AVC: Part of the reason the Lacks family was afraid to talk to you was that they genuinely did not understand how HeLa cells were being used. What are some ways we can improve science literacy in the U.S.?
RS: Getting more science stories out there and getting kids to start reading them. Yesterday I just finished this marathon stretch of 15-hour days rewriting the book for kids. It’s coming out for 9- to 12-year-olds with diagrams and sidebars. It’s important to get the story across to kids to inspire them and teach them, and get them thinking about the impact scientific illiteracy has on a family. I hear from kids in high school or college that the story has gotten them interested in studying science. I also talk to scientists about how to communicate with the general public, which is the whole other side.
Hopefully this will open the door for some intense science classroom discussion. Mrs. Frizzle, meet bioethics.