Science Education & Policy

Since 1990 organic food has been allowed to exist independently of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the one federal agency responsible for food safety and quality. Sure, organic food still gets recalls, lots of them - using feces as fertilizer and having customers who think food doesn't need to be washed will do that - but the definition of 'organic' is not determined by the USDA.

Those dozens and dozens of synthetic additives allowed on the organic food National List? That is because of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which was created by Congress in 1990. The reason there is no quality assurance for organic food and no surprise spot testing to make sure organic farming is actually organic ? Also thanks to the NOSB. 
When UK Child-Mortality-Rates (CMR) for children aged 0-14 were compared with 20 other Western countries between 1979-2010, it revealed a "scandal",

Countries such as Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain had child death rates higher in 1979 than the UK’s but are now all substantially lower.  If the UK had the same average rate of the 17 countries with lower CMR, then there would have been 1,827 fewer child deaths in 2010.
You might think that with Iraq collapsing and Russia and China preparing for giant land grabs, our foreign policy would consist of more than 'global warming stinks' and 'you other countries should have nicer LGBT policies'. If so, there is good news, the State Department is now also criticizing mislabeled international seafood.

A new poll by The Boston Globe and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) finds, eight years into the state's universal health insurance legislation enacted in 2006, 63% of Massachusetts residents support the law and 18% oppose it, while 7% are not sure, and 12% have not heard or read about the law. The percentage of residents supporting the law remains unchanged since a 2011 Boston Globe/HSPH poll. Support for the law varies by party affiliation, with 77% of Democrats, 60% of Independents, and 49% of Republicans saying they support the legislation. The poll was conducted May 27-June 2, 2014.


A new study has found that 12 minutes of exercise can improve attention and reading comprehension in adolescents.

In the paper, all kids saw improvement in selective visual attention up to 45 minutes after exercising. Selective visual attention is the ability to remain visually focused on something despite distractions. The Lower income students also improved on tests of reading comprehension following the physical activity, though high-income students did not.


I have spent the last few days at a School of Science Journalism in the pleasant town of Erice, in western Sicily. The school, held at the Ettore Majorana Centre for Scientific Culture, brought together science communicators, freelance writers, magazine editors and press office consultants to listen to a small set of lectures, which this year (the fifth of the school) centered on the topic of "the digital world".
The Shackled Man Theory says that holding someone back for half of a race and then setting them free later means the shackled racer can never really catch up. 

If so, environmentalists have already poisoned the well to such a large extent in Europe that genetically modified food may never catch on, but at least consumers are not faced with a centralized blanket ban based on nothing but hysteria.

Now they can have centralized blanket bans that at least a politician of their own can be held accountable for.  The EU wants to let individual countries decide whether or not to allow GMOs. That is good news, because now no individual country can weasel out of the issue by saying they have no choice, the EU has made the decision.

Selecting graduate students in the fields of science and engineering based on an assessment of "character", whatever that means, is better than relying almost entirely on their scores on a standardized test like the GRE.

The goal in that would be to boost participation by women. Underrepresented even more in academia are Republicans and handicapped people, but the authors aren't worried about all minorities, just the correct ones. 


The quirky, tiny state of Vermont is 600,000 people who are simultaneously hard left and hard right. They voted in Bernie Sanders as a Senator, a guy who won't be a Democrat because that party is not socialist enough for him. They passed a law that put warning labels on GMOs - except for those in alcohol, restaurants, delis and cow feed, and thus basically only impacting poor people.

Now they have turned their keen, evidence-based eyes on climate change, claiming that if something isn't done, their skiing will be gone in 25 years, Maple syrup too, and heat stress will mean less milk for cows.


Take a quick guess; what law addressed a problem everyone in America knew we had, was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, it had Republican John Boehner and Democrat Ted Kennedy hugging on the dais, met all of its targets and was still vilified in a political marathon?

It was No Child Left Behind. Under the program, minority scores went up across the board and girls achieved math parity with boys for the first time in history - and we were told teachers hated it. Educators union threatened to withhold millions of dollars in political contributions and a whole lot of votes from Democrats, so after President Barack Obama saw he might lose control of the House in the 2010 election, he began gutting the program.