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Keeping Science On Track

Fifty years ago this week, a paper in the British science journal Nature described the structure of DNA. This discovery kicked off a revolution in biology that brought with it fear as well as excitement. The ability to tinker with genes raised the specter of monster organisms that might threaten the world. As NPR's Joe Palca reports, back then it was scientists who took the lead in resolving such issues, but today it may not be researchers who get to choose how controversial science progresses.

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Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.