Science & Society

When I were a lad (ay!) my father suggested that map projections was something I ought to interest myself in.  So I got hold of paper, ruler and pencil, drew a square grid, and then started filling in the outlines of the continents.  What emerged was something like this (maps like this are generated using this wonderful program from Brazil):

Now that wasn’t too good, was it?  Africa doesn’t look too bad, but Greenland’s horribly squashed, isn’t it?  So I borrowed some books from the library, and started to learn about all sorts of different projections.
Environmental groups are concerned they have lost the trust of the public regarding global warming so they have taken to new marketing approaches.    They started the last decade with runaway public interest and goodwill and ended it with scandals and black marks on the credibility of the climate field.

What is the most popular form of Citizen Science?

Some want to make us believe it is SETI@home, 8 year olds being pressured by overenthusiastic teachers, or people in their backyards looking for comets.

The Economist argues, as they would be expected to argue, given their free market leaning, that due to the glut of Ph.D.s and therefore the poor job market (in academia), it is a waste of time.   A Ph.D. who enters the job corporate world for anything except basic research has the wrong set of skills, according to corporate hiring managers, so it is actually better to hire a bachelor's or Masters degree and spend the time in the corporate world.  Numbers bear it out.  While a Ph.D. earns more than a bachelor's degree today the difference between a Ph.D. and a Masters is barely noticeable.
Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker about the slipperiness of the scientific method:

"The Truth Wears Off: Is There Something Wrong With The Scientific Method?"
The test of replicability, as it’s known, is the foundation of modern research. Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity. Most of the time, scientists know what results they want, and that can influence the results they get. The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws.
Sorry I've been absent for a while. (I hope you missed me!) Here's one thing that's been keeping me busy:
WCSJ 2011

WCSJ 2011

Dec 27 2010 | 3 comment(s)

Some shameful self-propaganda is in order today... Such posts have usually borne good fruits in the past, so why not!
I thought I was going into Christmas recess, but then I saw this:
Graduate students the world over have got to be feeling like slackers right now: A group of 8- to 10-year-old British schoolchildren have published a scientific paper in the peer-reviewed (Royal Society) journal Biology Letters.
Also spricht, not Zarathustra, but Live Science in

8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Study on Bees

For too long, scientists have ducked away from public service, not because their peers have been unwilling to elect them, but because there is a sense among scientifically educated people that politics is something to be avoided -- something that is inherently corrupting about the idea of becoming a politician causes most scientists.  For too long, our long term public welfare has been held hostage by our public representatives who act as primarily as politicians rather than statesmen and stateswomen.  The distinction between the two being that politicians seek only to advance policies which secure their next election, while statesmen and stateswomen seek to secure the next generation.
While you sit there, I am simultaneously providing this blog post, this podcast, and this AGU talk.  All on the same topic-- how can we get scientists to provide science for public consumption.

The podcast poses these problems for you, the readers of science:

  • Who writes the science on the web?

  • What is their agenda?

  • Why don't scientists write it?
From the other side, my AGU talk tries to solve it for scientists.  It's rooted in the way that science careers are made and lost.