The Ongoing Transformation
By Issues in Science and Technology
This podcast is presented by Issues in Science and Technology, a journal published by Arizona State University and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Visit issues.org and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ongoing TransformationNov 28, 2023
A Venture Capitalist for Better Science
Stuart Buck has referred to himself as a venture capitalist for making science more efficient, reliable, and accountable. As vice president at the policy-focused philanthropy Arnold Ventures, he directed funds toward fledgling enterprises that are now major forces shaping scientific norms and infrastructure, including the Center for Open Science and Retraction Watch. He’s now executive director of the Good Science Project, a nonprofit organization working to figure out effective ways to improve science.
Buck considers how to make sure that reforms are actually improvements, not performative busywork. He explores what sorts of entities are required to push for positive change in science and still respect the different cultures and practices in various countries and disciplines. It’s not enough to assess scientific practices, he argues; there needs to be a built-in way to assess scientific reforms, including the relative costs and benefits of increasingly popular policies like sharing data and promoting transparency.
In this context, Buck joins host Monya Baker to discuss how metascience—the study of science—has fueled reform, and how to make sure reforms produce the desired effects.
Stuart Buck’s recent essay on his work at Arnold Ventures: “Metascience Since 2012: A Personal History”
Stuart Buck, “Beware performative reproducibility,” Nature (July 6, 2021)
Science Policy IRL: Quinn Spadola Develops Nanotechnology With Soft Power
Since 1984, Issues in Science and Technology has been a journal for science policy—a space to discuss how to best use science for the benefit of society. But what is science policy, exactly? Our new podcast series, Science Policy IRL, explores what science policy is and how it gets done. “Science” is often caricatured as a lone person in a lab, but the work of science is supported by a community of people who engineer its funding, goals, coordination, and dissemination. They include people in legislative offices, federal agencies, national labs, universities, the National Academies, industry, and think tanks—not to mention interest groups and lobbyists. In this series, we will explore the work of science policy by speaking to people who have built careers in it.
For the first episode in this series, host Lisa Margonelli is joined by Quinn Spadola, the deputy director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, a unique office that coordinates the development of nanotechnology across the entire federal government. Spadola, who has a Ph.D. in physics from Arizona State University, now uses “soft power” to bring groups together to coordinate their efforts so that taxpayers get the most from their investments in science. In practice, she brings all of her life experiences to bear on the task of shaping technology so that it benefits society.
Is there something about science policy you’d like us to explore? Let us know by emailing us at email@example.com, or by tagging us on social media using the hashtag #SciencePolicyIRL.
On science policy:
- Harvey Brooks, “Knowledge and Action: The Dilemma of Science Policy in the ’70s,” Daedalus 102, no. 2 (Spring 1973): 125–143.
- Deborah D. Stine “Science and Technology Policymaking: A Primer,” Congressional Research Service, RL34454 (May 27, 2009).
- The website of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, A Quadrennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative: Nanoscience, Applications, and Commercialization (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2020), https://doi.org/10.17226/25729.
Sustaining Science for the Future of Ukraine
After Russia invaded Ukraine, hundreds of scientists fled the country and hundreds more remained behind. Those scientists who stayed are trying to continue their research and engage with the global scientific community under often difficult circumstances, with the ultimate goal of being able to help rebuild Ukraine when the war ends.
Since the early days of the war, Vaughan Turekian, the director of the Policy and Global Affairs Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, has been leading efforts to support Ukrainian scientists and their research, enlisting the help of international science academies and philanthropic partners. Turekian has spent much of his career in science diplomacy. Before joining the Academies, he served as the fifth science and technology advisor to US Secretary of State John Kerry and was also the founding director of the Center for Science Diplomacy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In this episode, recorded on October 5, Turekian joins host Molly Galvin to discuss efforts to support Ukrainian scientists and why such efforts are important for the future of Ukraine.
National Academies, “Supporting Ukraine’s Scientists, Engineers, and Health Care Workers.”
Interview with the president of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Jerzy Duszyński, “What I’m Mostly Afraid of Is That There Will Be Two Sciences—Democratic Science and Autocratic Science,” (Issues, Summer 2022).
