Posts in Science and the Public

In the midst of the full-frontal politics that now passes for the nominating conventions of the two major political parties in the United States comes a modest opportunity for sober reflection by the candidates on some crucial but oft-neglected issues – policies dealing with science and technology. The opportunity comes courtesy of a group called ScienceDebate, which in 2008 and now in 2012 succeeded in eliciting from the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates their responses to a set of questions broadly constructed around science and technology policy. CSPO co-director David Guston gives his thoughts on the answers of the two candidates.
A recent issue of Science magazine features a news article about seven scientists in Italy who are facing manslaughter charges for not predicting the danger of an earthquake that killed 308 people. The scientists were part of a risk committee of earth scientists who testified that incipient tremors were not evidence of an oncoming earthquake in 2009. While it may be presumptuous to actually put scientists on trial for a failure to dialogue with decision-makers, this puts into question the implicit “social contract of science” that has justified basic scientific research since the end of WWII.
We thought Tuesday would be free day at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Laboratory in Santa Cruz, but that policy, it turns out, does not apply in August. To be honest, I can’t blame them, given California’s economic woes. Anyway, it felt good to pay my $4 to gain entry into this UC Santa Cruz facility dedicated to teaching about the sea, its inhabitants, and our relationship with them.

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