Blue Ribbon Panel: Where Does Science End and Policy Begin?
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
The BiPartisan Policy Center has announced a Blue Ribbon panel that will issue recommendations intended to inform Obama's call for a Memorandum on Scientific Integrity.
Importantly, the panel will study and address an important theme that continues to re-occur in the so-called "science wars": what is the dividing line between where science ends and policymaking begins? Or as I blogged earlier today, what is the demarcation between the first and second premise in compelling policy action?
From the press release to the interim report issued today:
The report's premise is that "a critical goal of any new procedures for establishing regulatory policy must be to clarify which aspects of a regulatory issue are matters of science and which are matters of policy," such as economics and ethics. "The tendency, on all sides, to frame regulatory issues as debates solely about science, regardless of the actual subject in dispute, is at the root of the stalemate and acrimony all too present in the regulatory system today."
The panel's recommendations include the following:
*Federal regulatory documents should spell out "which aspects of disputes are truly about scientific results and which concern policy." The report suggests that this might be done by agencies describing "what additional science would change the debate over a proposed regulatory policy and in what ways" the debate would change.
*Federal agencies should make frequent use of scientific advisory panels made up solely of scientific experts.
*Scientific advisory panels "should not be asked to recommend specific policies. Rather, they should be empanelled to reach conclusions about the science that would guide a policy decision." Separate advisory panels, which should include scientific experts, can advise on policy questions.
*Federal agencies should use more open processes for naming advisory committee members that could allow for public comment, in part, to uncover conflicts-of-interest potential advisors may have.
*The federal government should issue clearer, more consistent policies on conflict-of-interest.
*When federal agencies or advisory committees review scientific literature, "not all studies should be given equal weight in surveying a field."
*Policymakers "should be wary of conclusions about risk that are expressed as a single number."
Scientists have developed new ways of understanding how the biological forces of death drive important life processes.
- Researchers have found new ways on how decomposing plants and animals contribute to the life cycle.
- After a freak mass herd death of 300 reindeer, scientists were able to study a wide range of the decomposition processes.
- Promoting the necrobiome research will open up new areas of inquiry and even commerce.
What do we see from watching birds move across the country?
- A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
- The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
- Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
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