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Two New Blogs to Check Out
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge | Science Policy: General January 28, 2008

Hillary for President
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge December 10, 2007

You Must be a Creationist
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge May 04, 2007

New Blog at CU!
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge February 08, 2007

2007 Office Pool
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge December 30, 2006

Happy Holidays Prometheus Readers!
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge December 22, 2006

Around the Op-Ed Pages this Sunday
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge April 16, 2006

Science Advisor Talk Tonight
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge April 11, 2006

Coping with Climate Change Symposium
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge April 03, 2006

Pielke Sr. and Jr. Profiled in Nature
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge March 29, 2006

Wise Words from James Van Allen to Jim Hansen
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge March 27, 2006

New FAQs
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge February 24, 2006

Partisanship and Ability to Ignore Facts
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge January 24, 2006

George Keyworth II to Speak at CU
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge January 24, 2006

Conference of Interest – Science, Technology and Innovation
   in Author: Bruggeman, D. | Hodge Podge January 23, 2006

Spring Syllabus Online
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge January 15, 2006

Some Various Quotes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge | Science Policy: General January 13, 2006

Summary of Policy Sciences Discussion
   in Author: Bruggeman, D. | Hodge Podge January 11, 2006

What is Science? Reflections on the Dover, Pennsylvania Decision
   in Author: Yulsman, T. | Hodge Podge January 09, 2006

Inside the Policy Sciences
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge December 15, 2005

Prometheus Reader Feedback Forum
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge November 24, 2005

Tom Yulsman on Religion and Science
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge November 22, 2005

In Other News
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge November 18, 2005

Welcome Kevin Vranes
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge October 28, 2005

Donald Hornig to Speak at CU
   in Author: Others | Hodge Podge October 20, 2005

New Center Website
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge September 13, 2005

Edward David Talk
   in Hodge Podge September 08, 2005

Hurricane Donations and Comment Function
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge September 03, 2005

Party ID and ID
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge September 01, 2005

Information and Action
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge August 18, 2005

On Hanging Yourself in Public
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge August 09, 2005

   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge July 07, 2005

Workshop/Symposium: *Atmospheric Science and Policy Research* - 2006 AMS Conference
   in Hodge Podge July 05, 2005

Is Persuasion Dead?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge June 06, 2005

A Friday Hodgepodge
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge January 28, 2005

Prometheus Office Pool, 2005
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge December 30, 2004

Happy Holidays!!
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge December 23, 2004

A Friday Whip
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge December 17, 2004

State of Fear Part II
   in Ask Prometheus | Author: Others | Hodge Podge December 14, 2004

State of Fear
   in Ask Prometheus | Author: Others | Hodge Podge December 14, 2004

Data Quality & David Brooks
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge October 04, 2004

Hurricane Francis
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge September 02, 2004

Mindset List
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge September 01, 2004

Reader Challenge
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge August 06, 2004

Several Minor Housekeeping Items
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge August 05, 2004

Radio Interview Q&A
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Hodge Podge August 03, 2004

Radio Interview
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Hodge Podge July 28, 2004

Predicting Elections
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge July 05, 2004

Understanding Torture: What Role for Science?
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge June 30, 2004

Hurricane Forecasts: From Computer Screen to Evacuation
   in Author: Maricle, G. | Hodge Podge | Science Policy: General June 23, 2004

Koshland Science Museum
   in Author: Ryen, T.S. | Hodge Podge June 14, 2004

Technology Policy, Privacy, and Anonymity
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge May 05, 2004

The Day after Tomorrow
   in Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge April 28, 2004

January 28, 2008

Two New Blogs to Check Out

Like anyone needs a longer personal blogroll, but here are two that might be worth a look.

William Briggs is a statistician, a delightful writer, and provocatively skeptical about all sort of subjects in exactly the way that scientists should be skeptical. His new blog is extremely thoughtful. For example, he has a post up today titled, "Is climatology a pseudoscience?" and provides a nuanced, and yes, provocative answer.

A new group blog called Science Policy Development has just started up on the heels of the recent NAS Science and Technology Policy Graduate Student Forum. There is plenty of room in the blogosphere for more discussions of science policy and I am hopeful that this group maintains an active presence in science policy discussions.

December 10, 2007

Hillary for President

After this wise move, what more could you possibly need to know?

Posted on December 10, 2007 03:25 AM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

May 04, 2007

You Must be a Creationist

Academic blogging is an interesting medium. On the one hand it "flattens" the world of communication and facilitates the public engagement of experts with everyone else. But it also has some strong negatives, on display this week over at Chris Mooney's blog.

Chris, and fellow blogger American University's Matt Nisbet, recently wrote two pieces for Science and The Washington Post, in which they engaged in a little Science Studies 101, pointing out that how issues are framed influences how they are received. Seems pretty straightforward. But in their piece they suggested, correctly in my view, that how some atheists advance their agenda on the back of science may actually backfire in political debates. For their trouble Chris and Matt have been lambasted by the agitprop blogosphere.

One particularly clueless commentator -- a professor with a Harvard degree -- went so far as to suggest that Mooney and Nisbet are in fact creationists! This strategy of allowing absolutely no nuance is the main tool in the agitprop toolbox. Why else would Matt and Chris criticize Richard Dawkins unless they are really creationists at heart?! Such drivel is extremely irritating, as Chris and Matt's reactions indicate and there is really no effective response to it. Here at Prometheus I routinely hear from trolls and others with bad intent and that I must be a Republican (or a Republican sympathizer) since I have advanced some views that some Republicans think make sense. (Outside the blogosphere actually convincing people of the merits of your arguments is viewed in a positive light!;-)

The issue, not surprisingly, is one of framing. The professor alleging the creationist in Mooney and Nisbet describes religious people as his "enemies" suggesting that we are at war with them. Mooney for his part disavows such nonsense:

"Attack"? Those are your words.

"Enemies"? Those are also your words.

I don't see it that way.

We were trying to make a very serious point about how scientists need to rethink communication strategies. We saw Dawkins as a prominent example to use. He is, after all, prominent.

In political debates the agitprop partisans always have the upper hand, as they can level personal attacks, misrepresent your work, make mountains out of molehills, and nanny-nanny-boo-boo call you names all day long. For academic bloggers who don't want to themselves become mindless partisans there are only a few choices, develop a thick skin or get out of the fray. David Brooks' column yesterday on how to handle such people is worth a read (of course, my citing it must be an indicateion my conservative tendencies;-):

. . . they’ll never be open-minded toward you. But the other three-quarters are honorable, intelligent people. If you treat these people with respect, and find places where you can work together, they will teach you things and make you more effective. If you treat them the way you treat the partisans, they’ll turn into partisans and destroy you.

So here at Promethues, until the blogging negatives outweigh the positives, we will stomach those with ill-intent and simply correct the record when necessary and let nonsense stand on its own. The good news, for Matt and Chris and others who find themselves under attack from people who seek to distract from the substance of their arguments is that their arguments must be pretty strong on their merits to attract such passionate attention. So Matt and Chris, keep up the good work, and don't get too exercised about the noise. Not much you can do about that!

Posted on May 4, 2007 06:57 AM View this article | Comments (8)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

February 08, 2007

New Blog at CU!

Tom Yulsman, an occasional contributor here and professor of Journalism here at CU, along with colleagues have started a new weblog focused on Environmental Journalism. Check it out here!

Posted on February 8, 2007 09:27 AM View this article | Comments (0)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

December 30, 2006

2007 Office Pool

Happy New Year everyone! A 2007 office pool for your enjoyment:

1. In 2007 the space shuttle will fly (a) once, (b) twice, (c) 3 or more times, (d) its last mission.

2. Academic earmarks on non-defense discretionary spending for FY2007 will (a) be held to near zero as Democrats hold steadfast to their year-long continuing resolution, (b) will quietly creep up to their FY2006 levels as supplemental spending bills are laden with pork, (c) will not formally appear in appropriations or reports but will somehow appear out of existing agency appropriations as agency officials seek to keep congressional appropriators happy.

3. The number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic will be (a) less than 10, (b) between 10 and 15, (c) 16 to 20, (d) more than 20.

4. The IPCC will be released in three installments in the first half of 2007. The big news story from the IPCC will be (a) actually nothing, as nothing new will be reported, (b) a change in the IPCC and its leaders to an explicit advocacy role, (c) that it spells the end of the climate convention as it presents “dangerous interference” as inevitable, (d) provides much fodder for those wanting to “go slow” on climate policy by presenting an image of climate change far more conservative than found in the media, (e) will totally botch the issue of economic losses from extreme events, and especially hurricanes.

5. Al Gore will enter the 2008 presidential race (a) in the spring with his speech accepting the Oscar for best documentary, (b) in the late summer or early fall following the devastation of southern Florida by Hurricane Jerry, (c) not at all and Roger will owe Lisa lunch, (d) in 2008.

6. The U.S. budget for R&D in FY2007 will (a) represent the first cut in decades as Democrats hold fast to their year-long continuing resolution, (b) increase from FY2006 level through several targeted supplemental appropriations bills, most notable passage of some version of the ACI/PACE legislation, (c) so frustrate some scientists that they will begin speaking of a “Democratic war on science”.

7. The most notable S&T legislation to be passed by Congress in 2007 and vetoed by President Bush will be focused on (a) federal funding for stem cell research, (b) mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, (c) prohibition of the transfer of nuclear technologies to India, (d) repeal of certain aspects of the Patriot Act focused on surveillance

8. The Supreme Court will rule in EPA vs. Massachusetts that (a) Massachusetts in fact has no standing to file the lawsuit, (b) that EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide and leave to EPA’s discretion whether regulation is required, (c) EPA must regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act, (d) that some call greenhouse gases a “pollutant” while others simply call it “life”

9. Internationally, the biggest news of 2007 will be (a) the introduction and then termination of carbon rationing cards in the U.K., (b) Germany’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, (c) the announcement by Hugo Chavez that Venezuela will conduct a nuclear test, (d) China’s devaluation of its currency sending the dollar into a tailspin

10. In 2007, here at Prometheus we will see (a) an angel bequeathing a massive endowment to our Center, (b) the blog reinvented at another university far, far away, (c) new authors and new contributors, and an ever-expanding readership (d) enough on climate change already, .and a shift to The Honest Broker.

My guesses below.

1. (a) 30%, (b) 60%, (c) 10%, (d) 50%
2. (c)
3. (a) 10%, (b) 50%, (c) 30%, (d) 10%
4. all of the above
5. (b), but maybe (d), (c) no way
6. (b), (a) is possible but unlikely
7. (a), almost certainly
8. (a) or (b), probably (b)
9. none of the above
10. (a) were still waiting on this one;-), (b), (c), and (d) – stay tuned!

