Issues in Science and Technology

A quarterly journal of the National Academy of Science focused on discussion of public policy related to science, engineering, and medicine. Provides a forum researchers, government officials, business leaders, and others concerned with public policy to s

Articles from Vol. 28, No. 4, Summer

An Incomplete View of Adolescence
On a recent trip to the Pocono Mountains in central Pennsylvania, I found myself perusing a book at our small bed-and-breakfast about the lives of Pennsylvania coal miners in the 19th century. On the cover was an old daguerreotype of a formally dressed...
Better STEM for All
Robert D. Atkinson's proposals for a new science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education reform strategy, if enacted, would short-change students and imperil our nation's economic recovery ("Why the Current Education Reform Strategy...
California: Radical Carbon Cuts Needed?
In "The 80% Solution: Radical Carbon Emission Cuts for California" (Issues, Spring 2012), Jane C. S. Long and Jeffery Greenblatt summarize an admirable analysis by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) on the technical feasibility...
Communicating Uncertainty Fulfilling the Duty to Inform: Scientists Are Often Hesitant to Share Their Uncertainty with Decisionmakers Who Need to Know It. with an Understanding of the Reasons for Their Reluctance, Decisionmakers Can Create the Conditions Needed to Facilitate Better Communication
Experts' knowledge has little practical value unless its recipients know how sound it is. It may even have negative value, if it induces unwarranted confidence or is so hesitant that other, overstated claims push it aside. As a result, experts owe...
Cybersecurity Bills Advance in House, Senate
Congress continues to debate cybersecurity legislation, with the House passing the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA, H.R. 3523) and members of the Senate pushing for consideration of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S. 2105). Sponsored...
Data Deluge and the Human Microbiome Project: Because the Cost of Genetic Sequencing Has Declined So Much, Researchers Are Accumulating Oceans of Data for No Clear Purpose. the Assumption Is That Something in the Data Will Stimulate Important Questions, but This Is Not an Effective Way to Conduct Scientific Research
A specter is haunting science: the specter of data overload. All the powers of the scientific establishment have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter: the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF),...
Decisionmaking, Transitions, and Resilient Futures: The Newly Established National Research Council Board on Environmental Change and Society Explores Insights and Research Frontiers for Understanding Coupled Human-Environment Systems
In early 2010, two major earthquakes hit the Western Hemisphere: a 7.0 magnitude quake south-west of Porte-au-Prince, Haiti (population 9.7 million), and an 8.8 temblor north of Concepcion, Chile (population 17.1 million). The death toll in Haiti was...
Decision Support for Developing Energy Strategies: Policymakers and the Public Need a Mechanism for Making a Series of Difficult and Interrelated Choices over Time, and Research in Decision Science Offers a Promising Way Forward
The United States clearly needs a new energy strategy. In fact, many industrialized nations are in the same position. But this raises an obvious question: What is an energy strategy? In our view, it is a framework that will guide comprehensive and...
Eight Questions for Drug Policy Research: The Current Research Agenda Has Only Limited Capacity to Shrink the Damage Caused by Drug Abuse. Some Promising Alternative Approaches Could Lead to Improved Results
Drug abuse--of licit and illicit drugs alike--is a big medical and social problem and attracts a substantial amount of research attention. But the most attractive and most easily fund-able research topics are not always those with the most to contribute...
Federal Science and Technology in Brief
* The National Institutes of Health has announced a new program to match researchers with a selection of pharmaceutical industry compounds in order to promote academic research to search for new treatments. The National Center for Advancing Translational...
Getting the Most out of Electric Vehicle Subsidies
The electrification of passenger vehicles has the potential to address three of the most critical challenges of our time: Plug-in vehicles may produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions when powered by electricity instead of gasoline, depending on the...
Internet Freedom: Not a Foreign-Policy Issue
On January 21, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned "Internet freedom" into a rallying cry for U.S. foreign policy. Two years later, she remains firmly convinced of the importance of this cause, as evidenced in "Internet Freedom and Human...
Lessons from Nuclear Disasters
I write this comment two weeks after my first trip to Chernobyl, where I had the opportunity to visit the nuclear power plant facility and to speak with villagers whose lives were permanently touched by the disaster 26 years ago. From the perspective...
Mother of Invention: The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
Mother of invention The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner. New York: Penguin Press, 2012, 422 pp. High-handed corporate monopoly and high-minded national treasure, the American Telephone and Telegraph...
National Education Standards
Martin West's "Global Lessons for Improving U.S. Education" (Issues, Spring 2012) reaffirms the importance of developing and implementing rigorous standards and transparent data-driven accountability in our schools. The extent of students' capabilities...
Nature's Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Invention
Nature's Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Invention, a traveling contemporary art exhibition features art work inspired by nature. The purpose of the exhibition, according to Randy Jayne Rosenberg, curator of the show and executive director of Art Works...
Praise for SEMATECH
Conventional economic theory holds that nations should concentrate on their natural and comparative advantages. But nations are also capable of creating advantage where none otherwise exists, by nurturing, supporting, and protecting particular industries....
R&D Funding Receives Some Good News amid Major Uncertainty
Despite continuing calls from many in Congress to cut spending, the fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations process has generally been positive for a number of R&D agencies, with some key science fenders seeing surprising increases in the early going....
Senate Panel Considers National Standards for Forensic Evidence
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on March 28 to address the federal government's role in establishing scientific standards for forensic evidence. Currently, there are no national standards in forensic...
The EPA Issues New Air Pollution Rule; Key Republicans Object
Despite objections from some key Republican lawmakers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule on air pollution for the oil and natural gas industry on April 18, including the first-ever national standards on air pollution from...
The Small Business Innovation Research Program
The Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 created the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to stimulate technological innovation, to use small businesses of 500 or fewer employees to meet federal R&D needs, to foster and...
U.S. Competitiveness: The Mexican Connection
A "giant sucking sound" was the memorable description made by presidential candidate Ross Perot during the 1992 campaign of the impact that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would have, as business and jobs moved from the United States...
Valuing the Environment for Decisionmaking: In Dealing with Complex Environmental Issues, Determining the Value of Multiple Environmental Attributes Is Problematic, but Not Doing So Is Even More So
Making thoughtful decisions about environmental challenges that involve wide-ranging and potentially irreversible consequences is of profound importance for current and future human well-being. How much and how fast should greenhouse gas emissions...
What Makes U.S. Energy Consumers Tick? Harnessing the Social Sciences to Answer That Question Can Help Lead the Nation to an Alternative-More Efficient-Energy Future
On October 6, 1997, during the run-up to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in Japan later that year, President William J. Clinton described barriers to the adoption of energy-efficient technologies at a White House Conference on climate change. Saying...