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Willie Soon’s Failure to Disclose Industry Funding for Contrarian Climate Research is Another Reason to Support Transparency

My first job in science communication was as an “Explainer” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The program helps visitors – particularly students – understand the forces of flight. Our uniforms included red polo shirts that said “The Explainer Program” on the front and had the name of the company that sponsored the program – Cessna Aircraft – on the sleeve.

I recall this old uniform because the Smithsonian is under scrutiny for an entirely different type of sponsorship that was hidden from public view. Read More

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No Scientist Should Face Harassment. Period.

Last week, UCS released a report detailing the cases of many scientists who have been the targets of open record requests filed by their critics. These attacks have come from the left (e.g., gay marriage) and from the right (e.g., climate change). That same week, Science reported that an advocacy group had submitted extensive open records requests to multiple universities for significant portions of the email correspondence of several scientists who work in genetic engineering. On whether this constitutes harassment, it’s worth revisiting what should be disclosed and what should not. Read More

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Four Ways Scientists Can Give Good Answers to Bad Questions

This post originally appeared on the American Geophysical Union’s Plainspoken Scientist blog.

One of the reasons I love working with scientists is that they tend to be very direct. Ask a question: get an answer. Sometimes the answer is a little long and makes me revisit basic physics I haven’t thought about since middle school, but I definitely get an answer.

Thankfully, most of the questions journalists, policymakers and citizens ask scientists are straightforward. But many are off-base and sometimes even badly framed. If a scientist provides a direct answer to a bad question, they can inadvertently leave audiences with an inaccurate impression of their work. While the examples below won’t happen to every researcher, they illustrate good principles for effectively dealing with such questions. Read More

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Twenty Years of Open Records Attacks

University of Minnesota environmental scientist Deborah Swackhamer studied toxaphene, a chemical once considered a promising replacement for DDT but eventually found to be quite toxic. But when Swackhamer joined a group of researchers exploring why there might be unusual concentrations of the chemical in the Great Lakes, the university received the largest open records request ever made in Minnesota. Read More

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We Need Sharper Questions for a Broken Climate Debate

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) recently claimed that human-caused climate change “is not well-established.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he wanted to “let scientists debate…” why the climate is changing.

By contrast, Mitt Romney reportedly said “that while he hopes the skeptics about global climate change are right, he believes it’s real and a major problem,” according to the Des Moines Register. Read More

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Why Does UCS Survey Government Scientists?

Today, thousands of scientists who work for federal agencies will get emails from the Union of Concerned Scientists asking them to take an online survey. The surveys will go out to employees who deal with science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with other agencies to be surveyed in the future. Read More

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Response to Nature’s “Speak up for science;” We Have to Do More

Nature just published a helpful piece from Virginia Gewin on how scientists can deal with people who criticize their work.

I liked the piece and I’m always happy to see scientific journals and scientific societies help researchers communicate. That said, I want to add a few other considerations to the discussion. Read More

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What Was the Top #ScienceFail for 2014?

Science isn’t easy. Scientific research is often difficult, tedious, and can take years to come to fruition. And it’s because it takes such dogged effort to reach solid scientific conclusions that we trust the work scientists do. Unfortunately, too many politicians and institutions reject or distort scientific conclusions they don’t like.

We all lose when political spin runs roughshod over evidence scientists have uncovered regarding risks to our health and well-being. Sadly, such incidents are now commonplace enough to have their own hashtag: #ScienceFail. Here are our nominations for the worst cases of #ScienceFail for 2014. Read More

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Who Else Stood Up for Science in 2014? Our Members’ Picks

When we announced our Got Science? champs for 2014, we asked our members whose story inspired them the most. We also asked them to share stories about other people who stood up for science in 2014. We received about 500 responses; here are some highlights: Read More

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EPA Relaxes the Leash on Independent Science Advisors

The EPA has taken steps to reaffirm the free speech rights of independent scientists who advise the agency, backing away from a memorandum that invited criticism from science and journalism groups late this summer. A clarification of EPA policy has been sent to scientists on the EPA Science Advisory Board and other agency committees that provide scientific analysis and advice and posted on the EPA website. Read More

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