Happy New Year!

Posted on December 30, 2006 11:06 AM View this article | Comments (7)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays Prometheus Readers!

All of us here at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado/CIRES would like to send our readers best wishes for the holiday season and a happy new year!

We greatly value the excellent feedback, comments, suggestions, and contributions from the readers/commentors on our blog, who we believe are the best you will find on any blog on any subject. We look forward to 2007 and a chance to continue to learn from our many substantive interactions with our knowledgeable readers. For our part you can expect that we'll continue to provide analysis and commentary in the new year, and you can expect that some things you'll agree with, some you won't, and sometimes we'll make really excellent arguments and sometimes we won't!

Over the holidays we'll be paying attention, and maybe blogging if the occasion is right. So during the next 10 days or so, if your comment gets held up, just drop us an email and we'll get it online as soon as we can.

Happy Holidays!!

Posted on December 22, 2006 03:30 PM View this article | Comments (1)
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

April 16, 2006

Around the Op-Ed Pages this Sunday

Here are some thoughts about a number of related op-eds that I came across this Sunday morning.

From the LA Times last week (and the Boulder Daily Camera today) is an interesting op-ed by Francis Fukuyama about the perils of thoughtful public intellectualism. Here is an excerpt:

Seven weeks ago, I published my case against the Iraq war. I wrote that although I had originally advocated military intervention in Iraq, and had even signed a letter to that effect shortly after the 9/11 attacks, I had since changed my mind. . .

But apparently this kind of honest acknowledgment is verboten. In the weeks since my book came out, I've been challenged, attacked and vilified from both ends of the ideological spectrum. Many people have noted the ever-increasing polarization of American politics, reflected in news channels and talk shows that cater to narrowly ideological audiences, and in a House of Representatives that has redistricted itself into homogeneous constituencies in which few members have to appeal to voters with diverse opinions. This polarization has been vastly amplified by Iraq: Much of the left now considers the war not a tragic policy mistake but a deliberate criminal conspiracy, and the right attacks the patriotism of those who question the war.

This kind of polarization affects a range of other complex issues as well: You can't be a good Republican if you think there may be something to global warming, or a good Democrat if you support school choice or private Social Security accounts. Political debate has become a spectator sport in which people root for their team and cheer when it scores points, without asking whether they chose the right side. Instead of trying to defend sharply polarized positions taken more than three years ago, it would be far better if people could actually take aboard new information and think about how their earlier commitments, honestly undertaken, actually jibe with reality — even if this does on occasion require changing your mind.

Of course, in such a polarized state of affairs, people reading Fukuyama’s warning will simply interpret it to mean that their opponents are the ones who are ideological and unwilling to change their minds!

Along these exact lines, the New York Times has an interesting op-ed by Daniel Giblert, a professor at Harvard, on how people use information to confirm/deny that which they already believed. Here is an excerpt:

Much of what happens in the brain is not evident to the brain itself, and thus people are better at playing these sorts of tricks on themselves than at catching themselves in the act. People realize that humans deceive themselves, of course, but they don't seem to realize that they too are human. . .

A Princeton University research team asked people to estimate how susceptible they and "the average person" were to a long list of judgmental biases; the majority of people claimed to be less biased than the majority of people. A 2001 study of medical residents found that 84 percent thought that their colleagues were influenced by gifts from pharmaceutical companies, but only 16 percent thought that they were similarly influenced. Dozens of studies have shown that when people try to overcome their judgmental biases — for example, when they are given information and told not to let it influence their judgment — they simply can't comply, even when money is at stake.

And yet, if decision-makers are more biased than they realize, they are less biased than the rest of us suspect. Research shows that while people underestimate the influence of self-interest on their own judgments and decisions, they overestimate its influence on others. . .

In short, doctors, judges, consultants and vice presidents strive for truth more often than we realize, and miss that mark more often than they realize. Because the brain cannot see itself fooling itself, the only reliable method for avoiding bias is to avoid the situations that produce it.

When doctors refuse to accept gifts from those who supply drugs to their patients, when justices refuse to hear cases involving those with whom they share familial ties and when chief executives refuse to let their compensation be determined by those beholden to them, then everyone sleeps well.

Until then, behavioral scientists have plenty to study.

In addition, the Washington Post has a defense of nuclear power by Patrick Moore, a former Greenpeace founder who apparently became disaffected. And the NYT has an op-ed by James Lincoln Kitman, New York bureau chief for Automobile Magazine, which complains about the public’s and policy makers’ blunt endorsement of hybrid automobile technologies. Each is fairly nuanced and raises complicated points, which, if you agree with Fukuyama and Gilbert, may be more likely to be spun as wedge devices in ideological battles among people whose views are hardened irrespective of data or argument, rather than considered on their intellectual merits. For my part, I do think that argumentation matters and that many people are open to new information, analysis, and the related evolution of their thinking on policy issues. But this probably does not fully extend to many of the loudest, most certain, and strident commentators that sometimes seem to dominate public debates.

Posted on April 16, 2006 08:40 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

April 11, 2006

Science Advisor Talk Tonight

For you local folks (from Bobbie Klein):

Dr. Frank Press, science advisor to President Jimmy Carter 1977-1980, will be the final speaker in the year-long lecture series "Policy, Politics, and Science in the White House: Conversations with Presidential Science Advisors." He will speak tonight, April 11, at 7 pm in MCD Biology Room A2B70 on the CU-Boulder Campus. The event is free and open to the public. For more information visit the series website.

Posted on April 11, 2006 10:44 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Hodge Podge

April 03, 2006

Coping with Climate Change Symposium

For you local folks (from Bobbie Klein):

"Coping with Climate Change: A Symposium Highlighting Activities at the University of Colorado to Help Decision Makers Prepare for the Future" will identify and highlight research and other activities at the University of Colorado designed to assist decision makers in responding to and coping with the coming impacts of climate change. The symposium will feature several half-hour presentations from faculty and students in various CU departments and programs about in progress or planned activities. It will provide an opportunity to learn about climate change-related ?decision support? activities at CU, identify gaps and constraints in current activities, and discover possibilities for future research and collaboration.

The symposium will be held Tuesday, April 4, from 8:30 am - 3:00 pm in the CIRES Auditorium. It is free and open to the public - registration is not required. Stay for as many sessions as you like. Lunch provided.

For more information, a schedule, and directions visit the symposium website, or contact Bobbie Klein, Sponsored by the Western Water Assessment, a NOAA-CU project to provide usable climate information for decision making.

Posted on April 3, 2006 11:10 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Hodge Podge

March 29, 2006

Pielke Sr. and Jr. Profiled in Nature

Here is a link to the article.

Posted on March 29, 2006 10:37 AM View this article | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

March 27, 2006

Wise Words from James Van Allen to Jim Hansen

From a recent interview with NASA's Jim Hansen:

You grew up in Iowa and studied at the University of Iowa under legendary astrophysicist James Van Allen, discoverer of the radiation belt surrounding the Earth. Did that background prepare you for the public debates you've taken up?
The example I gave of Van Allen's influence on students was his demeanor. He was just calm. He didn't get flustered. When I went to NASA, I heard that his proposal for an experiment on a mission to Jupiter was not selected because NASA headquarters was not very happy with him; he criticized NASA repeatedly for its emphasis on putting men in space instead of automated spacecraft. When I mentioned that to him in a letter, he just said, "I know that my positions have not endeared me to people at NASA headquarters, but I take the position that I'm dealing with honorable men."

It's a good attitude.

Posted on March 27, 2006 02:13 PM View this article | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

February 24, 2006

New FAQs

We've just posted a few new short FAQs, ostensibly for the media but really for anyone, on subjects that we discuss a lot around here. They are on:

Space Policy
Politicization of Science
Hurricanes and Global Warming
Drought Policy

Find them here. Your comments/suggestions are welcomed.

Posted on February 24, 2006 03:19 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

January 24, 2006

Partisanship and Ability to Ignore Facts

So this study looks interesting:

Democrats and Republicans alike are adept at making decisions without letting the facts get in the way, a new study shows. And they get quite a rush from ignoring information that's contrary to their point of view. Researchers asked staunch party members from both sides to evaluate information that threatened their preferred candidate prior to the 2004 Presidential election. The subjects' brains were monitored while they pondered. The results were announced today. "We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts." The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say. Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained. The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making. . . The brain imaging revealed a consistent pattern. Both Republicans and Democrats consistently denied obvious contradictions for their own candidate but detected contradictions in the opposing candidate. "The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data," Westen said.”

If this study is correct then those “junk science” and “war on science” folks will each probably find a way to ignore or discount its conclusions! But on a deeper philosophical note, does this mean that those who allege that either Republicans or Democrats are worse abusers of science are in fact themselves abusing science?

Posted on January 24, 2006 04:55 PM View this article | Comments (16) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

George Keyworth II to Speak at CU

For you local folks:

George Keyworth II, White House science adviser to former President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1986, will speak at the University of Colorado at Boulder on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. in room 270 of the Hale Science Building.

The free, public event is part of a yearlong lecture series titled "Policy, Politics and Science in the White House: Conversations with Presidential Science Advisers," sponsored by CU-Boulder's Center for Science and Technology Policy Research.

Keyworth, who played a key role in Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative known as "Star Wars," will speak on science and the presidential decision-making process. Following his remarks, CSTPR Director Roger Pielke Jr. will interview Keyworth about topics like the role of scientific information in the Star Wars initiative. The event will conclude with a question-and-answer session with the audience.

As the senior technical member of Reagan's staff, Keyworth led efforts to capitalize on U.S. science and technology and strengthen industrial competitiveness. He was instrumental in establishing strong budgetary priorities for basic university research, strengthening university engineering programs and stimulating more productive industrial participation in university research and education.

He also played a key role in the modernization of strategic military forces, and was deeply involved in initiatives to use science and technology to support U.S. foreign policy interests, especially with the People's Republic of China.

Keyworth's scientific contributions include pioneering work in high-resolution spectroscopy. Most recently, he has focused on the broad implications of distributed computing and digital connections. Keyworth received a doctorate in nuclear physics from Duke University in 1968.

The CU-Boulder series previously hosted science advisers to Presidents G.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. Frank Press, science adviser to Jimmy Carter, will conclude the series with a public talk at CU-Boulder April 11 at 7 p.m. in room A2B70 of the MCD Biology Building.

Additional information about the series, as well as webcasts, transcripts, audiotapes, photographs from past talks and a library of background materials are available at the series website.

