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  1. Science not Silence: Point Blue and the March for Science

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    • Science is essential to democracy
    • Scientists should advocate for science
    • Point Blue supports its staff attending the March for Science, April 22, 2017

    March 17, 2017  by Ellie Cohen

    Recent efforts to silence government scientists and decimate research budgets, particularly around climate change, are deeply disturbing. These attacks raise serious questions about the role of scientists in a democracy. Should scientists advocate for science? Or by doing so, do they add to fuel to the fire of partisan politics and weaken public support for science?

    There is a growing movement to speak out within the science community. A recent march in Boston drew thousands with placards including Science not Silence, Science Does Not Discriminate, and Facts Matter. The next focal point is the “March for Science” in Washington, DC and across the country, on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22.  It is endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America, among others.

    Science is inherently non-partisan, built on systematic, transparent and peer-reviewed inquiry and observation.  In that light, I believe scientists should advocate for science and scientific findings. However, there is an enormous divide between how most scientists view the world versus the general public.  Scientists need to significantly improve how we communicate what we do and the value of our work to society.

    The March is an opportunity to instruct and catalyze scientists to reach out across the political and social spectrum. Just as science builds bridges across cultural divides in ways that few other disciplines can, the March for Science offers an opportunity for cross-boundary community-building. It is a chance to tell our stories about how science drives human understanding, economic innovation and our collective well-being.

    The March also provides a platform to communicate the foundational nature of science to a healthy, vibrant democracy. We need to share how science helps humanity discover and illuminate truths upon which policy makers can act to better the lives of the people they serve.

    It seems to me that advocating for science is especially urgent today in the face of accelerating climate change and the loss of ecosystem services which threaten life as we know it.

    Along the lines of Rabbi Hillel’s sage words from 2,000 years ago, if scientists don’t stand up for science, who will? And what better time than now?

  2. Tribute to Science and Democracy: Eight Great Quotes by U.S. Presidents

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    Union of Concerned Scientists Blog by , former analyst, Center for Science & Democracy | July 3, 2013, 2:11 pm EDT

    From George Washington to Barack Obama, in the words of both Republicans and Democrats, our presidents express continuity in their thinking about the essential role of science in American society.  Below are 8 of my favorite quotes and why I think each one is important. I invite you to share your favorite patriotic quotes about science and democracy in the comments…

    ….2)           “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” James Madison. Epilogue: Securing the Republic. Chapter 18.

    Madison rocks!! That is all. Go read the quote again. Madison wouldn’t know what “rocks” means, but he’d ask questions and figure it out. We need the tools to do that, too. In today’s world, access to “popular information” means transparency. It means public access to information—this kind and this kind. It means education. It means science literacy, effective science communication, and scientists engaging with policy makers and fellow citizens every chance they get.

    1)           “Now and in the years ahead, we need, more than anything else, the honest and uncompromising common sense of science. Science means a method of thought. That method is characterized by open-mindedness, honesty, perseverance, and, above all, by an unflinching passion for knowledge and truth. When more of the peoples of the world have learned the ways of thought of the scientist, we shall have better reason to expect lasting peace and a fuller life for all.” Harry S. Truman, “Address to the Centennial Anniversary AAAS Annual Meeting (1948)”

    What I like about Truman’s message is its democratizing spirit. Truman is saying that you don’t have to be a scientist in order to think like one.  And he is saying that those qualities—those habits of mind—that bring us greater scientific knowledge are the same that bring us greater peace and prosperity.

    To life, liberty, and the pursuit of science!

  3. How is a good ecologist to react to the new administration in Washington?

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    Letter to Ecological Society of America Membership from President David M. Lodge

    March 6, 2017  Like many of you, I have found it hard to know how to react to the style, tone, and substance of the new administration in Washington….Unfortunately, the absence of science and scientists in the Trump administration has not changed. Likewise, Trump’s actions on environmental policy have been consistent with all earlier indications….So how should we – the 10,000 members of ESA – react?

    …Please see, for example, ESA’s letter on scientific integrity and joint letters on the immigration ban, the importance of a president’s science advisor appointment, the Waters of the US rule, and more that are found online. …While I recognize that a diversity of views is likely to exist among ESA members, I hope that many of you will find these reflections useful as you consider how to react as individual members of ESA. I also recommend ESA Past-president Jane Lubchenco’s recent commentary on “Environmental science in a post-truth world,” in Frontiers of Ecology and the Environment.

    First, what binds ESA members together is our respect for science, commitment to rigorous peer review and publication of research, and a desire to see our science interpreted and used appropriately. We must continue to advocate – more strongly than ever – that representatives of science and rigorous scientific analysis are essential to policy-making. Call, write, and visit your local, state, and national representatives and your senators. Consider participating in or otherwise supporting April’s March for Science.

