadership.

Hosted by the Office of Postdoctoral Studies and the Graduate School Office of Professional Development.

Larry Meiller Show

April 18, 11-11:45 a.m.

Thorp will be a guest on the Larry Meiller Show on Wisconsin Public Radio. His appearance will be webcast and recorded.