**Posted by Bobbie Klein

Posted on January 24, 2006 11:48 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Hodge Podge

January 23, 2006

Conference of Interest – Science, Technology and Innovation

This announcement has been out for a while, but I bring it to the attention of Prometheus readers because it highlights some of the same things we talked about after my post “Policy Sciences and the Field of S&T Policy.” That is, this is a conference that intends to be critical about the progress of research in the field of Science, Technology and Innovation. Here’s the important information:

The Future of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy: Linking Research And Practice SPRU 40th Anniversary Conference, 11th-13th September 2006 (link)

This conference … offers the opportunity to engage in a critical evaluation of the present and future research agenda of the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) field.

Those interested in presenting a paper should submit a 500-word abstract by 17 March 2006 along with their full contact details. The abstract should be submitted to . All abstracts will be subject to peer-review.

Authors will be informed whether their papers have been accepted by 10 April 2006.

Final papers must be submitted by 14 July 2006; the maximum length is 5,000 words.

Participants for the conference are encouraged to register as early as possible, and at the latest by 31 July 2006. The conference fee will be £250 (£200 for students), or £300 (£250 for students) if you also wish to attend the Conference Dinner and the Reception in the Brighton Pavilion. This fee does not include any travel or accommodation costs. A late registration fee of £75 will be payable by those who register after 31 July (assuming there are still places available).”

I encourage everyone to read the full announcement. Depending on who you ask, there is little or no difference between STP and the Science, Technology and Innovation field. Arguably its members are more European (SPRU is in England, STI programs in the U.S. include George Washington University and Georgia Tech); focus more on policy for science, technology and innovation (while many in STP are more concerned with how science influences policy); and are focused more on quantitative analysis. But I don’t think anyone who identifies with STP would feel out of place at STI, or at this conference.

But as I mentioned at the start, this conference is making an effort to have a reflective, critical discussion about the progress of STI. Some excerpts:

"We aim to identify fruitful new ways forward in the field of STI policy by subjecting these established frameworks to structured debate and critical evaluation."

"[W]e would like to engage in a critical evaluation of the approaches developed by the STI research community and their use in policy practice."

"(ii) Contribution of Our Studies to Policy-Making - What is the evidence that we, the research community, have actually helped to improve the quality and effectiveness of policy and management? In particular, what are the unanticipated consequences of our models on policy-making?"

"Overall, we invite participants and contributions that are willing to engage in developing the future research agenda of the STI field. The conference aims to trigger a critical and collective dialogue that could contribute to making the STI field more exciting and challenging for our research community, more relevant to policy practice and more 'in synch' with society at large."

This last sentence, to me, summarizes what I think any public policy research community should ask themselves, and ask themselves frequently. Even if you can’t attend this conference in September, I encourage you to keep asking these questions in your own work and other conferences and workshops.

Posted on January 23, 2006 11:45 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Bruggeman, D. | Hodge Podge

January 15, 2006

Spring Syllabus Online

This spring I am teaching a graduate seminar, "Science and Technology Policy". The syllabus is online here. Comments welcomed.

Posted on January 15, 2006 01:15 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

January 13, 2006

Some Various Quotes

Here are some quotes from things I read recently that I thought were interesting:

Former Colorado basketball player Chauncey Billups was not talking about grade inflation, but he might as well have been when he said, "When you have success and you're not working as hard as you can, it can really be a curse because it gives you a false sense of what it takes to be successful."

Havard's Sheila Jasanoff has many wise things to say about science, policy, and politics. Here is a passage from her 1986 book, Risk Management and Political Culture, p. 72, about risk assessment:

"Scientific judgment must be exercised throughout, usually in full knowledge that different choices may lead to substantially different policy recommendations. Given this state of affairs, it is almost inevitable that a scientist's personal and political values will influence his reading of particular facts."

And page 70 has this gem,

"Research in the sociology of science has led to at least two formulations of the degree to which science is actually socially constructed. The dominant and more complex view holds that scientific knowledge is constructed partly in accordance with norms internal to science, such as empirical testing and peer review, but partly in accordance with external social interest, including the political interests of particular scientific communities. The relative importance of the internal and external norms can vary across disciplines, over time, and in response to political context. A more extreme formulation of the "social construction" hypothesis holds that differences in scientific claims can be reduced to differences in political orientation, so that most assertions about science can be seen as just a camouflage for constellations of values and preferences. Understandably, the second formulation has found adherents among political activists, who sometimes claim that there is no such thing as "good" or "bad" science, at least in the policy context. All policy-relevant science, in this view, is directed to strategic ends, and its quality is irrelevant so long as it leads to the desired societal objectives. At the opposite pole, some scientists are convinced that "good" and "bad" or "right" and "wrong" are absolute, unambiguous categories in science and that policymakers must steer clear of "scientific nonsense" if they are to reach legitimate policy decisions."

Like Jasanoff and most STSers put me down as an adherent of the "dominant and more complex view" of science in policy and politics.

Richard Rorty has lots of wise things to say as well, here is one interesting passage from the essay "A World Without Substances or Essences" which appears on p. 51 in his 1999 book, Philosophy and Social Hope (thanks AB!),

"The term 'objective' is defined by antiessentialists not in terms of relation to intrinsic features of objects by rather by reference to relative ease of attaining consensus among inquirers. Just as the appearance-reality distinction is replaced by distinctions between the relative ease in getting agreement. To say that values are more subjective than facts is just to say that it is harder to get agreement about which things are ugly or what actions evil than about which things are rectangular."

Like Rorty, put me down as an anti-essentialist.

January 11, 2006

Summary of Policy Sciences Discussion

[Ed.- The articles summarized below can be found online here.]

Roger Pielke starts the discussion asking "What Future for the Policy Sciences?" Concerned not only about the upcoming generational shift in the field, he considers three factors in the broader policy movement as external threats to the sustainability (survivability) of policy sciences as an academic endeavor: the interest in predictive tools; an axiology of science that doesn't select for the pragmatic, problem-oriented research encouraged in policy sciences; and increasing politicization of scientific practice. He also identifies three internal factors challenging the field's sustainability: a lack of degree programs to produce tenured faculty trained in policy sciences; a lack of dedicated course materials and other exposure to policy sciences; and a lack of distinctive identity for the policy sciences. Pielke spends much of the rest of his essay articulating an identity for a policy scientist, distinguishing it from social scientists and policy advocates as someone engaged in integrating knowledge and crafting contextual maps in order to better inform the policy making process and policy analysis. He wants to further distinguish policy sciences by finding some kind of satisfactory home within the university environment.

Richard Wallace, in "Orienting to the Policy Sciences' Sustainability Program," does not see the field in as dire straits as he feels Pielke does. He provides a short primer on the academic development of policy sciences. He sees the field as small, but with sufficient interest to maintain its numbers. Suggesting Pielke is really concerned with relevance rather than sustainability, Wallace sees a community that, regardless of disciplinary home or Pielke's threats, is producing scholars that contribute to policy sciences. Both Wallace and Pielke's concerns come from anecdotal experience, suggesting a diversity of experience and background that calls for the integrative knowledge and contextual mapping of a policy scientist.

David Pelletier discusses "Sustainability of the Policy Sciences: Alternatives and Strategies," and does expand his discussion slightly beyond the academic policy sciences community. He does this by first outlining how many policy sciences concepts are gaining traction in other academic fields and how they are being exposed to many students and early career professionals. He also sees non-academic policy scientists as a key part of institutionalizing the field through strengthening its network. Not really disagreeing with Pielke, Pelletier is trying to provide additional context to the discussion. He sees the best future of the field in a stronger network that supports the policy sciences framework for a diverse group of users.

Rodney Muth also shares some of Pielke's concerns, but characterizes his approach in "Rethinking the Problem: Outcomes or Sustainability?" as optimistic. He is concerned that Pielke's call to "mimic other disciplines" (248) could backfire, robbing the field of some of its unique perspective. He also considers the question of outcomes more important - asking if the policy sciences field leads to better policy rather than if the policy sciences could be sustained as a field of endeavor. Muth suggests a multifaceted strategy to address the outcomes of policy sciences. This would involve encouraging problem-focused activities, integrative education and otherwise seeking common ground with other scholars and practitioners.

Pielke concludes the discussion in his "Rejoinder to Muth, Pelletier and Wallace," by detailing how his concerns and perceptions are not as different from those of the other authors, especially over concerns about policy sciences becoming more like a discipline. He does believe none of them really addressed his concern about where the future policy scientists are going to come from. While this is true, Pielke's statistics focus exclusively on Ph.Ds, which may cause him to overstate the problem if it is simply one of producing people trained in the policy sciences.

Posted on January 11, 2006 07:25 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Bruggeman, D. | Hodge Podge

January 09, 2006

What is Science? Reflections on the Dover, Pennsylvania Decision

On October 18, 2004, the Dover Area School Board of Directors in Pennsylvania attacked modern knowledge by officially elevating intelligent design to scientific status alongside Darwinian evolution and requiring that it be taught in science classes.
(See more here.)

In his decision in the case challenging this requirement, Federal Judge John E. Jones III ruled last month that the board had violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. In surprisingly pointed terms, the Republican appointee of President George W. Bush swept aside the “breathtaking inanity” of the board’s policy, along with the arguments of intelligent design’s proponents. Writing that “the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity,” the judge found that ID is a religious concept, not a scientific theory, and therefore cannot be taught as science in the Dover public schools. (More here.)

Among other points in his decision, Judge Jones rejected the use of scientific-sounding language by the proponents of intelligent design. To address the constitutional issue, he recognized that ID proponents dress a religious concept in scientific costume to attain a political result.

The judge refers frequently in his opinion to the notorious “Wedge Strategy” from the Center for Science and Culture of Seattle’s Discovery Institute, the leading intelligent design think tank. The strategy is something of a mission statement for the ID movement, and a plan for replacing scientific materialism with a “science” rooted in belief in a Christian god as the creator of all things.

The proponents of intelligent design see scientific materialism as the root of many evils. “The cultural consequences of [the] triumph of materialism were devastating,” states the Wedge Strategy. Among the consequences listed in the document are the denial of objective moral standards; the idea that environment dictates our behavior (here they agree at least in part with the social Darwinists!); the undermining of personal responsibility; and the utopian idea that “coercive government programs” could “create heaven on earth.” (See more here.)

An uncannily straight line can be drawn from the Scopes monkey trial of 1925 to the solution spelled out in the Wedge Strategy:

“. . . we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a ‘wedge’ that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points.” [Emphasis added.]

