Frustrated in his own efforts to understand nuclear arms issues, Harvard University president Derek Bok asked six faculty members to write the new Harvard study ''Living With Nuclear Weapons.''
''The average reader like myself does not have the opportunity to read all the articles [on nuclear arms],'' President Bok says. ''It's very hard to put all the pieces of the mosaic together into a pattern.'' The book is meant to sort out and explain the major elements of today's nuclear dilemma.
President Bok says he hopes other colleges and universities will make similar efforts to inform the general public on pressing public concerns. ''Certainly the media, historically, has the lead role. But I think universities can increasingly play a role as issues get more complicated.''
Take the crisis in public education. He says it may prompt a Harvard newsletter aimed at parents, teachers, and school administrators ''trying to offer a judicious assessment of what is known and what is not known'' in the field. The university, he points out, already produces the Harvard Health Letter , which is intended to provide the public with practical information about medicine.
In an effort to further widen the audience reached by the university, ''We've also had programs for newspaper and TV newspeople. And this summer we are offering courses for professors [from other colleges and universities] who plan to teach on nuclear arms subjects.''
Universities, Bok says, ''should always be asking how they can address all those expanding audiences. The experts will always come in. The wider audience is more easily neglected. . . .''
''The danger now isn't that we won't have enough experts. . . . The danger is that we won't have enough people in the public playing [an active] role'' in national issues, he says.