Daniel Armanios, Jonas Skovrup Christensen, and Andriy Tymoshenko, “What Ukraine can Teach the World About Resilience and Civil Engineering” (Issues, Fall 2023).
The Complicated Legacy of the Green Revolution
The Green Revolution was a program of agricultural technology transfer that helped poor countries around the world increase food production from the 1950s onward. An American agronomist named Norman Borlaug developed and popularized the central innovation of this revolution: the concept of “wide adaptation,” or the idea that plants could be bred to produce a high yield in a variety of environments, rather than in a particular region.
Borlaug’s work won him the Nobel Prize in 1970, and his agricultural insights are often credited with saving millions of people from hunger. But the legacy of Borlaug and the Green Revolution is not as straightforward as these accolades suggest.
In this episode, we caught up with interdisciplinary scientist and historian Marci Baranski to discuss her new book, The Globalization of Wheat: A Critical History of the Green Revolution. She talks with host Jason Lloyd about how a more nuanced understanding of the Green Revolution and Borlaug’s work can improve agricultural and economic development policies today.
Marci Baranski’s book, The Globalization of Wheat: A Critical History of the Green Revolution
Madhumita Saha’s book review, “Left Behind by the Green Revolution” (Issues, Summer 2023)
Marci Baranski and Mary Ollenberger’s essay, “How to Improve the Social Benefits of Agricultural Research” (Issues, Spring 2020)
Open Science: Moving from Possible to Expected to Required
A decade ago, University of Virginia psychology professor Brian Nosek cofounded an unusual nonprofit, the Center for Open Science. It’s been a cheerleader, enabler, and nagger to convince scientists that making their methods, data, and papers available to others makes for better science.
The Center for Open Science has built tools to register analysis plans and hypotheses before data are collected. It campaigns for authors and journals to state explicitly whether and where data and other research materials are available. Gradually, practices that were considered fringe are becoming mainstream. The White House declared 2023 the Year of Open Science.
Nosek refers to the pyramid of culture change as his strategy to push for reforms: first make a better practice possible, then easy, expected, rewarding, and finally, required. It starts with building infrastructure, then experience, reward systems, and ultimately policy.
In this podcast, Brian Nosek joins host Monya Baker to discuss the movement of scientific ideals toward reality.
Blue Dreams: Connecting People With Ocean Research
There is more life in the ocean than anywhere else on Earth. Accounting for over 70% of the planet’s surface, the ocean provides habitat to millions of species, supplies freshwater and oxygen, moderates the climate, and influences the weather. But despite its importance, the ocean is largely unexplored and often misunderstood.
There is growing interest in how art can help people connect with ocean research. The National Academy of Sciences is hosting an immersive video installation called Blue Dreams by Rebecca Rutstein and the Ocean Memory Project. Inspired by the vast microbial networks in the deep sea, the installation is the product of a collaboration between an artist and four scientists. From abstract imagery to stunning undersea video footage and computer modeling, Blue Dreams offers a glimpse into the interconnections and resilience of microbes, our planet’s smallest yet most vital living systems.
In this episode, host Alana Quinn is joined by artist Rebecca Rutstein and one of her collaborators, the oceanographer Mandy Joye, to discuss their work and the rich potential of partnerships between artists and scientists to create visceral connections to the deep sea.
Register for the DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, DC, on September 7, 2023, to meet Rebecca Rutstein, Mandy Joye, and their collaborators Jody Deming and Tom Skalak.
Download the Blue Dreams catalog to learn more about the immersive video installation on view through September 15, 2023, at the NAS building, 2101 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC.
Visit the Joye Research Group website to learn more about Mandy Joye’s research.
Secretary Ernest Moniz on the Diplomatic Role of “Cumulative” Science
Over the last 40 years, US and Chinese scientists at all levels have been engaged in broad-based diplomacy, publishing hundreds of thousands of scientific papers together. Recently, amid tensions between the two countries and official and unofficial government actions to curtail collaboration, joint publications have fallen. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy during the Obama administration, has been a practitioner of science diplomacy at the highest levels. Trained as a physicist, Moniz worked with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Salehi, on the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015.