In his opinion, Judge Jones uses the Wedge Strategy as evidence for his finding that intelligent design is a religiously motivated movement, not science, and therefore cannot be taught in public school science classes. In one particularly devastating section of the opinion, he quotes intelligent design pioneer William Dembski as writing that ID is a “ground clearing operation” that will help replace materialist science with Christian science, and that “Christ is never an addendum to a scientific theory but always a completion.”

That was good enough to settle the constitutional issue. But what about the broader issue at the center of the case made by ID proponents: Just what is science anyway?

Why should a system of ideas predicated on theology, in contrast to one based purely on materialism, be automatically rejected as being unscientific? As ID proponents like to say, shouldn’t finding the truth be much more important than making artificial distinctions between science and religion?

Superficially, they may seem to be on to something. After all, philosophers say distinguishing between science and non-science using formal criteria is quite problematic.

Karl Popper said this “demarcation” problem was at the very core of the philosophy of science. (See more here.) In fact, Popper argued that science could claim no unique methodology. So he advanced “falsifiability” as the solution: In order for an idea to be considered truly scientific, it must make specific predictions about what one might find if the idea were true. If those predictions are not borne out by experiments or observations, the idea is falsified and does not stand. By contrast, ideas that repeatedly survive such testing are, in Popper’s words, highly “corroborated” (but on logical grounds can never be said to be proven absolutely true).

Scientists, of course, buy Popper’s approach, arguing that intelligent design is not science because it makes no falsifiable predictions. But philosophers say there are serious problems with distinguishing between science and non-science on the basis of falsifiability. They point out that just because an idea fails to be corroborated doesn’t mean it has been falsified. Moreover, major scientific theories actually can be quite resistant to being falsified even when some observations fail to confirm their predictions.

So the demarcation issue remains.

Stephen C. Meyer (see), the director of the Center for Science and Culture, and a Ph.D. in the philosophy and history of science from Cambridge University, uses it to defend the proposition that intelligent design has equal status scientifically as Darwinian evolution, even if it is religious in nature:

“The use by evolutionary biologists of so-called demarcation arguments—that is, arguments that purport to distinguish science from pseudoscience, metaphysics or religion—is both ironic and problematic from the point of view of the philosophy of science. It is ironic because many of the demarcation criteria that have been used against non-naturalistic theories of origin can be deployed with equal warrant against strictly naturalistic evolutionary theories. Indeed, a corpus of literature now exists devoted to assessing whether neo-Darwinism, with its distinctively probabilistic and historical dimensions, is scientific when measured against various conceptions of science.” (See more here.)

If demarcation is indeed problematic, then on what grounds can a theory based on Christian religious beliefs be rejected as not being truly scientific? One might argue that it must be rejected because the conclusion — there is a God, and he designed the universe — has already been reached and is not open to question. This is, after all, a matter of faith. But isn’t it true that scientists often start with firmly held beliefs about how nature works? Moreover, ID proponents say that conventional science rests on its own unquestioned articles of faith, including the idea that God can have no part in scientific explanations of nature. (And for some scientists, there is no God at all.)

Maybe the answer to the demarcation problem simply is this: Who cares?

How science actually has been practiced seems more important than any philosophical complications to the epistemology of scientific knowledge. Judge Jones obviously felt that way. In his decision he wrote that “since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena . . . Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea’s worth.” [Emphasis added.]

This is a social and historical argument — one that would have made perfect sense to Thomas Kuhn, author of “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” (See more here.)

A Kuhnian argument on the issue might go like this: What should be considered science, as opposed to non-science, simply is what the community of scientists working within the relevant paradigm says it is. As philosophically unsatisfying as that approach may seem, it has without question yielded great progress in our understanding of nature.

Kuhn argued that science makes more progress when it is constrained to material explanations within particular scientific paradigms. As he wrote, "By focusing attention upon a small range of relatively esoteric problems, the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in a detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable.”

It’s possible that enough anomalies in the Darwinian paradigm will eventually surface to force scientists to consider another explanation — perhaps even the idea that an intelligent designer played some role. But don’t count on it. Invoking the supernatural to explain the origin of species would suck the oxygen right out of biology. What kind of productive research enterprise could one build and sustain around testing for God? Maybe there is a way to do it, but ID proponents certainly haven’t shown what such a program might look like. Far from it. Their so-called theory is nothing more than a critique of the dominant paradigm — and an incredibly weak one at that.

So we should be relieved that Judge Jones avoided bogging down in the philosophical dispute over demarcation, choosing instead to stick with the program instead — the Enlightenment program.

As Daniel Sarewitz describes it, the program “prescribed the linking of scientific knowledge about the laws of nature to the technological control of nature itself for the benefit and progress of humanity; it was implemented in its most comprehensive and successful form by the Cold War organization of American science; and it is internalized today at every level of the diverse and complex modern research enterprise, and throughout industrialized society as a whole.” (See more here.)

The problem with the Enlightenment program today isn’t what the proponents of intelligent design say it is, namely that it takes God out explanations of nature. As Sarewitz puts it, the problem is that the Enlightenment program’s goal of “freedom from natural caprice . . . is unachievable because the very act of controlling natural systems introduces new variables that increase the unpredictability of the systems’ dynamics.”

So the emergence of complex global issues, such as biodiversity loss, climate change and the spread of disease such as AIDS, may well require some rethinking of how we do science. Many scientists already recognize this and are moving away from narrow, disciplinary research to emphasize broader, interdisciplinary approaches.

But that’s not all. Moral concepts are motivating new research agendas and ways to measure progress, Sarewitz argues. Science increasingly concerns itself with issues of “intergenerational equity” — the idea that we need to find more environmentally sustainable ways of ensuring human well being, not just for our own good but the welfare of our children and their children.

So even as God is excluded from science to protect the Enlightenment program and help ensure robust growth of new knowlwedge, science may be getting a dose of good, old fashioned morality. And thank goodness or God (your choice) for that.

Posted on January 9, 2006 06:28 AM View this article | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Yulsman, T. | Hodge Podge

December 15, 2005

Inside the Policy Sciences

For those of you interested in the intra-community discussions among scholars who study policy, I have a paper just out (it has a 2004 date, but it is just released) in the journal Policy Sciences about the sustainability of the tradition of scholars who are self-described policy scientists, which is the community in which I received my graduate training in the early 1990s and a perspective that I continue to teach today. The paper is part of a special issue of the journal on the future of the Policy Sciences.

My view is that while the academic policy movement is perhaps as strong as ever, the tradition of the policy sciences proposed by the policy movement's founder Harold Lasswell mid-twentieth century faces extinction. My essay motivated three lengthy responses and a chance for a rejoinder.

If you are interested in such stuff you can find the whole exchange here.

Posted on December 15, 2005 08:56 AM View this article | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

November 24, 2005

Prometheus Reader Feedback Forum

As we celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday today, we thought that it might be useful to extend thanks to the many Prometheus readers, commentors and emailers. We appreciate the interaction and lively exchanges. We'd like to hear from you feedback about the site, its content and how it might be improved. Feel free to use the comments here or send us an email.

Posted on November 24, 2005 08:17 AM View this article | Comments (9) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

November 22, 2005

Tom Yulsman on Religion and Science

University of Colorado professor and faculty affiliate to our Center Tom Yulsman has a characteristically thoughful perspective in 20 November The Denver Post titled, "Science and religion face off." Here is an excerpt:

"That millions of Christians and Jews, including many scientists, believe both in God and traditional evolutionary biology, seems almost too obvious to require argument. And they seem to suffer neither from the utopian fantasies and moral degradation predicted by the proponents of intelligent design, nor from the diminution of their spiritual feelings and belief in God..."

Read the whole thing.

Posted on November 22, 2005 03:51 PM View this article | Comments (20) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

November 18, 2005

In Other News

We have coming up a comment on the "hockey stick so what?" exercise. Until then, enjoy the debate, which had a slow start but has become quite substantive. Here also are a few items worth briefly noting.

1. Dan Sarewitz is profiled in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education. Dan is a close friend and colleague. He is also one of the smartest people you'll ever meet. Read the Chronicle article here here. And you can find his various writings here.

2. For our readers in Italy, I have a new book out in Italian (thanks to a set of excellent translators!). Here are the details:

Pielke, Jr., R. A. 2005. Scienza e politica: La lotta per il consenso. (trad. di B. Giovagnoli), Laterza, Lezioni Italiane, Rome.

A considerably longer version in English should be available in 2006, stay tuned.

3. The American Journal of Bioethics blog has a very thoughtful post on the ethical scandal that appears to be engulfing South Korea's stem cell research program. They are promising more substance on this next week in the AJOB, we'll watch closely.

4. The Washington Post reports a former DuPont employee's claims that the company kept hidden for almost 30 years studies that indicated that chemicals used in making Teflon cause adverse health effects. The Environmental Working Group, which is part of this story as a source of internal DuPont documents, notes in a press release that this comes just, "week before a potentially significant date in the civil suit the Bush administration's EPA has pursued against the company for suppressing health studies on PFOA, which is used in the production of Teflon pan coatings." How to reconcile this lawsuit with claims of a Republican "war on science" I don't know, but people are clever and I am sure will figure out a way.

5. More relevant to a war on science was the release this week by the Government Accounting Office of a report (PDF) on the decision process within the FDA that led to the denial of over-the-counter (oTC) status for the so-called "Plan B" drug. We'll have more on this decision next week. The short story is that the Bush Administration has clearly politicized this issue as a way to satisfy its conservative base who strongly oppose abortion. There is no doubt about this. But is is a mistake for those who wish to see Plan B receive OTC status characterize the decision in one in which science dictates a certain outcome. No. This is about the value of making a decision solely on criteria of health safety of the drug versus bringing in broader criteria of the morality of abortion. The decision at FDA was unusual because such broader criteria are rarely a factor in drug decision making. But in areas like medical marijuana, drinking ages, etc. etc. we see such conflicts arise. To argue that science compels a particular decision, as both sides have here, reflects the fact that everyone wants to hide behind science, on what is fundamentally a political decision for all involved.

Posted on November 18, 2005 07:43 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

October 28, 2005

Welcome Kevin Vranes

Through a complicated process involving discerning the significance of goat entails and astrological interpretation, the CIRES visiting fellows committee decided at the beginning of 2005 to offer a visiting fellowship/post-doc to Kevin Vranes, who some of you may recognize as an occasional contributor to Prometheus. Well, let me say I'm glad they made this decision. Kevin is smart, has excellent training and experience in both science and policy, and is going to add some color around here, I have no doubt.

