What’s Really Scary…

Happy Halloween! This evening will bring kids to your door seeking tricks or treats. Mostly, their costumes will reflect cultural themes, like characters from movies or comics. And often, those characters and costumes have some unfortunate tie to science.

Much to the chagrin of those of who care about and support research, science is the vehicle by which many people scare themselves silly. There’s the mad scientist. The botched or out-of-control lab experiment. The apocalyptic climate disaster. The bizarre genetic mutation. The deadly leaked—or worse, weaponized—virus. The artificial intelligence that develops a mind of its own….

It’s well known that we fear what we don’t understand. Hello, science! People’s lack of understanding of science—be it climate science, genetics, virology, epidemiology, machine learning—can easily become the stuff of nightmares. And that fear can impede progress.

But as evidenced in the work reflected in this newsletter every month, despite what Hollywood (and Halloween) shows us, science is more commonly a force for good. In the grape and wine industry alone, research has helped grow yields and reduce resource use. It’s helped us be more sustainable, lowering our impact on the environment, and being both better employers and stewards of the land. It’s helped us thwart threats and adapt to change. It’s helped us broaden the footprint of our industry, deliver greater economic impact and produce more—and more delicious—products.

That’s why it’s incumbent upon the community of grape researchers and supporters to communicate clearly about science—and all its benefits. I often ask speakers to ditch the dendrograms and acronyms, and speak in plain language that most people (non-scientists) can understand. Give people an “in” to scientific concepts so they can see what can be achieved…and/or what’s at stake if we don’t try.

Because, if you’re a grape (or grape grower or wine producer or juice processor), a world without science truly is terrifying!

Donnell Brown
NGRA President
October 31, 2022