In this episode, Moniz talks about the ways that science can provide a common language and a sense of trust during diplomatic negotiations. And he emphasizes the importance of collaboration to scientific discovery. Science, he says, is cumulative, extending far beyond the experience of a single person. If collaborations are prevented, we will never know what knowledge we failed to create.
Moniz is president and CEO of the Energy Futures Initiative and CEO and co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. He served as the thirteenth US Secretary of Energy from 2013 to January 2017. He is also the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
E. William Colglazier, “The Precarious Balance Between Research Openness and Security,” Issues in Science and Technology 39, no. 3 (Spring 2023): 87–91.
Sylvia Schwaag Serger, Cong Cao, Caroline S. Wagner, Xabier Goenaga, and Koen Jonkers, “What Do China’s Scientific Ambitions Mean for Science and the World?” Issues in Science and Technology (April 5, 2021).
Combating the “Multi-Dimensional Beast” of Chronic Pain
Chronic pain, according to a 2023 study, affects more Americans than diabetes, depression, and hypertension. Yet the disease is poorly understood, often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and effective treatments are in short supply.
A recent study in Nature Neuroscience provides new insights into how the disease affects the nervous system. For the first time, researchers recorded data from inside the brains of individuals who were suffering from chronic pain and found distinct biomarkers for the disease. These insights are an important first step toward better diagnosing and treating chronic pain.
In this episode, the lead author of that study, Prasad Shirvalkar, a neurologist and interventional pain medicine specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, talks with managing editor Jason Lloyd about his research and how it could transform physicians’ understanding and treatment of what Shirvalkar calls a “multi-dimensional beast.”
· Read the article: Prasad Shirvalkar, Jordan Prosky, Gregory Chin, Parima Ahmadipour, Omid G. Sani, Maansi Desai, Ashlyn Schmitgen, Heather Dawes, Maryam M. Shanechi, Philip A. Starr, and Edward F. Chang, “First-in-human prediction of chronic pain state using intracranial neural biomarkers,” Nature Neuroscience 26 (2023): 1090–1099.
· Prasad Shirvalkar leads the Shirvalkar Pain Neuromodulation Lab at the University of California San Francisco.
· More about Shirvalkar’s research in the New York Times: “Scientists Find Brain Signals of Chronic Pain.”
Artificial Intelligence and the Moral Imagination
Artificial intelligence’s remarkable advances, along with the risks and opportunities the technology presents, have recently become a topic of feverish discussion. Along with contemplating the dangers AI poses to employment and information ecosystems, there are those who claim it endangers humanity as a whole. These concerns are in line with a long tradition of cautionary tales about human creations escaping their bounds to wreak havoc.
But several recent novels pose a more subtle, and in some ways more interesting, question: What does our interaction with artificial intelligence reveal about us and our society? In this episode, historian Deborah Poskanzer speaks with managing editor Jason Lloyd about three books that she recently reviewed for Issues: Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The Employees by Olga Ravn (translated by Martin Aitken). She talks about the themes that unite these novels, the connections they draw with real-world politics and history, and what they reveal about our moral imagination.
Read Deborah Poskanzer’s book reviews in Issues:
· “Not Your Father’s Turing Test”: review of Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The Employees by Olga Ravn (translated by Martin Aitken).
· “Exploring the Depths of Scientific Patronage”: review of Science on a Mission: How Military Spending Shaped What We Do and Don’t Know About the Ocean by Naomi Oreskes.
· “A Planet-Changing Idea”: review of The Environment: A History of the Idea by Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin.
· “Oh, the Humanities!”: review of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz and College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco.
Transcript coming soon!
Race, Genetics, and a “Most Dangerous Myth”
The concept of distinct races came from European naturalists in the 1700s and it’s now recognized as a social construct, rather than a biological classification. Nonetheless, genetics researchers sometimes use race or ethnicity to stand in for ancestry. This practice has been criticized for creating discrete categories where none exist and for underemphasizing the ways that environment and other nongenetic factors can contribute to ill health.