Check out Kevin's most recent posts over at his group weblog, Here is an excerpt:

"It was May 2004 and I had been a Senate staffer for about eight months. Word went out on the wire that there would be two staff briefings on consecutive days for staffers with bosses on the Environment and Public Works Committee. [Yes, that EPW committee. The one chaired by James Inhofe (R-Pluto).] It wasn't made explicit in the announcements, but I could tell that one would be a skeptics day and the other a "climate change is happening" day."

Read the whole post for the whole story.

Vranes' accompanies this post with his 2004 letter to Paul Epstein, which is a classic. If even 10% congressional staff is this thoughtful, then U.S. democracy is in good shape. Here is an excerpt:

"Thank you for briefing Senate staff on climate change and public health today. While I enjoyed the opportunity to have a public discussion on these important issues, and I appreciate your personal mission to educate the public on climate change, I must take exception to the facts and implications you presented. While I share your mission of bringing information about climate change to Congress, I believe you overstated the climate change evidence today to the point of irresponsibility. You, as a scientist and public educator, are not serving the policy-making community well by exaggerating the evidence for consequences of climate change. While talking to Congressional staffers on questions of climate change, you are lecturing to a well-educated and intellectually curious, but largely un-informed crowd. While you may hold personal and/or scientific intuitions about the realities and consequences of climate change, I believe that it is your responsibility, as a working scientist, to present as clear a representation of the facts as possible and to qualify unproven conjecture. By presenting suppositions as fact, confusing unrelated natural mechanisms and citing anecdotal episodes as indicative of larger phenomena without supporting data, you only added to the politicization of this issue."

Read it all.

Kevin will be joining us here at the University of Colorado by January, 2006. Expect Prometheus to get a little more edgy, a bit more sarcastic, and a whole lot more fun than the wonky stuff you are used to. Kevin, we're looking forward to it!

Posted on October 28, 2005 07:58 AM View this article | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

October 20, 2005

Donald Hornig to Speak at CU

For you local folks:

Donald Hornig, Science Adviser To Lyndon Johnson, To Speak At CU-Boulder Oct. 24

Donald Hornig, White House science adviser to former President Lyndon Johnson from 1964 to 1969, will speak at the University of Colorado at Boulder on Monday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel.

The free, public event is part of a year-long lecture series titled "Policy, Politics and Science in the White House: Conversations with Presidential Science Advisers," sponsored by CU-Boulder's Center for Science and Technology Policy Research... Read more.

For more information visit the series website.

**Posted by Bobbie Klein

Posted on October 20, 2005 08:06 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Others | Hodge Podge

September 13, 2005

New Center Website

Thanks to our webmaster extraordinaire, Mark Lohaus, we have a new design for the website of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research.

Please check it out and feedback is appreciated:

Posted on September 13, 2005 09:54 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

September 08, 2005

Edward David Talk

For you local folks:

Dr. Edward E. David, Jr., science adviser to former President Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973, will speak on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus next Monday, Sept. 12 as part of the Center's year-long "Policy, Politics and Science in the White House: Conversations with Presidential Science Advisers" series.

David held the White House post for three years before Nixon abolished it due to political disagreements between the administration and other scientific advisers over the Antiballistic Missile program and Supersonic Transport, although the position was reinstated in 1976. The public talk, which is free and open to the public, will start at 7 p.m. in Old Main Chapel located on the CU-Boulder campus. For directions, see the Web site.

The event will include an interview with David conducted by the center's director, Roger Pielke, Jr., focusing on topics such as how the role of science in the Nixon administration compares with its role in the current Bush administration. It also will include a question-and-answer session with the audience.

David has described science as an "antidote" to politics. "Science is the technique for establishing reality," he said. "In all these arguments about pollution, energy, drugs and product safety, some group has to stand up for reality. That is what science is all about."

David received his doctorate in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as president of the Exxon Research and Engineering Co. from 1977 to 1986. He also was executive director of Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1950 to 1970. David is a past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the U.S. representative to the NATO Science Committee for 16 years. He currently is president of Edward E. David Inc., a company that advises industry, government and academia on technology, research and innovation.

Future series speakers include Neal Lane, science adviser to President Bill Clinton, on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Eaton Humanities Building, room 1B50; Donald Hornig, science adviser to President Lyndon Johnson, on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in Old Main Chapel; and George Keyworth, science adviser to President Ronald Reagan on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. in Hale Science, room 270. Additional information about the series, as well as Web casts, transcripts, audiotapes, photographs from past talks and a library of background materials are available here.

**Posted by Bobbie Klein.

Posted on September 8, 2005 12:57 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Hodge Podge

September 03, 2005

Hurricane Donations and Comment Function

A reader writes:

"Everyone please give what you can to the hurricane relief efforts. Go to (here)."

Also we are aware of the problem with the comments and are fixing it. Thanks!

Posted on September 3, 2005 09:01 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

September 01, 2005

Party ID and ID

Yesterday's New York Times had an interesting article on a recent poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The poll has some interesting findings: "John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said he was surprised to see that teaching both evolution and creationism was favored not only by conservative Christians, but also by majorities of secular respondents, liberal Democrats and those who accept the theory of natural selection."

Let's take a closer look at the data to understand why Mr. Green might have been surprised.

Of the 53% of Democrats who believe that humans evolved over time, fully 20% believe that evolution was "guided by a supreme being." For Republicans the numbers are 40% and 18% respectively. In other words, given the survey's margin of error, the exact same percentage of Democrats as Republicans believe in "Intelligent Design" (ID). (Republicans do outnumber Democratic Creationists, 51% to 38%.)

When the filter is ideology, there is a similar parity. The poll looked at four "ideological" categories, Conservative Republicans, Moderate/Liberal Republicans, Conservative/Moderate Democrats, and Liberal Democrats. Of these four categories, the percentage of each that believe in ID are respectively 19%, 19%, 22%, 17%, just about within the margin of error. There are more Conservative Republican Creationists than Liberal Democratic Creationists (59% to 29%), but in the middle there are just about no differences: 37% Moderate/Liberal Republican Creationists, 41% Conservative/Moderate Democrat Creationists. I'm not surprised to see where there are more Creationists, but I am surprised at the relative numbers in each category.

There are some other interesting findings in the data, such as similar support across party lines for "teaching creationism instead of evolution" (R = 43%, D = 37%) and "teaching creationism along with evolution" (R = 67%, D = 61%). And there are some pronounced differences according to party identification, such as "who should have primary responsibility for deciding how evolution is taught" (Teachers? R = 19%, D = 35%; Parents? R = 51%, D = 35%). But even here the differences are not as large as one might think (or, at least as much as I would have thought).

Bottom line: These data support the thesis that there is more going on in contemporary politics of science than one political party, or even its most ideological elements (and feel free to place Democratic or Republican parties wherever you'd like in this statement depending on your predilections), seeking to undercut science and the other political party rising to its defense. It really makes for a good story, but it's too bad that it is just not true. It may be that discussions of science policy/science politics are becoming Ann Colter-ized and Michael Moore-ized, which I suppose would be the ultimate result of partisan ideologues waging their wars via the politicization of science.

Posted on September 1, 2005 07:05 AM View this article | Comments (6) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

August 18, 2005

Information and Action

An alert Prometheus reader pointed us in the direction of an article in today's New York Times on the effects of Fox News on voting. Here is an excerpt:

"The share of Americans who believe that news organizations are "politically biased in their reporting" increased to 60 percent in 2005, up from 45 percent in 1985, according to polls by the Pew Research Center. Many people also believe that biased reporting influences who wins or loses elections. A new study by Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Ethan Kaplan of the Institute for International Economic Studies at Stockholm University, however, casts doubt on this view. Specifically, the economists ask whether the advent of the Fox News Channel, Rupert Murdoch's cable television network, affected voter behavior. They found that Fox had no detectable effect on which party people voted for, or whether they voted at all."

This view is of course similar to those frequently discussed here, such as the following:

*some believe that the views on climate science advanced by climate skeptics prevents certain actions on climate change, or conversely that the consensus view leads to a different sort of action,

*some believe that views on evolution lead to certain religious beliefs,

*some prominent U.S. leaders would have use believe that the threat of WMDs compels preemptive military action (and there are of course other flavors of this precautionary perspective),

*some argued that the publication Bjorn Lomborg's 2000 book would lead to anti-environmental policies, and so on and on.

The study reported by the New York Times ought to give pause to all of these folks, on all sides of issues, who are waging their political battles through science. There is very little evidence of a political war being waged on science, simply because science is too important to everyone's agenda. What we are seeing are political wars being waging through and with science. This is one subject that has wide bipartisan agreement.

Here is some more from the Times article:

"Why was Fox inconsequential to voter behavior? One possibility is that people search for television shows with a political orientation that matches their own. In this scenario, Fox would have been preaching to the converted. This, however, was not the case: Fox's viewers were about equally likely to identify themselves as Democrats as Republicans, according to a poll by the Pew in 2000. Professors DellaVigna and Kaplan offer two more promising explanations. First, watching Fox could have confirmed both Democratic and Republican viewers' inclinations, an effect known as confirmatory bias in psychology. (Borrowing from Simon and Garfunkel, confirmatory bias is a tendency to hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest.) When Yankee and Red Sox fans watch replays of the same disputed umpire's ruling, for example, they both come away more convinced that their team was in the right. One might expect Fox viewers to have increased their likelihood of voting, however, if Fox energized both sides' bases. The professors' preferred explanation is that the public manages to "filter" biased media reports. Fox's format, for example, might alert the audience to take the views expressed with more than the usual grain of salt. Audiences may also filter biases from other networks' shows."

The bottom line is that the world is much more complicated than a linear path from information to action might suggest.

Posted on August 18, 2005 03:26 PM View this article | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

August 09, 2005

On Hanging Yourself in Public

Often here at Prometheus we take issue with scientists who assert that a certain view on science compels a specific political agenda. We less frequently comment of the opposite case, scientists who claim that a particular political ideology determines scientific findings. The reasons for this are pretty obvious; hardly any scientist would make such a claim.

But in a stunning example of what appears to be a public career suicide, Climatologist Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist for University of Alabama in Huntsville well known for his long-time collaborations with John Christy on satellite temperature trends, has written an article for Tech Central Station in which he claims that he "came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism."

Now without a doubt there is an important debate underway in some parts of the United States about what should be taught in biology classes. And understanding this debate requires some considerable nuance. It requires, for example, an appreciation that some have used evolution as a vehicle to advance their own views on religion, which in a perverse way helps to motivate the ID movement. Both of these views go well beyond science, as evolution says nothing about religion, one way or the other. Such questions are, in the words of Alvin Weinberg, trans-scientific. And Spencer does a pretty poor job recognizing any sort of nuance in his piece. Contrast Spencer's muddled perspective with the clear views expressed by the president of the American Astronomical Society in a letter to President Bush on this subject (thanks to Chris Mooney and Carl Zimmer): ""Intelligent design" isn't even part of science - it is a religious idea that doesn't have a place in the science curriculum."

