Anti-science quotable: Scott Pruitt for the EPA

NO AMOUNT OF CAPS LOCK OR ANGRY FACE EMOJIS CAN EXPRESS MY DISCONTENT WITH THIS STATEMENT:

“I would not agree that [CO2] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Scott Pruitt said Thursday in an interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernen.

“I believe that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact,” Pruitt said.

-It is challenging to measure the effect of human activity on climate

-But it’s been done it cuz #science

-and OVER 97% OF SCIENTISTS AGREE THAT THERE IS A LARGE IMPACT OF CO2 AND HUMAN ACTIVITY ON THE CLIMATE

TO THOSE IN POSITIONS OF POWER: PLEASE STOP DENYING THE HUMAN INFLUENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE, AND PLEASE STOP PRETENDING THAT THERE IS DISAGREEMENT ABOUT THE SCIENCE.

Here’s more “analysis” on Pruitt’s comments. (I put “analysis” in quotes because I think most journalists are tired of having to cover climate deniers since they constantly have to go back to the OVERWHELMING evidence supporting climate change).

Here are some previous blog posts on climate change.

Having a climate change denier in charge of the EPA is like having a life-long vegetarian in charge of cooking steak. Or having a christian scientist run a cancer hospital. Or having an anti-public education supporter in charge of our public education. Have better analogies? Let us know.

Ongoing CRISPR battle

CRISPR, in addition to being the hottest new gene editing technique, has also been at the heart of a vicious patent battle between the Broad Institute and Berkeley. In a recent update, the US Patent Office has deemed that the patents issued to the Broad Institute (Feng Zhang) valid, which is a major blow to Berkeley (Jennifer Doudna).

Ahhh, science drama.

NPR and Science do a good job summarizing the verdict.

Jon Cohen for Science has written a fantastic article going into the background of how CRISPR technology was discovered and developed, and what has led to the current patent battle.

WaveNet- trying to make computers sound more human?

Check out the latest development from Google’s artificial intelligence team, DeepMind: Called WaveNet, this is a synthesized speech system that mimics human voice more closely than ever before. Basically, a way to get computers to sound more human. You can test it out and see for yourself!!!

A hangover that’s out of this world- literally! #TimPeake

What’s it like to return to earth after several months in space? According to Tim Peake, it’s the “world’s worst hangover”. Read on, from the Guardian:

British astronaut Tim Peake is experiencing the “world’s worst hangover” after spending six months in space.

Now back on Earth at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, he faces three weeks of rehabilitation during which he will undergo a barrage of medical tests and maintain a strict exercise regime.

Doctors will draw blood, conduct Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, and question Peake to improve their understanding of the physical and psychological effects of space travel.

The astronaut will also be examined on a tilt table that can rotate his body from a horizontal to a vertical position to monitor how his heart and blood circulation are responding to gravity.

It will take Peake a few days to learn to walk again. Soon after landing in Kazakhstan on Saturday he could be seen making his first attempts at walking in Earth’s gravity supported by two helpers.

Sense of balance is also greatly affected by the transition away from an environment where there is no “up” or “down” as defined by gravity.

On Earth, the vestibular system in the inner ear that keeps us on our feet can be over-stimulated. Dizziness and nausea are common problems experienced by astronauts returning from orbit, as are feelings of faintness caused by a drop in blood pressure.

After arriving in Cologne, Peake said he was experiencing dizziness and vertigo every time he moved his head. Such effects normally disappear very quickly; others could take much longer to recover from and some may cause permanent changes.

Tim Peake is carried to a medical tent after the landing in Kazakhstan.
Tim Peake is carried to a medical tent after the landing in Kazakhstan. Photograph: Bill Ingalls/Rex/Shutterstock

Months in space will have weakened Peake’s muscles and bones and temporarily shrunk the size of his heart. Astronauts lose up to 1.5% of their bone mass for each month spent in space. The loss is greatest in the upper thighs and pelvis, and can increase the risk of injuries such as hip fractures.

Over time, the influence of gravity helps the bone regrow, but full recovery can take as long as three years depending on the individual. Muscles get stronger quickly, but the weakness can be deceptive to begin with and astronauts have reported straining their necks by turning their heads too quickly.

While in space, unprotected by the Earth’s magnetic field, Peake will have been exposed to a radiation dose equivalent to about 1,200 chest x-rays. That is enough to increase his risk of cancer, but not by more than about 3%.

