Science & Society

The National Academies (the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine) announced the recipients of their 2010 Communication Awards today. Part of the Keck Futures Initiative, these awards recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the general public. With support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, these $20,000 prizes have been awarded since 2003.   This year's winners will be honored during a ceremony on Oct. 22 at the Keck Center in Washington, D.C.

Winners:
Maurice Allais won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1988.  So why is he of interest here?  His Telegraph Obituary is headed:
Maurice Allais, who died on October 9 aged 99, was a Nobel Prize winner who warned against "casino" stockmarket practices that eventually precipitated the current global financial crisis; he also claimed to have disproved Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.
Now to readers of Science 2.0, the last sentence would immediately flag up a nutter alert.
"We're all alone, no chaperone"
--Cole Porter


Despite his resemblance to Santa Claus, Daniel Dennett wants to disillusion the believers.  If we're all adults, why can't we reveal the truth that God(s), like Santa, are childish fantasies?

Earlier tonight I attended Dennett's talk "What should replace religion?" at Tufts University, which was kindly hosted by the Tufts' Freethought Society as part of their Freethought Week.
A Fake Smithsonian Exhibit
The integrity of the Smithsonian Institution hinges on disseminating knowledge in an objective, thorough and fair manner. Like the freedoms that our forefathers included in the First Amendment, the freedom to present information must be a top priority of the Smithsonian. The intrusion of bias or censorship would compromise the ability of the Institution to fulfill its Congressional mandate, and would jeopardize the outstanding reputation the Institution has developed in its 157-year history.

Senator Joe Lieberman, May 20 2003
Publishing is evolving and, of the big publishers (The Lancet, Cell, etc.), no one is more forward-thinking than Elsevier.   

They recently announced Article-Based Publishing, their new way to  publish articles as final (and citable) without needing to wait for the full journal to be complete.  Article-Based Publishing is the assigning of final citation data on an article-by-article basis, separate from production of the journal issue.
What is on the mind of all the physicists all over the world right now? Quantum Gravity? Global warming? No. It is the same that is on the mind of all the other scientists in academia, too. Impact factor (IF)! How can I get my name on a paper into a high IF journal – that is the question. Publish Or Perish – POP science, popular science.
Welcome back to my series of posts on China, written from my point of view, a Westerner working at Nanjing University (NJU). Since China becomes ever more important also for academia and science, I would like to provide some insight into difficulties that are not widely mentioned. The last time I started with the language barrier, and there were many points that need to be explained further.

Is the name Andre Geim familiar to you?  If you are in science, you know him because he just won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on graphene with Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester.

If you instead like to make fun of science, you may know Geim because he received an Ig Nobel prize for levitating a frog with magnets.  No, really, here is his paper Of flying frogs and levitrons.   He probably took the Ig Nobel in stride and had a good time at the dinner, since he said he wasn't even aware it was Nobel season before he got the call that he was the newest Nobel laureate in Nobel's most prestigious category.
A new poll by Nature and Scientific American, out in SA's October 2010 issue, notes that scientists have had a tough year - the "leaked 'Climategate' e-mails painted researchers as censorious," the H1N1 outbreak "led to charges that health officials exaggerated the danger to help Big Pharma sell more drugs," and the Harvard investigation that found holes in a professor's data. Nature and SA wanted to know - does the public1 still trust scientists?

The two polled readers using an internet survey on their Web sites, and more than 21,000 people responded.2 Here are the results:

How much do people trust what scientists say?
I have to be honest, if a casual question arose like 'who would you believe on science topics, Michael Shermer or Lady Gaga?' I would side with Shermer.

I know, I know, that is a vicious stereotype and I haven't read every single thing Lady Gaga has said regarding science, some of which might be correct, and then compared it to every speculation someone might have overheard Shermer say somewhere, which might have been incorrect - and because I have not been able to do that sort of comparison, some fringe pseudo-science apostates will claim it is entirely possible that Lady Gaga knows more about cell phones than Michael Shermer and therefore I am big ol' repressive science media if I do not give them equal time.   So here I go.