In March, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine weighed in with a consensus report. It documented the problems of using race as a biological category in genetics studies and suggested more appropriate approaches. One of the report’s authors is Ann Morning, a professor of sociology at New York University. Over a decade ago she wrote the book The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference. She spoke with Issues editor Monya Baker about why race is a poor—but persistent—shorthand in genetics studies.
Read the National Academies’ consensus report Using Population Descriptors in Genetics and Genomics Research: A New Framework for an Evolving Field.
Books by Ann Morning: The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference and An Ugly Word: Rethinking Race in Italy and the United States (coauthored by Marcello Maneri).
The Microscope and the Metaphor
What does intuitive, emotional poetry have in common with rational, empirical science? On this episode, host J. D. Talasek talks to poet Jane Hirshfield and neuroscientist Virginia Sturm to understand how they came to work together, and the connections they’ve found between poetry, neural science, and society. They discuss what Hirshfield calls the “mutual delight” they’ve found between poets and scientists as they consider how the microscope and the metaphor can be used to explore the world.
Hirshfield and Sturm also explore how poetry affects the brain, and what that reveals about the science of emotions and the complex ways that humans process language. Together they connect the dots on the surprising connection between poetry, empathy, science, and policy change.
· Visit the Poets for Science exhibit at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, DC, until September 8, 2023. Learn more about Jane Hirshfield’s work and find upcoming exhibitions on the Poets for Science website.
· Visit the University of California San Francisco’s Clinical Affective Neuroscience Lab website to find more of Virginia Sturm’s work.
To Solve the AI Problem, Rely on Policy, Not Technology
Artificial intelligence is everywhere, growing increasingly accessible and pervasive. Conversations about AI often focus on technical accomplishments rather than societal impacts, but leading scholar Kate Crawford has long drawn attention to the potential harms AI poses for society: exploitation, discrimination, and more. She argues that minimizing risks depends on civil society, not technology.
The ability of people to govern AI is often overlooked because many people approach new technologies with what Crawford calls “enchanted determinism,” seeing them as both magical and more accurate and insightful than humans. In 2017, Crawford cofounded the AI Now Institute to explore productive policy approaches around the social consequences of AI. Across her work in industry, academia, and elsewhere, she has started essential conversations about regulation and policy. Issues editor Monya Baker recently spoke with Crawford about how to ensure AI designers incorporate societal protections into product development and deployment.
Read her latest book, Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence.
Working with machine learning datasets? Check out Crawford’s critical field guide to think about how to best work with these data.
Finding Collective Advantage in Shared Knowledge
The CHIPS and Science Act aims to secure American competitiveness and innovation by investing $280 billion in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, scientific innovation, and regional development. But if past government investments in science and technology are any guide, this will affect American life in unexpected and profound ways—well beyond manufacturing and scientific laboratories.
On this episode, Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, talks to host Lisa Margonelli about the CHIPS and Science Act in the context of previous American security investments. Investments in food security and agriculture in the 1860s and nuclear security in the 1940s and 50s created shared knowledge that benefitted all Americans. Early agricultural programs, for example, turned farmers into innovators, resulting in an agricultural sector that can feed many people with very little labor. In similar ways, today’s quest for digital security could make the country more secure, while also changing how individuals live and work with information.
- Read perspectives on How the CHIPS and Science Act Can Deliver on its Promises
- Read A. Hunter Dupree’s Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities
- Read Michael Crow and William Dabars on The Emergence of the Fifth Wave in American Higher Education.
Confronting Extreme Heat with the World’s First Chief Heat Officer
Miami is so renowned for its warm weather that its professional basketball team is the Miami Heat. But extreme heat can be life-threatening, even in cities like Miami that are used to high temperatures. And within cities, lower-income and minority neighborhoods feel the effects of extreme heat more acutely due to a lack of shade and green spaces. What can be done to protect vulnerable communities from extreme heat?
The world’s first chief heat officer, Jane Gilbert, who leads Miami-Dade County’s efforts to deal with extreme heat, is working on the answers. She recently spoke with Issues editor Jason Lloyd about the need for win-win solutions (more air conditioning alone can’t solve the problem), the difficulties of planting trees on busy streets, and engaging with citizens on solutions for keeping communities safe in a warmer future.