Peake and his crewmates – American Nasa astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko – made the trip back to Earth on Saturday in a tiny Soyuz descent module measuring just over 6ft (1.8 metres) across.

Two other elements of their Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft – the orbital module providing extra living accommodation while in orbit, and the service module housing propulsion and control systems – were allowed to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

As they plunged through the atmosphere, friction on the craft’s forward-facing heat shield slowed its speed from 17,398mph (28,000kph) to 514mph (827kph) and raised the temperature to 1,600C.

The capsule parachuted down to a remote spot on the vast scrubland of the Kazakhstan steppe. A second before touch down, a burst of fire from six retro rockets reduced the impact speed to 3mph.

Peake was the second crew member to be lifted out of the capsule, which was rolled on to its side after landing by a gust of wind. He described the journey as “incredible – the best ride I’ve been on ever” and said he was tempted to celebrate his arrival home with pizza and a cold beer.

On Sunday, Peake flew in to Cologne where he was greeted with a hug from his mother, Angela. His father, Nigel, was also there to meet him. He said: “It’s a job well done, I’m so proud of him and what he’s achieved.”

On Tuesday, Peake will give his first press conference since arriving back on Earth at the European Astronaut Centre, the European Space Agency’s astronaut base.

 

Anti-Science Quotable: Trump Economic Advisor Steve Moore #climatechange

I have to tip my hat to the left, this has been one of the greatest propaganda campaigns in world history that the left has pulled off. I mean, they’ve taken this dingbat idea of global climate change and they’ve put it in the schools, they’ve put it in the movies, they’ve put it in the media and the churches — you know, I’m Catholic, even the pope talks about climate change.

So it’s very alarming how this propaganda campaign, that they made this stuff out of, almost completely out of thin air and they’ve convinced millions and millions of thought leaders that this stuff is real.

Trump economic advisor and Heritage Foundation fellow Steve Moore

           Seen via Right Wing Watch

Concerned scientists tell Lamar Smith – HELL NO – to his overreaching McCarthyistic info request #science #intimidation @UCSUSA @BadAstronomer

Phil Plait has written a scathing take down in Slate of anti-science Representative Lamar Smith and his recent request for oversight over the Union of Concerned Scientists (ironically Smith is the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology). See the many, many, many previous CauseScience posts about Rep. Lamar Smith intimidating scientists and anti-science credentials.

Plait does a great job summarizing Smith’s history against climate change, as well as the recent controversy involving the  Union of Concerned Scientists – a quick and informative read:

To the surprise of no one, Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is continuing his unfounded attack on science, ratcheting it up even higher than before. This time, he’s trying to tie up the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The good news? They’re having none of it.

 

Smith’s been ramping up a new(ish) tactic, trying to flush out what he thinks is a cabal of scientists fighting the fossil fuel industry. On May 18, 2016, he sent a letter to the UCS, an obvious attempt to create a chilling effect on their work to help scientists maintain the freedom they need to do their research.

See the ridiculous letter from Smith to UCS here. The letter and intent behind it are far overreaching Smith’s jurisdiction – as pointed out by Plait. The head of UCS responded by saying HELL NO, more or less. Below is the response… in fewer words, UCS will not be intimidated by Smith. AND UCS will not allow Smith to set a precedent of overreaching his jurisdiction when it comes to harassing scientists! Way to go UCS! Can’t wait to see the guaranteed McCarthyistic response from Smith and his Committee!

Several members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee have sent letters to 17 state attorneys general, the Union of Concerned Scientists and other groups, requesting that they turn over documents and communications among the groups related to investigations into ExxonMobil. Attorneys general from California, Massachusetts, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are investigating whether ExxonMobil lied to its shareholders and the public about the threat of climate change.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The premise of Chairman Smith’s letter is a farce. The attorneys general are not investigating ExxonMobil’s scientific research, but rather whether the company misled shareholders and the public about the dangers of climate change in order to continue profiting from a lucrative product. Documents uncovered by UCS and others reveal that scientists with Exxon and other companies knew about the causes and consequences of climate change by the 1970s, but company leaders chose to deny, disparage and downplay this evidence to avoid sensible regulation.

“We are unapologetic about our efforts to expose this deception, and we will not be intimidated by this tactic. Record temperatures, rising seas and unprecedented flooding affects people around the globe and they rightly expect carbon producers to be held accountable for their deliberate strategy to deceive the public, shareholders and policy makers.