One has to question the judgment of Roy Spencer opining in support of ID in a fairly simplistic way on a prominent WWW outlet (and also TCS for allowing him to do so; to be fair to TCS they have published a diversity of views on ID). The lapse in judgment seems particularly egregious occurring in the same week that, as word on the street has it, Science magazine will be publishing several papers that identify errors in his calculations of satellite temperature trends. Irrespective of the merits of his climate research, and by all accounts it is solid science, he will forever be known as the climate scientist who believes in "Intelligent Design." I can see the characterizations now -- "How can you believe the science of someone who doesn't even believe in evolution?"

And this gets us to the larger point here. Spencer, perhaps inadvertently, gives support to the notion that scientific results are simply a function of ideology. This view, in conjunction with a view that "sound science" or "consensus science" compels particular political outcomes, leads to a transitive relationship where ideology determines science and science determines political outcomes, which in other words means that science is simply irrelevant to policy debates, other than a vehicle for ideological expressions. This would be a bad outcome because science matters for policy. Just not in the way that Roy Spencer and Paul Krugman would have you believe.

Posted on August 9, 2005 06:37 PM View this article | Comments (12) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

July 07, 2005


Sympathies to friends, colleagues and all in London and the UK who are dealing with the horrible events of today.

Posted on July 7, 2005 09:00 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

July 05, 2005

Workshop/Symposium: *Atmospheric Science and Policy Research* - 2006 AMS Conference

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) will hold its first Symposium on Policy Research on 1-2 February 2006, as part of the 86th AMS Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Preliminary programs, registration, hotel, and general information will be posted on the AMS Web site in mid-September 2005.

Increasingly, policy issues matter to the Earth system sciences and Earth system science-based service community. Research and analysis of those issues is growing commensurately. Papers are solicited that discuss policy research in the Earth system sciences and services. This AMS Symposium on Policy Research is intended to provide a forum where (i) researchers can share their findings and report on recent progress, (ii) policy makers can dialog with researchers about areas that merit further analysis and why, and (iii) and researchers can dialog with each other and with federal agency officials and others about topics and themes for future Symposia. This Symposium should allow for discussion of the need for stable, structured funding for research in this field, and for outlets for research, such as an AMS Policy Journal. Symposium sessions will be organized along the three areas described above. Because the lines between policy research and the social sciences are not sharply drawn, contributed papers on such related topics will be welcome. For this initial year, the AMS Policy Program will develop the Symposium program in cooperation with the Board on Societal Impacts.

The 86th Annual Meeting is being organized around the broad theme of "Applications of Weather and Climate Data" with an emphasis on documenting success stories in the applications of atmospheric, hydrologic and oceanic sciences, and the research needed to continue benefiting from new knowledge. Two integrating subthemes that will be highlighted are "Managing Our Physical and Natural Resources: Successes and Challenges" and "Environmental Risks and Impacts on Society: Successes and Challenges." Please submit abstracts electronically via the Web by 1 August 2005 (refer to the AMS Web page for instructions).

Posted on July 5, 2005 03:16 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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June 06, 2005

Is Persuasion Dead?

In yesterday’s New York Times Matt Miller has a very thoughtful column, in which has asks, “Is persuasion dead?”

“Speaking just between us - between one who writes columns and those who read them - I've had this nagging question about the whole enterprise we're engaged in. Is persuasion dead? And if so, does it matter? The significance of this query goes beyond the feelings of futility I'll suffer if it turns out I've wasted my life on work that is useless. This is bigger than one writer's insecurities. Is it possible in America today to convince anyone of anything he doesn't already believe? If so, are there enough places where this mingling of minds occurs to sustain a democracy? The signs are not good. Ninety percent of political conversation amounts to dueling "talking points." Best-selling books reinforce what folks thought when they bought them. Talk radio and opinion journals preach to the converted. Let's face it: the purpose of most political speech is not to persuade but to win, be it power, ratings, celebrity or even cash. By contrast, marshaling a case to persuade those who start from a different position is a lost art. Honoring what's right in the other side's argument seems a superfluous thing that can only cause trouble, like an appendix. Politicos huddle with like-minded souls in opinion cocoons that seem impervious to facts.”

Read the whole this here.

I am very sympathetic to his concerns.

Posted on June 6, 2005 08:10 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

January 28, 2005

A Friday Hodgepodge

With all of the hullabaloo about politics and the IPCC, we have not had a chance this week to post on other issues of science policy. But even so, if you make it to the bottom you'll see that we close this week where we started.

Jessie C. Gruman of the Center for the Advancement of Health writes in a letter in this week's Science, " ... there is no reason to believe that the behavior of the [Bush] administration that has so perturbed the scientific community will change in the coming years. Therefore, it is critical that scientists organize, choose their battles carefully, and guard against self-serving advocacy that undermines science as an objective tool to guide decisions about medicine, public health, safety, the environment, economic development, and national security." In addition to watch dogging the Bush Administration, certainly effort well spent, the scientific community might also devote some effort to guarding against self-serving advocacy. This is important because lack of attention to the latter might make it harder to do the former.

In a column in last Sunday's New York Times, James Fallows discusses the technology policies of the Bush Administration writing, "In its first term, the Bush team made a few important pro-technology choices. Over the next year it will signal whether it intends to stand by them." Fallows highlights the continuing debate about the roles of the public and private sectors in weather services as one area of technology policy where the Bush Administration could make a mark. (In 2001, I made a similar argument.) Fallows oversimplifies the issue however. The current imbroglio over weather services has a 50 year history and current policies have little to do with the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration could yet make a mark on this issue, but understanding the issues at stake and why it matters are necessary first steps. A primer on the issue can be found here.

There is a second point to be made about Fallows' column. In it he quotes Barry Lee Myers, executive vice president of AccuWeather, a leading commercial weather services firm long at odds with the National Weather Service, ""We feel that they spend a lot of their funding and attention on duplicating products and services that already exist in the private sector, And they are not spending the kind of time and effort that is needed on catastrophic issues that involve lives and property, which I think is really their true function." He added that the weather service might have done a better, faster job of warning about the southern Asian tsunami if it had not been distracted in this way." This is a cheap shot by Myers.

At David Dickson has (yet another) thoughtful column titled, "Can Africa pioneer a new way of doing science?". In it he writes, " science and technology must not be seen by policy-makers as determinants of development, in the sense of encouraging the idea greater investment in science and technology will somehow lead automatically to social and economic progress... Rather, both must be seen, as Keith Bezanson and Geoff Oldham argued in this editorial column two weeks ago, as components of broader 'systems of innovation', in which other elements, ranging from intellectual property laws to strengthened university-industry links, have just as essential a role to play." Dickson describes the merits of "Mode 2" science (versus the pitfalls of "Mode 1") and provides a link to a paper (PDF) by Nowoty et al. on Mode 2. It is all well worth reading.

The February 2005 issue of the journal Environmental Science & Policy arrived this week and in it is a paper by Nathaniel Logar and Leslie Kaas Pollock titled, "Transgenic fish: is a new policy framework necessary for a new technology?" According to their abstract, "This paper examines the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval process for transgenic fish and finds if it will likely prohibit effective regulation of this fish, consequently risking the environmental health of aquatic ecosystems. Additionally, the closed-door process causes three problems: (1) concerned interests do not have access to information and are thus forced to rely on speculation, (2) the process is unable to take into account the values of the public and (3) any opportunity for meaningful public comment on environmental impacts is lost. We propose that policy makers consider creating a regulatory framework that is capable of addressing the unique environmental risks posed by transgenic fish and incorporating public participation into the process." Not only is this a good paper but it happens to have originated as a term paper in one of my graduate seminars a few years ago. Nat and Leslie are students in our graduate program in environmental studies. Congrats Nat and Leslie!!

And finally, this week's Science adds a bit more detail to the Landsea/IPCC brouhaha in a news story,

"In an e-mail to Science, IPCC Secretary-General R. K. Pachauri repeated what he had told Landsea: "In their own individual rights, [IPCC authors] are free to express their views on any subject, including various aspects of climate change." Trenberth told Science that "it's ridiculous to suggest I [was] representing the IPCC"; his role as an author was mentioned during the October event merely as "part of my credentials." He also defended his view that changing sea conditions could be contributing to greater hurricane intensity."

It seems a bit precious for the IPCC to tacitly condone the use of IPCC affiliation as part of scientists credentials while at the same giving those same scientists license to say whatever they want on climate change. The IPCC should either ask scientists to refrain from using their IPCC affiliation when making scientific claims that are inconsistent with the IPCC, or conversely, when scientists use their IPCC affiliation to burnish their credentials they should be sure to clearly identify the IPCC's position on the topic being discussed. To do otherwise is to invite the politicization of the IPCC process.

Posted on January 28, 2005 10:26 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

December 30, 2004

Prometheus Office Pool, 2005

1) When the president’s FY 2006 budget is released it will show for NSF (a) a significant cut of 5%, (b) funding increase at the inflation rate, (c) a large increase on the way to a doubling, (d) a cut equal to the overall decline in discretionary spending

2) In 2005 a decision will be made about the Hubble Space Telescope to, (a) be serviced by a robot, (b) be serviced by a shuttle mission, (c) fall into the ocean with no repair mission, (d) put off the decision until 2006

3) When overall FY 2006 federal spending for R&D turns out to show a lower rate of increase (or even a decrease) from recent years members of the scientific community will, (a) break tradition and increasingly take on one another’s programs as a source of funds, (b) criticize the president and congress for punishing scientists for their advocacy in the 2004 election, (c) look increasingly to academic earmarks, (d) make louder pronouncements about a pending shortage of scientists

4) California’s Proposition 71 will be (a) rocked by scandal, (b) hailed for early therapeutic breakthroughs, (c) rarely in the news outside of California, (d) emulated by biotech interests in other states

5) The IPCC will (a) drop all pretensions of honest brokering and explicitly merge with the FCCC’s SBSTA, (b) see a continuing erosion of its legitimacy, (c) set up an external advisory body to help it connect its activities with the needs of policy makers, (d) forbid participation to scientists from countries having ratified the Kyoto Protocol

6) U.S. climate policy will be notable because (a) its dogged pursuit of the status quo, (b) its reengagement with international negotiations, (c) of record increases in funding of climate science, (d) it begins to highlight the inconsistent definitions of “climate change” used by the IPCC and FCCC

7) The president’s science advisor on 31 Dec 2005 will be (a) John Marburger, (b) Norman Augustine, (c) Mary Ann Fox, (d) a vacant position

8) The FDA will be (a) thoroughly investigated by Congress, (b) reorganized to reduce internal conflicts of interest, (c) start advertising to the public that for safety reasons there are drugs it has not allowed to market, (d) be rocked by continuing findings about the health effects of popular drugs recently approved

9) The big international issue in science and technology will be (a) natural disaster reduction, (b) discovery of life beyond earth, (c) concern over signs of an emerging pandemic, (d) abrupt climate change

10) Here at Prometheus we will see (a) an angel bequeathing an endowed chair and other goodies, (b) a steady rise in readership and comments, (c) an end to this blog experiment and retreat to the comforts of the peer-reviewed academic literature, (d) the addition of a few more regular posters.

