As 2020 heads toward a close, it’s important to reflect on the past year and the lessons learned that we can apply to the year to come. One lesson that 2020 made clear: it is important to invest in science. And one of the most effective ways to invest in science is to nurture future scientists. Below, the Amgen Foundation shares five observations driving the continued mission for 2021 of inspiring the next generation to embrace science — and all the possibilities that provides.
1: Science literacy is not a luxury.
Whether or not you end up working in a lab, the complexities of modern life demand a basic understanding of science, health, the environment, and technology. That understanding comes with education. An Amgen Biotech Experience student with diabetes, for example, learned more about managing her disease through this program that brings biotechnology to secondary school classes. The knowledge she gained impacts not only her future health, but also her family and the community to which she contributes. Bringing core scientific capabilities to the table for everyone is essential for facing future challenges.
2: Science education leaves much to the imagination.
Evidence shows that what is broken can also deliver motivation to build something new. The need to enable and share more access, engagement and joy in science learning sparked the Amgen Foundation and Harvard to join forces on a solution. Together they launched LabXchange, a free, global online science education platform with virtual lab experiences and networking opportunities for everyone. This is where the fun of science begins — and the engagement follows.
3: Humanity’s biggest challenges are multiplying. Scientists must, too.
Many parts of the world continue to struggle with chronic and acute diseases. Food, fuel and housing are now examined with an eye to sustainability. The pandemic and climate change are just two of the obvious issues facing every living person. With a better understanding of science, we can address these challenges to help protect our communities and planet—and it takes scientists to get this started.
4: Inclusion is how we build a force of scientists.
Diversity of ideas is important to science and will shape science education by giving all people the opportunity to engage. Knowing science literacy across all communities is critical, the endeavor must go beyond the familiar bounds of quality science education. Programs like LabXchange, Amgen Biotech Experience, Amgen Scholars (an undergraduate summer program for students to conduct hands-on research with top scientists), and the Khan Academy virtual learning initiative were built to drive more inclusion in the scientific process and are helping to ensure that students everywhere have equal opportunity to be successful in science.
5: STEM pipelines need the next generation — so the next generation need STEM.
Consider every employee in every life sciences company that’s working on vaccines and antibody therapies. They are just the tip of the STEM sector’s emerging iceberg. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects STEM occupations to grow faster than non-STEM occupations, with more than 800,000 new jobs by 2028. Who will fill them if not the next generation?
Everyone deserves the opportunity to engage in science, and the talent is out there. Now it’s a matter of ensuring that talent gets a quality science education.
Looking back at 2020 to reflect on where the world has been is a proven method to determine where the world goes next. And contributing to the important work of reducing disparities in quality science education is the kind of work that can improve and change lives for generations to come.
For more information on how the Amgen Foundation is reimagining STEM education, visit www.labxchange.org.