“It’s ironic that Representative Smith sees our work as an attempt to stifle scientific discourse, when he has spent the last 10 months harassing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists whose research he doesn’t like. This abuse of power has been repeatedly and strongly rebuked by the scientific community.

“In keeping with Mr. Smith’s calls for transparency, the public should demand that oil companies fully disclose what their scientists knew about climate change and when. And more importantly, the public deserves to know which industry executives made decisions to mislead shareholders, policy makers and investors about the harm of their products.”

@NIH observes #PRIDE month – How research impacts LGBTQ communities

NIH is observing PRIDE month this June with events on the NIH campus and the ‘telling our stories’ campaign. The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), along with the Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office, and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities are bringing awareness this PRIDE month to how research impacts sexual and gender minority communities. See the NIH Director Francis Collins’ statement to NIH staff for pride month below.

Check out the NIH EDI website here for ‘Telling Our Stories’ and more. Or on twitter @NIH_EDI.

Dear Staff,

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is committed to the principles of equal employment opportunity, diversity, and inclusion in our research and workplace.  As part of that commitment, the NIH will be celebrating this year’s Pride Month with a variety of activities that highlight the meaning of including the sexual and gender minority (SGM) community in our work.  The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), the Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office, and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities are sponsoring several events that will address key areas of interest in working with SGM populations.  The goal of these activities is to understand, in very specific ways, how research impacts sexual and gender minority communities, and how best to conduct research with and for SGM populations.

The theme for this year’s NIH Pride Month is “Telling Our Stories, Claiming Our Power, Standing in Our Truth.”  This theme reflects our understanding of the importance of storytelling in the biomedical research setting.  In each of the four Pride Month events, we have the opportunity, perhaps for the first time, to look at research from a new and different perspective.

Throughout the month-long celebration, EDI will make available on their website video testimonials and written accounts of members of the NIH SGM community and their allies. Through this campaign, we will have the honor of hearing their stories and learning from their experiences.

Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to learn about, understand, and work for the interests of those groups that invite us and trust us to explore research opportunities within their communities.  I hope that during the month of Pride you will pause to reflect upon the diversity of the SGM population and the importance of including this community in our research and other related activities.  SGM research sits at the intersection of our ongoing commitment to equal employment opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and our mission of turning discovery into health.

For more information on the Pride events happening on the NIH campus, please visit http://edi.nih.gov/pride and follow EDI on twitter and Instagram at @NIH_EDI.

Sincerely yours,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Director

Science communication training gets strategic @ConversationUS #scicomm

Science communication training should be about more than just how to transmit knowledge

John Besley, Michigan State University and Anthony Dudo, University of Texas at Austin

For some scientists, communicating effectively with the public seems to come naturally. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson currently has more than five million Twitter followers. Astronomer Carl Sagan enraptured audiences for decades as a ubiquitous cosmic sage on American televisions. And Stephen Jay Gould’s public visibility was such that he voiced an animated version of himself on “The Simpsons.” But, for most scientists, outward-facing communication is not something they’ve typically thought about much… let alone sought to cultivate.

But times change. Leaders in the scientific community are increasingly calling on their scientist colleagues to meaningfully engage with their fellow citizens. The hope is that such interactions can improve the science-society relationship at a time when we are confronting a growing list of high-stakes, high-controversy issues including climate change, synthetic biology and epigenetics.

The gauntlet has been issued, but can scientists meet it?

The answer to that question largely depends on one key group: professional science communication trainers who offer formalized guidance designed to improve scientists’ public communication efforts. There’s a wellspring of science communication programs, among them the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, the Center for Public Engagement with Science & Technology at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea. Programs like these typically provide communication courses of a half-day up to a week or more. Some organizations also employ in-house personnel to train their scientists to communicate.

Given the important role these training programs now play in the public communication of science, we sought to examine their work. Broadly, we were looking for commonalities in their efforts and experiences, and we wanted to spot possible opportunities for their growth. We were especially interested in something we view as being critical to effective public engagement: helping scientists identify and try to achieve specific communication goals.

What trainers focus on

In late 2014, we conducted a set of 24 interviews with science communication trainers from across the United States. Ours is the first published study examining this important community. We found that much of the training they provided focused on helping scientists share their research in clear ways that would increase knowledge.