· Miami Dade County’s extreme heat resource page
You've Been Misinformed About Sharks
Recent conversations about scientific misinformation have concentrated on what is new: social media and algorithms that spread all kinds of information—reliable and unreliable—surprisingly fast. But misinformation has long been an issue for scientists who study sharks. The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week has anchored the idea of predatory, dangerous sharks in the public consciousness for 35 years, often wrapping its entertainments in the legitimizing cloak of science. In this episode, we talk with Arizona State University marine biologist David Shiffman, who studies sharks and the impacts of misinformation on shark conservation.
· Read David Shiffman’s book, Why Sharks Matter: A Deep Dive with the World’s Most Misunderstood Predator.
· What are the Odds?Compare shark attacks to other risks.
What’s Driving the Electric Car Revival?
In 2022, there were more than 2 million electric vehicles, or EVs, on the road in the United States. In 2005, there were only about 1,000. The conventional wisdom credits better batteries with this remarkable growth. In the 2010s, engineers delivered batteries that cost less and could go many miles further. Consequently, driving range increased, costs decreased, and sales soared. EVs now compete with vehicles powered by traditional internal combustion engines.
But Matthew Eisler (University of Strathclyde) challenges this narrative. He argues that the US resurgence in EVs had little to do with technology and much more to do with public policies, business models, and social conditions. On this episode, Eisler talks with host Jason Lloyd about the complex history of EV adoption, how a powerful metaphor invited new players into car manufacturing, and what the EV revival might mean for infrastructure such as electric grids.
- Matthew N. Eisler’s recent book, Age of Auto Electric: Environment, Energy, and the Quest for the Sustainable Car (MIT Press, 2022)
- Read an excerpt from the book, published in the Winter 2023 Issues in Science and Technology: “Computers on Wheels?”
Collaborations on Ice
How can scientific data be made more tangible, visceral, and experiential? Collaboration! Over the course of a four-year project, Arctic Ice: A Visual Archive, artist Cy Keener, landscape researcher Justine Holzman, climatologist Ignatius Rigor, and scientist John Woods integrated field data, remote satellite imagery, scientific analysis, and art to create visual representations of disappearing Arctic ice. Being deeply embedded in each other’s processes helped the artists and scientists foster new ideas and unexpected outcomes.
On this episode, host J. D. Talasek is joined by Keener and Rigor to discuss how to build successful collaborations across different disciplines and how creative practices can contribute to scientific research and communication.
· See images from Arctic Ice and read more about the collaborative project in Issues in Science and Technology.
· Visit the Arctic Ice: A Visual Archive exhibition through February 15, 2023, by visiting the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, DC. Check out the CPNAS website to learn more about the exhibition and download a virtual catalogue.
· See more of Cy Keener’s work on his website.
· Visit the International Arctic Buoy Programme’s website to learn more about the program’s buoy maps, data, research, and publications.
Shirley Malcom: Where Science and Society Meet
Shirley M. Malcom is a trailblazer in the area of broadening participation in science. Currently senior advisor and director of the SEA Change initiative at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she has long worked to create institutional transformation in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
On this episode, we are delighted to feature her talk from the 2022 Henry and Bryna David lecture in its entirety. This lecture series is sponsored by the National Academies’ Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education and Issues in Science and Technology. In her lecture, she talks about the importance of the behavioral sciences, social sciences, and education in evidence-based public policy. She brings her considerable expertise in public science literacy, issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and STEM education to bear on the challenges facing American society.
- Read Shirley M. Malcom’s recent essay for Issues: “The Limiting Factor of ‘The Endless Frontier’ Is Still a Human One”
- Visit the SEA Change website
- Find more information about the David Lecture at the National Academies’ site
Peaches, Pimentos, and Myths of Innovation
The challenge of transforming regional economies through technological innovation is at the heart of current discussions about science and industrial policy—not to mention the CHIPs and Science Act itself. To think about what regional transformation means, it’s worth revisiting the story of how a network of “fruit men” used the peach, and later the pimento, to change the South after the Civil War. Starting with a biotechnological invention—a shippable peach named the Elberta—this group built railroads, designed shipping methods, educated farmers, and eventually built factories that transformed the landscape and economy of the region. But this story isn’t only about tangible actions: the network used powerful storytelling and ideology to accomplish this revolution.