My guesses: 1. (b), 2. (b), 3. all of the above, 4. (c), 5. (b), but (a) would be possible without the word “explicitly,” 6. (a), (d) is my wishful thinking, 7. (a), 8. (a), 9. (a), 10. I’m counting on (b) and am hopeful for (d) and, of course, (a) would sure be nice.

A final note of heartfelt thanks to Shep Ryen, who has made Promethus not only possible, but a success beyond anything I had imagined when we first cooked it up!

Happy New Year!

Posted on December 30, 2004 05:19 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

December 23, 2004

Happy Holidays!!

Happy Holidays to All Prometheus Readers!  We’ll be back in action next week.  Meantime, a Thursday whip:

Obstacles to emissions reductions and alternative energy.  In addition to spending time looking at global legal frameworks and regimes, it may be worth also looking at policies at a slightly smaller scale.  NPR has a cautionary tale, listen here.

Living with uncertainty, part 1.  On the apparent health risks associated with painkillers, Gina Kolata has an excellent article in yesterday’s New York Times on the tradeoffs and uncertainties associated with developing and using new drugs.  She relates the view of Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, a cancer surgeon at Harvard, “science simply does not and can not have all the answers. Every drug has risks and benefits, and often it is impossible to know all of them even after a drug is being sold. But that does not mean that drugs are bad or that federal regulators are lax.  "It's muddy," Dr. Bresalier said. "Even people who are experts don't have the answers."”

Living with uncertainty, part 2.  Yesterday we learned that a recount of the election results  for governor in Washington now show a 10 vote margin for the Democratic candidate.  Consider this commentary from a few weeks ago, “The difference between Rossi and Gregoire is now less than 0.0015 percent — 1,372,484 votes for Rossi, 1,372,442 votes for Gregoire. If this were a 100-yard dash, Rossi's lead would be slightly more than a millimeter… [Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed] said “said he expects to get an accurate and solid count back from the counties in a hand recount, but there's an inherent variability in election results, which he called "99.9 percent accurate."”  You do the math.

Are universities special?  When it comes to protecting their patent rights, maybe not says an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.  “Through legal maneuvering, Columbia [University won a new patent in 2002 with similar claims as the old ones. Soon, Columbia demanded more royalties -- until 2019 -- from various companies. Many balked… The Columbia case has added fuel to the debate over how aggressive universities should be in securing and protecting patents. Some argue that giving universities free rein to grab patent riches can damage academic values such as open inquiry and stifle basic research, since university scientists typically patent early-stage discoveries… Columbia and its defenders say the university is being unfairly maligned for doing what all patent holders are legally entitled to do.”  The article requires a subscription to view:  B. Wysocki, Jr. Columbia's Pursuit Of Patent Riches Angers Companies As University Seeks to Extend A $600 Million Bonanza, Biotechs Refuse to Pay Up Debate Over Academic Values, The Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2004; Page A1.

Posted on December 23, 2004 10:18 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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December 17, 2004

A Friday Whip

The Washington Post yesterday reported, “Almost one-fifth of the Food and Drug Administration scientists surveyed two years ago as part of an official review said they had been pressured to recommend approval of a new drug despite reservations about its safety, effectiveness or quality.” This seems to be a case an extreme misuse of science. This is a case worth watching closely.

The NRC released a report yesterday on “radiative forcing” of climate change. Among other interesting content, not only does the report through down some touch challenges for IPCC WGI, it raises a difficult (and ironic) policy quandary – what are the policy implications if action to reduce GHGs actually results in a magnification of climate change impacts (pp. 113-114)?

A new blog has appeared, Real Climate, which promises to restrict discussion “to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.” This is an experiment worth watching (and we are). Its recent focus on Myron Ebell, Michael Crichton, and on areas of climate science that are politically controversial suggest that thus far this particular experiment offers plenty of support for recent a recent thesis of Dan Sarewitz: namely how science makes environmental controversies worse.

David Dickson discusses low-tech versus high-tech approaches to meeting the challenges of malaria – vaccines versus bednets, provides an excellent case study of the challenges faced in a wide range of issues.

Tremors in political perspectives seem to be shaking the foundations of some long-held beliefs on climate change, a sign of foundation-shaking earthquakes ahead? For example, over at the conservative-leaning Tech Central Station there are signs in its coverage of COP10 that while their opposition to the Kyoto remains steadfast, their justifications are shifting in striking fashion. Meanwhile, on the other side a essay titled “The Death of Environmentalism” focuses mainly on climate change and has evoked a passionate defense of the status quo. We may be entering an era where the most interesting debates are enviro vs. enviro and skeptic vs. skeptic. Stay tuned …

So much to blog, so little time ….

Posted on December 17, 2004 10:27 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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December 14, 2004

State of Fear Part II

Continuing our discussion below Dan Sarewitz writes:

Scientists get hysterical whenever anyone questions their authority, pokes fun at them, doesn't take them seriously. They also tend to be incredibly ignorant about the processes by which political debates get played out, public opinion gets formed, etc. And they are apparently oblivious about the connections between their own work as scientists, and their value commitments as citizens and human beings. When the problem of climate change gets overblown or distorted in movies or by environmental groups, are the same scientists who are freaking out about Crichton's goofy book decrying distortions in the other direction? There seems to be no awareness (or at least no acknowledgement) that the reason Crichton's book is galling is not because he distorts the science (if this were the case, almost every science fiction book would create collective apoplexy), but because the scientist-critics don't like his politics. From this perspective, Crichton and his scientist-critics both labor under the same fallacy: that science dictates action in the world. It doesn't.

Posted on December 14, 2004 04:35 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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State of Fear

Tom Yulsman writes:

Michael Crichton's new book, "State of Fear," is a lampoon of environmentalists and a crusade against climate change science. According to Andy Revkin in today's New York Times, one environmental group in the book "sends agents in Prius hybrid cars to kill foes with bites from blue-ringed octopuses carried in sandwich bags." (Maybe I should try this during my next faculty meeting!)

Climate scientists concerned about the impact of the book are probably damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they ignore Crichton, his evidently anti-science message wins — through the sheer power of his celebrity. If they publiclly rebut him on the merits of the case, they further publicize the book (already second on Amazon's best seller list). And he wins again because of his celebrity.

So, any opinions about "State of Fear" and how scientists should respond to it?

— Tom Yulsman, Center for Environmental Journalism

Roger Pielke responds:

Does it really have to come to this?

In today’s New York Times, climate scientist James Hansen criticizes novelist Michael Crichton for “pretending.” Is this really how the climate science community wants to engage this issue? Take a close look; we are seeing glimpses of where the scientific enterprise is headed -- “The Day After Tomorrow” vs. Michael Crichton. And don’t kid yourself into believing that science will in the end dominate any public, political debate -- movie makers and novelists will always be more compelling to the public than scientists. What is at risk here is more than just political outcomes over climate change.

A quote worth emphasizing:

“In the resulting media contest [over science] between competing authorities, it is not possible to tell whether science or politics is speaking. We then lose both the power of science and the credibility of democratic process.”

Kantrowitz, A., 1994. Elitism vs. checks and balances in communicating scientific information to the public. Risk: Health, Saf. Environ. 101

Posted on December 14, 2004 03:23 PM View this article | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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October 04, 2004

Data Quality & David Brooks

Update on NOAA/DQA ...

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, one of the groups responsible for pushing the Data Quality Act, links to this update on the status of attempts to exempt NOAA from the DQA.

David Brooks, Stalwarts, Dealers

David Brooks’ 2 October 2004 column in the New York times paints a picture of George Bush and John Kerry quite similar to my distinction between stalwarts and dealers.

Posted on October 4, 2004 01:23 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

September 02, 2004

Hurricane Francis

It’s been a rough hurricane season, all in one month. Now Hurricane Frances is approaching Florida as a Saffir/Simpson Category 4 storm. Worst case scenarios suggest the potential for a significant disaster. The U.S. National Hurricane Center has had as difficult a year as in recent memory with Charley and Gaston.

I spent a number of years studying hurricanes and their impacts, and know that they can lead to devastating disasters. In the next few days we should all send our best wishes to the forecasters, first responders, and Florida residents who all need a little luck to escape the worst of Frances.

Posted on September 2, 2004 08:18 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

September 01, 2004

Mindset List

Beloit College recently released its widely circulated “Mindset List” which aims to help faculty understand how the world looks from the perspective of entering college freshmen, many of whom this year were born in 1986.

As always, the Mindset List for the Class of 2008 includes a range of interesting and funny observations. It has a few notable oversights (e.g., the internet? The Challenger accident?) and a few mistakes (Mike Tyson, contender? And The Shining predates Johnny Carson’s retirement by 12 years …). But what is most interesting to me about the Mindset List is it overwhelming reliance on allusions relevant exclusively to the Baby Boom generation -- e.g., Desi Arnaz, Orson Welles, Roy Orbison? What about John Belushi, Kurt Cobain, Princess Diana?.

In the future, the folks at Beloit might want to factor in some input from Generation Xers, who are now coming to occupy more and more faculty positions as the oldest of Boomer’s approach and enter their retirement years. This leads me to think that perhaps we are in need of a separate Mindset List to highlight the different perspectives of senior faculty who can remember where they were when Kennedy was shot and junior faculty who too young or weren’t yet born in 1963, but sure know where they were when the heard that the Space Shuttle had exploded in 1986 (e.g., compare this thesis (in PDF)).

Posted on September 1, 2004 10:25 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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August 06, 2004

Reader Challenge

In an editorial this week about science in the political process Nature makes the following assertion:

“In the current polarized political climate, it is hardly surprising that some scientists should swing behind Kerry in this way — the research community traditionally votes overwhelmingly Democratic.”

I am unaware of any data that might support this claim. I don’t disagree with the claim; I just have no basis on which to accept it or disagree with it. I am leery of conventional wisdom that lacks an empirical grounding.