This is consistent with what scientists have told us in surveys: their main objective in communicating their work is to inform the public about science and correct misinformation.

Sharing knowledge will always be a central component of science communication – knowledge generation is, after all, the main enterprise of science. And relaying knowledge makes up the bulk of the science journalism the public encounters through the media – stories about new discoveries and the latest research.

But there are other reasons scientists might want to communicate with the general public. We call these “nonknowledge objectives” – things like fostering excitement about science, building trust in the scientific community, or reframing how people think about certain issues. These objectives are different from a biologist wanting to share with a listener the details on her research on bird migration, for instance. They’re more about people, and forging relationships.

We’ve found that these sorts of nonknowledge goals have a relatively lower priority for scientists compared to the desire to get information across about their direct scientific work. Not surprisingly, only a few of the trainers we interviewed indicated that, at that time, they were explicitly trying to help scientists achieve these other kinds of nonknowledge objectives.

Nevertheless, the trainers told us they believed many of the scientists they train want to communicate to help raise public support for science in general and because they think their research will help people see the value in specific policy options.

Our work suggests that scientists and the trainers they work with often focus primarily on the successful transmission of science information, leaving those other objectives to fall into place. But there’s a problem with that logic. Decades of science communication research – a research area now commonly referred to as the science of science communication – show that fostering positive views about science requires more than just trying to correct deficits in public knowledge.

Matching the training to the ultimate goal

It may be useful to consider alternatives (or additions) to the character of the current training landscape. The emphasis now is on teaching scientists key journalism skills to help them share information more effectively – by, for instance, distilling jargon-free messages. Training typically places limited emphasis on whether sharing that information will have the desired effect.

Instead, given scientists’ goals, training could help scientists avoid doing things that have little potential for impact or, worse, actually diminish people’s views of science.

Extensive research shows that we tend to trust people we judge to be warm and caring because they seem less likely to want to do us harm. With that in mind, more training could explicitly help scientists avoid doing the types of things that might convey a cold demeanor. For example, no matter how accurate a scientist’s argument may be, if communicated rudely it will likely miss its mark. Worse still, it may generate negative feelings that a recipient could then generalize more broadly to the scientific community.

Related research on what people perceive to be fair or not when it comes to making important decisions could also inform communication training. Studies emphasize the potential strategic value of making sure people feel like they’re being listened to and treated with respect. Imagine, for example, how you’d feel if a doctor didn’t give you a genuine chance to share your personal experiences with an ailment.

Similarly, given what we know about the value of framing, perhaps more training should help scientists find ways to talk about issues that are consistent with the scientists’ work but that are also consistent with the priorities or worldviews of the people with whom they are speaking. For example, given the value that people put on their families’ health, it may make sense to frame climate change in terms of health issues.

Challenges to getting more strategic

There are at least two challenges associated with suggesting a more strategic approach to science communication.

First, it is easier to communicate in ways that come naturally and simply hope for the best.

Second, there is a danger that some people will misconstrue being strategic as being dishonest. On the contrary, effective strategic communication rests on authenticity, just like science. Science communicators should never do things like pretend to be warm, fake listening or frame things in ways they don’t think are appropriate.

The point is that by thinking strategically, we can begin to recognize that our communication choices – whether it’s leaving time after a talk for real discussion, calling those with whom we disagree ugly names or framing every disagreement as a war – have consequences.

It also seems clear that science communicators and communication trainers – who, in our experience, provide outstanding training in key skills – are already focusing on certain tactics that affect things like trust without making the explicit connection. For example, just using accessible language and speaking without jargon might communicate that scientists care enough about those with whom they are speaking to accommodate them. The power of telling stories isn’t just a better way to convey information; it’s a social act with social consequences.

Effective public engagement involves high-quality interactions between people. This means that many of the actual effects are likely to be due to the quality of the relationships between participants, including scientists and nonscientists. Content matters, of course, but not unless a healthy dynamic for information exchange is established.

The science communication training community is already doing great work. Ultimately, as trainers and scientists get more strategic in their science communication, it will help justify the time and resources it takes to communicate effectively. And they can forgo activities that seem unlikely to have an impact.

The Conversation

John Besley, Associate Professor of Advertising and Public Relations, Michigan State University and Anthony Dudo, Assistant Professor of Advertising and Public Relations, University of Texas at Austin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.