Science & Technology

U.S. Is Losing Its Dominance in the Sciences

Post submitted by AsaHopkins (On May 03, 2004 at 12:08 pm):

An article in today’s New York Times bemoans the loss of U.S. dominance in scientific research: /science/03RESE.html. The article is the subject of an active discussion on Slashdot as well: ce/04/05/03/1158252.shtml.

Among the damning facts: Only 52% of U.S. patents are issued to U.S. researchers. U.S. physicists authored only 29% of articles in the Physical Review last year (as opposed to 61% in 1983).

Of course the rise of a skilled and innovative workforce in many other countries is fueling the present fear of “off-shoring” as well.

Is research funding the answer? K-12 education? Higher Ed? Keeping more foreign students in the US instead of sending them back home to innovate? Is there something we can do to “regain global dominance” in science, or are we doomed to be just one of dozens of countries fighting on equal footing for the rewards of innovation?

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more on Union of Concerned Scientists report

Post submitted by AsaHopkins (On April 20, 2004 at 3:24 pm):

The Union of Concerned Scientists has responded (link) to the White House’s response (linked from here) to the UCS report I posted about a couple of months back. I haven’t had time to read this conversation in full, but it seems to me that the scientists have a point — the administration’s response walks around the issues, rather than confronting them. What do you think? The government clearly has some right to direct research in the direction of what it percieves to be the common good — where is the boundary between this and the present administration’s actions?

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value of manned space flight?

Post submitted by AsaHopkins (On March 25, 2004 at 2:00 pm):

There’s a very interesting article in the NY Review of Books by Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg (UT-Austin) casting a very skeptical eye toward the value of manned space flight. In particular, he questions the high cost of manned spaceflight at the expense of cuts to unmanned missions that do better science. Since so many folks pushed a return to the moon and Mars in their visions last year, and the President has followed suit, I figured it’s time to raise the subject.

Is manned spaceflight worth it? For what purpose? Pure science? Demonstration of national technological superiority? It’s good for the aerospace industry? Future colonization of other worlds when the Earth becomes unlivable?

If you favor continued or expanded manned spaceflight, why? Where should we be headed, and what costs are we willing to pay? If you think the age of the robots has come, and we should stay grounded, why?

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“Scientific Integrity in Policymaking”

Post submitted by AsaHopkins (On February 19, 2004 at 3:55 pm):

There’s a new report out from the Union of Concerned Scientists,, entitled “Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science”. It’s a pretty damning report, cataloging suppression and distorsion of research results as well as the undermining of the appointments process. Clearly, something needs to be done.

However, the recommendations are relatively tame and straightforward: more congressional oversight, executive orders, the restoration of something like the Office of Technology Assessment, and scientists and the public making noise and lobbying for better use of science. Will these be effective? Can you think of more effective or innovative solutions?

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Science and fighting terrorism

Post submitted by AsaHopkins (On February 09, 2004 at 1:47 pm):

This Washington Post article lays out a new proposal for a scientific advisory capacity for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), with finding from the MacArthur Foundation. It’s designed to start building a bridge so that posicymakers can get info from scientists in a form that they can use (specifically regarding terrorism).

In part, this seems to be an attempt to recreate something like the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, which Gingrich killed in the mid-90s, through outside groups.

Seems to me like a good idea to have this sort of information available to policymakers, but is an outside arrangement like this the best way to go about it? What do y’all think — should government agencies “outsource” this sort of analysis to groups like the AAAS and the National Academies, or have their own “in-house” analysis and advisory groups?

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Welcome to the new Science and Technology policy discussion!

Post submitted by AsaHopkins (On January 29, 2004 at 12:30 pm):

The purpose of this discussion is to formulate a state of consensus regarding government’s and society’s interactions with science and technology, including the regulation and funding of science and technology, and also how science and technology inform policy in other areas. You can check out our initial state of consensus in the Threads section to the right.

Let’s start with what role science should play in answering policy questions. Are there some areas where science should trump politics, and others where science should be ignored in favor of other considerations? How solid does scientific knowledge need to be before it takes precedence? Recent areas of disagreement about where to draw this line include global climate change, genetically modified food, and stem cells.

For some background on the use (and misuse) of science by the present administration, check out iticsandscience/, from the minority staff of the House science committee.

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