    Second, we must not allow ourselves to be arrogant or make it easy for others to perceive us that way.  Science must be at the policy-making table, but in a democracy, many diverse considerations belong at the decision-making table. We must be more aggressive promoters of science, but we must simultaneously be humble in recognition that our unique role is not solely important….

    Third, we must seek to understand and engage respectfully with our family members, neighbors, and other fellow citizens at work, on the street, and in community groups who share President Trump’s enthusiasm for reversing environmental regulations….Double-down on your engagement in outreach and education.

    Fourth, we must remind our elected officials at all levels and our fellow citizens that the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Montreal Protocol have dramatically improved human health and well-being in the last 45 years. Los Angeles, Gary, IN and New York City were not healthy places to breath and swim in 1970. In Cleveland, the oily pollution floating on the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Acid rain had wiped out the fish in many Adirondack lakes. Bald eagles and brown pelicans were on the verge of extinction. An ozone hole was growing over Antarctica and increasing skin cancer in humans. Scientific research provided the diagnoses of these problems and informed the solutions….
    Finally, we must alert our fellow citizens that science and technology are already driving economic booms in other countries…
    ….The staff and leadership of ESA will stay the course for science, speaking with both confidence in the rigor and value of our mission, and with humility as only one important voice in our robust democracy. We have waited, and now it is time for ESA to be seen and be heard. I encourage each member of ESA to do the same.
  4. How to Defeat Those Who Are Waging War on Science

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    Here are five meaningful steps you can take  see full article here

    President Trump’s decision to constrain and muzzle scientific research signals an important milestone. The War on Science has shifted into high gear. This is a fight for our future, and scientists as well as citizens had better prepare for what is coming next.

    At his confirmation hearings last week, the new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled the new language of this war—a subtle, yet potentially damaging form of science skepticism. Manmade climate change, he says, is “subject to continuing debate.” There is reason to be concerned about methane released by fracking, but he’s “not deeply concerned.” And research on lead poisoning is “not something [he has] looked into.”

    These might sound like quibbles compared to the larger cultural and political upheavals happening in America today, but collectively, they add up to something big.

    The systematic use of so-called “uncertainty” surrounding well-established scientific ideas has proven to be a reliable method for manipulating public perception and stalling political action. And while certain private interests and their political allies may benefit from these tactics, the damages are something we will all have to face.

    Make no mistake: the War on Science is going to affect you, whether you are a scientist or not. It is going to affect everything—ranging from the safety of the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the kind of planet we live on. It will affect the kinds of diseases we get and the medicines we can use. It will determine our safety and security, and the privacy of our data and personal lives. It will dictate what our kids are taught in our schools, what is discussed in the news, and what is debated in the halls of Congress. It will affect the jobs we have, the kind of industries that thrive here, and what powers our economy.

    The reality is that science touches everything we do, and everyone we love, which is why the War on Science is so deadly serious. This is a war that needs to be won. But in order to do so, scientists and science supporters—including those participating in the upcoming March for Science—need to take a new tack.

    Here, to start with, is what we recommend:

    1. Portray an Inclusive Vision…
    2. Do Get Political…
    3. Don’t Fall into the “Culture War” Trap…
    4. Balance Facts with Meaningful Stories…
    5. Be Forceful…

    At its heart, the War on Science is often an attempt to de-regulate industry and weaken environmental laws. Stifling science—especially on topics like climate change, toxic pollution, unsustainable agriculture, and animal welfare—is part of a ploy to undermine these safeguards, and to cast doubt on inconvenient scientific truths, all in the service of profits and power.

    It’s time to call out this merciless greed and ignorance. The short-term gains of a few corporations and individuals must no longer rise above our national interests, our long-term economic competitiveness, and most importantly, our individual safety, health and wellbeing.

    So, let’s not be timid. Let’s call things as they are.

    America has a choice to make. A choice between advancing civilization or bringing it down. A choice between knowledge and chaos.

    Now, everyone must choose which side they are on.

  5. AAAS chief puts weight behind protest march

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    By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News, Boston  Feb 20, 2017 see full article here

    The head of the world’s largest scientific membership organisation has given his backing for a planned protest by researchers in Washington DC.

    Rush Holt, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), said that people were “standing up for science”.

    His remarks reflect growing concern among researchers that science is disregarded by President Trump.

    “I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire career,” the former Democratic congressman told BBC News.

    “To see young scientists, older scientists, the general public speaking up for the idea of science. We are going to work with our members and affiliated organisations to see that this march for science is a success.”…


  6. Science not Silence- Scientists Are Poised to Start a New Movement

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    Brian Kahn March 1 2017 ClimateCentral Full story here

    The current political climate has spurred a growing cadre of scientists to  emerge from their labs, offices and fieldwork sites to contest an administration that’s openly hostile to scientific inquiry — particularly when it comes to climate change — and coined the term “alternative facts.”