So here is the challenge for you: Is anyone aware of a study or survey that would support or refute the Nature claim of the partisan tilt among researchers? Send us ( your thoughts and we’ll post the results.

Posted on August 6, 2004 11:55 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

August 05, 2004

Several Minor Housekeeping Items

We've created a permanent link to my recent op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News on the role of science in the stem cell debate.

The interview I participated in last week on the show "Against the Grain" can be found here (scroll down), but it will only be online for a few weeks.

Posted on August 5, 2004 09:38 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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August 03, 2004

Radio Interview Q&A

A Prometheus reader posted a few questions after listening to a radio interview on climate change I participated in last week. Here are a few replies:

Comment: “Your points about separating climate and energy policy are interesting. You argue that the climate problem, for a variety of reasons, hasn't galvanized the necessary support for mandatory GHG reductions. You then posit energy independence could serve as the real impetus. You may be right, but do you have any data (public opinion or otherwise) to support this argument?”

Reply: I don’t have any data simply because the approach I am recommending has not been tried. There is some indirect evidence, however. Opinion polls routinely show that among the public, national security is considered more important than climate change. Here is a recent example of such a poll conducted in the U.K. from the BBC. What we do have is considerable evidence on how well the current approach is working. And the evidence shows, as discussed here on numerous occasions, that the current approach is not working very well. At some point it may be worth considering alternative strategies, even if they are untested (or perhaps because they are untested). This was the gist of our 2000 article in the Atlantic Monthly. It may be that the current approach to climate is the best one possible; however, it seems that such an argument is an increasingly hard case to make, particularly since there are many options yet untried.

Comment: “Also, with increasing mandatory action on GHG emissions at the state level (with climate change serving as the rationale) and growing support for legislation like McCain/Lieberman, might we be near a tipping point where the climate problem resonates with politicians enough to influence energy policy effectively ? Or do you still believe energy independence/efficiency arguments will make a more compelling, sensible case?”

Reply: The latter. The state actions and McCain/Lieberman are in my view watered down versions of the current, failing approach to climate policy. For many folks these policies are no doubt symbolically important and emotionally satisfying, but from the standpoint of addressing future climate impacts, these policies are, to say the least, substantively wanting. Ultimately, the proof of performance of any of these policies will lie in (a) the global level of greenhouse gas emissions, and (b) the vulnerability of people and ecosystems to climate.

July 28, 2004

Radio Interview

Today at 12:30 PM Pacific I’ll be appearing on a radio show called Against the Grain which is carried on KPFA 94.1 FM & KFCF 88.1 FM in Northern and Central California. The topic will be global warming. The program has a nice web archive, so we’ll post a link when available. You can also listen to it live online from this link.

July 05, 2004

Predicting Elections

Here we go again.  A Reuter’s article from last week reports that statistical models developed by political scientists predict a victory by George Bush over John Kerry.  My view is that such models are little more than parlor games for academics.

Reuters reports that,  “Polls may show the presidential race in a dead heat, but for a small band of academics who use scientific formulas to predict elections President Bush is on his way to a sizable win.  That's the conclusion of a handful of political scientists who, with mixed results, have honed the art of election forecasting by devising elaborate mathematical formulas based on key measures of the nation's economic health and the public's political views.”

Of course there is the fact that these very same models completely missed the 2000 election, which the Reuter’s article does point out:

“But one glaring error is what the forecasters are perhaps best remembered for: they predicted in 2000 that Democrat Al Gore would win easily, pegging his total at between 53 and 60 percent of the two-party vote.  This dealt a fatal blow to the models' credibility, said Thomas Mann, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written about election forecasts.  ‘There's really less there than meets the eye, and I get the sense the forecasters will be going out of business soon,’ Mann said.  These economic-centered models are ‘irrelevant’ for 2004, Mann said, because of the prominence of foreign policy issues and the unpredictability of the war in Iraq.   The forecasters chalk up the 2000 error to Gore's campaign, which distanced itself from the Clinton record. All the models assume the candidates will run reasonably competent campaigns, said Thomas Holbrook, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.”

The notion that the fault for the error lies in reality and not the model is a common perspective among modelers from all disciplines (see, e.g., the work of my colleague Myanna Lahsen who has found this trait among climate modelers).  If the model’s assumptions don’t square with realty then to me it seems pretty clear that the model will have limited use as a prognostic tool.  To assume that the model is “correct” and reality must live up to the model is an exercise in Matrix-ish self delusion.  Rather than trying to see the future, political science might serve us better by helping citizens to create that future by clarifying the choices we face and their possible consequences for policy.

A hard-hitting, but on-target evaluation of presidential forecasting models can be found in this May, 2000 article from Slate, “The Phony Science of Predicting Elections -- Who'll win in November? The experts' guess is as good as yours.”

Accompanying the Slate article is a sidebar that asks, “Do econometric models explain presidential elections, or do their authors simply play with figures until they stumble onto a formula that fits the curve of a handful of election results?”  To answer this question they present a statistical model based on the losing points of the election-year super bowl winner and whether a major world power boycotts the Olympics.  This model correctly predicted the popular vote outcome in every election since 1968, and accurately forecasted that Al Gore would win the popular vote.  For 2004 it predicts that John Kerry will receive 48.7% of the vote.

Posted on July 5, 2004 12:32 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

June 30, 2004

Understanding Torture: What Role for Science?

On Monday the AAAS held a half day forum on torture as "part of a series of international activities to observe the United Nation's International Day in Support of Victims of Torture."

One speaker, Martha Huggins, the Charles A. and Leo M. Favrot Professor of Human Relations at Tulane University, observed in her presentation that there are "political, social, and cultural facilitating conditions that promote, encourage, and excuse" torture.
According to a AAAS story on the event:

"During a question and answer period, one person in the audience identified himself as a former military policeman and suggested the panel was presenting only one side of the argument. But what should happen, he asked, if terrorists warned of a nuclear device set to detonate in New York in two hours? If they apprehended suspects, might it not be justified to take extreme measures to induce them to talk if that might save millions of lives?  But [panelst Robvert K.] Goldman [of Washington College of Law at American University] insisted that torture would not be justified, and he said the question itself marks the top of the slippery slope. 'If you authorize the use of torture in the case of the ticking bomb,' he said, 'then it will eventually work its way down to protected persons.'"

It seems to me that even if social science may provide useful information about prison and detainment conditions that foster torture, there is nothing that any type of science can tell us about if and when torture might be justified (though, perhaps the humanities can shed some insight). In its forum and report on the forum the AAAS does not appear to have made any distinction between what science can and can't offer to thinking about torture, and that creates conditions ripe for a misuse of science (in our taxonomy, arguing politics/morals through science).

Posted on June 30, 2004 08:21 AM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

June 23, 2004

Hurricane Forecasts: From Computer Screen to Evacuation

Several US newspapers recently ran an Associated Press story on a new NOAA research initiative called the Joint Hurricane Testbed. The project aims to better facilitate pre-hurricane evacuation decisions by brining together "the academic, operational, and research communities in hurricane forecasting." In other words, it gives everyone a seat at the hurricane forecasting table from the beginning. And as a result, it hopes to "transition research projects into operations faster and more efficiently" according to Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center Director.

At a time when agencies are all abuzz with dreams of fast and efficient technology transfer, this program has definite potential. It coordinates the activities and goals of each community - the academic, the operational, and the research - from the outset, rather than relying on the often-flawed academy-to-research-to-operations information pathway.

Several other elements must be in place to ensure a successful transfer of research from operations, but this program is starting right so it'll be worth checking back after the 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

June 14, 2004

Koshland Science Museum

While in DC, I visited NAS's Koshland Science Museum, a new(ish) science museum for the older crowd, and gentle plug for the work of the Academies. Their current exhibits focus on climate change and DNA, and I think do an ok job of presenting a basic, skin-deep understanding of some of the science in those fields. Unfortunately, I can't really tell what the take home message is, except maybe an unsurprising "science is great" spirit. The exhibits seem to skip any hint of values conflicts or political problems, suggesting that DNA testing catches bad guys and not mentioning the possibility of cancelled insurance policies... Not that I'd really expect the NAS to market potential problems, but I do wonder how much the museum can really contribute.

Posted on June 14, 2004 03:02 PM View this article | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Ryen, T.S. | Hodge Podge

May 05, 2004

Technology Policy, Privacy, and Anonymity

Yesterday, the AAAS, American Bar Association, and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars co-sponsored a "">symposium, "In Search of J. Doe: Can Anonymity Survive in Post-9/11 Society?"

The Workshop sought to discuss the significance of distinguishing between "privacy" and "anonymity." A background paper for the workshop explains the difference as follows:

"Anonymity is often confused with privacy. Though related, they are not the same. Anonymity, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is the quality or state of being unknown or unacknowledged. Privacy is not about concealing ones identity. Rather, as Websters dictionary puts it, privacy is the state of being in retirement from the company or observation of others; seclusion."

The background paper observes that not all consider the distinction between anonymity and privacy to be significant.

But inescapable on this issue is the fact that technology -- and consequently policies governing technology -- force new and challenging questions to be asked. For a while now, technology policy has been about much more than just industrial policy.

Posted on May 5, 2004 10:58 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

April 28, 2004

The Day after Tomorrow

For the next month or so you can expect public discussions over climate change to be closely linked to the forthcoming movie The Day after Tomorrow. Reactions to the movie already have shown more than a little comedy and absurdity. For example,

*NASA reportedly asked its staff not to present themselves in discussions with the media as promoting the movie,

*a climate scientist commented with envy about how well the movie’s budget would fund his personal research,

*a long-time opponent of action on energy policy warning that the movie might, like The China Syndrome, lead to bad policies, and

*a prominent supporter of action on energy policy suggested that the movie’s scenario is real and worth investigating.

Meanwhile as the media seeks out comments scientists have been scrambling to position themselves politically and scientifically with respect to the movie, using various strategies. These various strategies will be worth closer examination in a future post.

In coming weeks I’ll have more to say about the movie – or more accurately, like everyone else I’ll use the movie to popularize our particular views on climate science and policy. I’ve got an article coming out soon and I’ll link it here.

For now, from here is the most honest and accurate comment (registration required) on the movie I’ve seen yet:

“Mark Gordon, producer on the $125 million pic, said no one involved in the picture planned to participate in the [environmental] campaign, and he didn't think the sudden attention would affect "Day's" box office potential.

‘If they want to use our picture to make people aware of their concerns about the environment, it's not anything I have control over,’ Gordon said. ‘My biggest issue is that the movie opens to the biggest number we can. The fact that there is enthusiasm, controversy and discussion is only good for our business.’”

Posted on April 28, 2004 10:45 AM View this article | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Hodge Podge

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