Mondays are slow. This Monday seems extra slow, so here is a smorgasbord of items to note in this irregularly posted segment about science and policy in the news to keep you occupied:

  • Federal funding for science and research got a huge boost from the stimulus in the past few years. With Republicans gaining control of the House of Representatives these gains in funding are likely to be severely cut back. AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) reports that the Republican’s A Pledge To America would:

    [cut] government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels for the FY 2011 budget, would cut the federal R&D investment by $8.1 billion (5.5%) from FY 2010 and $8.5 billion (5.7%) from the President’s FY 2011 request… The hardest hit agencies would be those that were authorized in America COMPETES Act and have seen strong increases since the Act was passed in 2007. These agencies include the National Science Foundation (-11.1% in R&D from FY 2010), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (-14.8% in R&D from FY 2010), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (-14.1% in R&D from FY 2010). For the National Science Foundation, this equates to over 1,400 less new awards than in FY 2010.

  • Results from a huge study that focused on the public knowledge and perception about climate change has just been released. Some encouraging findings:
    • 63% of Americans believe global warming is occuring
    • 75% say they would like to know more about the issue
    • 75% say schools should teach children about climate change, and
    • 68% say they would welcome a national program to educate the public about climate change

    Now for the discouraging findings:

    large majorities incorrectly think that the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans contribute to global warming, leading many to incorrectly conclude that banning aerosol spray cans or stopping rockets from punching holes in the ozone layer are viable solutions. Many do not understand why [climate change is occurring].


    By the Blogger Convention of 2003, any post on climate change must contain at least one scary picture of smokestacks.

    Luckily despite the bad press over Climategate, Americans still trust scientists and scientific organizations for news and information about climate change over other news sources. Which leads directly into the next point…

  • UPDATE: RC kindly informed me that this news article incorrectly reports the AGUs initiatives in this area. Here is a news release by the AGU explaining their efforts more clearly. Original post follows:A group of 700 scientists have pledged to leave the labs (for a while) and push back at climate change deniers in the public eye.

    “This group feels strongly that science and politics can’t be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists,”

    Another reason why informing the public about your research is important!

  • Lastly, a group of seismologists in Italy are facing charges for failing to warn the public about an impending earthquake that killed more than 300 people. The only problem being that there is no scientifically established way to predict earthquakes! From a letter written by the executive publisher of Science magazine to the president of Italy:

    The basis for indictments brought by the local prosecutor in L’Aquila “appears to be that the scientists failed to alert the population of L’Aquila of an impending earthquake, however, there is no way they could have done that credibly. Years of research, much of it conducted by distinguished seismologists in your own country, have demonstrated that there is no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction that can be reliably used to warn citizens of an impending disaster.”

So there are some interesting things for you to digest on a Monday. Let me know if you find this interesting and I’ll hopefully keep it up on a bi-weekly basis or so.

– PV


4 responses »

  1. I find this quite interesting! Please do keep it up on a biweekly basis!

  2. Luke says:

    As a side note to the final section of this post, I wanted to show off to all you science geeks (and aspiring ones) that you don’t have to gamble your hard earned money on sports anymore! Now you can bet on which volcano will erupt next!

  3. Dan Bodoh says:

    I wonder if some future scientists will be sued for failing to adequately warn the public about climate change.

  4. Dave Vallett says:

    Dan – only if certain members of the public (or Congress) can be sued for being ignorant … 😉

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