    ..The March for Science is the most visible piece of the new movement, with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, a private planning Facebook group with more than 837,000 members and more than 50,000 volunteers. The march has the potential to go down as one of the largest mass mobilizations by scientists in history.

    It’s also faced some challenges both internally and externally. Planners have been debating appropriate symbols….some scientists have argued that taking to the streets puts the scientific enterprise in jeopardy of being seen as too politicized. Robert Young, a coastal geologist, crystallized that sentiment in a New York Times op-ed in late January.

    “Trying to recreate the pointedly political Women’s March will serve only to reinforce the narrative from skeptical conservatives that scientists are an interest group and politicize their data, research and findings for their own ends,” he wrote…. Ziad Munson, an expert in conservative social movements from Lehigh University, said. “Yes there is a danger of politicizing science, but the question is whether or not that ship has already sailed.”…

    …Social science researchers say that getting involved is only part of the equation, and that scientists will need messages — and actions — that resonate.

  7. Diehard coders just rescued NASA’s Earth science data.

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    February 13 2017  see full article here  WIRED
    On Saturday morning, the white stone buildings on UC Berkeley’s campus radiated with unfiltered sunshine. But instead of enjoying the beautiful day, 200 adults had willingly sardined themselves into a fluorescent-lit room in the bowels of Doe Library to rescue federal climate data. …Groups like DataRefuge and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which organized the Berkeley hackathon to collect data from NASA’s earth sciences programs and the Department of Energy, are doing more than archiving. Diehard coders are building robust systems to monitor ongoing changes to government websites. And they’re keeping track of what’s already been removed—because yes, the pruning has already begun…..
  8. Affecting policymakers with climate science information

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    February 7 2017  ScienceDaily  see full article here

    Exposure to climate models’ predictions affects policymakers and climate negotiators less than the informed general public, a paper assesses. But the right presentation format can improve forecasts’ effectiveness

    ….while the format didn’t affect MBA students, providing policymakers with the richest format, which includes individual model estimates in addition to the statistical range, increases the likelihood of reporting conditional probabilities closer to the scientific information.

    Our results…point to the importance of testing behavioral effects targeting the population of interest and suggest a more effective, and relatively easy to implement, format to visually communicate scientific information to policymakers.“…

    Valentina Bosetti, Elke Weber, Loïc Berger, David V. Budescu, Ning Liu, Massimo Tavoni. COP21 climate negotiators’ responses to climate model forecasts. Nature Climate Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3208

  9. A Scientists’ March on Washington Is a Bad Idea

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    By ROBERT S. YOUNG JAN. 31, 2017 Opinion NY Times  see full article here

    what I learned was that most of those attacking our sea-level-rise projections had never met me, nor my co-authors. Not only that, most of the public had never met anyone they considered a scientist. They didn’t understand the careful, painstaking process we followed to reach our peer-reviewed conclusions. We were unknowns, “scientists” delivering bad news. We were easy marks for those who felt threatened by our findings.

    A march by scientists, while well intentioned, will serve only to trivialize and politicize the science we care so much about, turn scientists into another group caught up in the culture wars and further drive the wedge between scientists and a certain segment of the American electorate. Rather than marching on Washington and in other locations around the country, I suggest that my fellow scientists march into local civic groups, churches, schools, county fairs and, privately, into the offices of elected officials. Make contact with that part of America that doesn’t know any scientists. Put a face on the debate. Help them understand what we do, and how we do it. Give them your email, or better yet, your phone number….

  10. Copying the censorship playbook. Scientists aren’t standing for it

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    The Administration keeps trying to go after scientists, and being forced to retreat

    The Guardian UK  Jan 31 2017  see full article here

    …During the [Bush] Administration, political appointees censored climate science reports from government agencies, and mostly got away with it by gagging the scientists. A survey found that nearly half of 1,600 government scientists at seven agencies ranging from NASA to the EPA had been warned against using terms like “global warming” in reports or speeches, throughout his eight-year presidency.  Unaccustomed to being strong-armed by their own administrators, some government scientists reacted with what former US Climate Change Science Program senior associate Rick Piltz called “an anticipatory kind of self-censorship.”

    As a result, the Bush Administration’s efforts to smother scientific findings concerning global warming in government reports were remarkably effective  ….A war on science is a war he’s guaranteed to lose. [The President] can deny the science, silence the scientists, censor their reports, even fire them from government agencies – but that won’t stop the Earth from heating and its climate from changing at a dangerous rate. At best he would survive a four or eight-year term, leave the planet a worse place for future generations, and be seen as a villain in the history books.

    But it looks as though scientists and journalists aren’t going to let that happen without a fight, and kudos to them for standing up to the anti-science bullies on behalf of the planet and future generations. We’ll all have to do our parts to protect science and hold the administration accountable to facts and truth for the next four years….