On this episode, host Lisa Margonelli talks with historian and journalist Cynthia Greenlee about the role of technological innovation, storytelling, and myth in regional transformation. They also discuss how the peach paved the way for the invention of the pimento—now part of a beloved regional cheese spread—and harnessed cultural as well as technological forces.
· Reach Cynthia R. Greenlee’s Issues essay, Reinventing the Peach, the Pimento, and Regional Identity.
· Visit Cynthia’s website to find more of her work. She has written on food, history, politics, and more.
To Solve Societal Problems, Unite the Humanities with Science
How can music composition help students learn how to code? How can creative writing help medical practitioners improve care for their patients? Science and engineering have long been siloed from the humanities, arts, and social sciences, but uniting these disciplines could help leaders better understand and address problems like educational disparities, socioeconomic inequity, and decreasing national wellbeing.
On this episode, host Josh Trapani speaks to Kaye Husbands Fealing, dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech, about her efforts to integrate humanities and social sciences with science and engineering. We also discuss her pivotal role in establishing the National Science Foundation’s Science of Science and Innovation Policy program, and why an integrative approach is crucial to solving societal problems.
· Read Kaye Husbands Fealing, Aubrey DeVeny Incorvaia, and Richard Utz’s Issues piece “Humanizing Science and Engineering for the Twenty-First Century” for for our series “The Next 75 Years of Science Policy," supported by the Kavli Foundation
[KS1]Think this is enough to justify using Kavli funds to promote this episode of the podcast?
· Visit Kaye Husbands Fealing’s webpage at Georgia Tech
· Read Julia Lane’s Issues piece “A Vision for Democratizing Government Data”
· Read National Science Board members Ellen Ochoa and Victor R. McCrary’s Issues piece “Cultivating America’s STEM Talent Must Begin at Home”
· Read John H. Marburger’s 2005 piece in Science “Wanted: Better Benchmarks”
· Look at the National Academies 2014 summary of the Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP) principal investigators conference
· View the webpage for the SciSIP program (renamed Science of Science: Discovery, Communication, and Impact) at the National Science Foundation
How to Fix the Bus
Buses are an inexpensive and easy-to-deploy form of mass transit that could help reduce traffic congestion and curb air pollution. But in the United States, no one wants to ride them—and for good reason: the design of the American bus has not changed much since World War II. The antiquated design is uncomfortable and creates hazards for riders, drivers, and pedestrians. How could the bus be transformed into a mode of transit that people actually want to use?
On this episode, host Lisa Margonelli talks to Brian Sherlock, a former Seattle bus driver and safety specialist at Amalgamated Transit Union International, the largest public transit union in North America. He explains what’s wrong with American buses, and how a redesign could make for a better urban future.
COVID-19 Revealed an Invisible Hazard on American Buses by Brian Sherlock
How can Clinical Trials Better Reflect Society’s Diversity?
Clinical trials are crucial to the development of new drugs, medical treatments, and therapeutics. The knowledge gained from these trials helps ensure that treatments are safe and effective. Trials are also sometimes the only way for patients to access the most cutting-edge therapies for a disease. However, wide swaths of the American population, including Black and Latino Americans who often face the greatest health challenges, are not adequately represented in the clinical trials and do not benefit equitably from this research.
In this episode, host Sara Frueh is joined by Gloria Coronado, an epidemiologist with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and Jason Resendez, president of the National Alliance for Caregiving, to discuss the causes and consequences of this underrepresentation, and steps researchers and policymakers should take to remedy it.
- Read the May 2022 consensus report from the National Academies, Improving Representation in Clinical Trials and Research: Building Equity for Women and Underrepresented Groups.
The Forgotten Origins of the Social Internet
The typical history of the internet tells a story that emphasizes experts and institutions: government, industry, and academia. In this origin story, the internet began as a product of the military during the Cold War, was adopted by academia and research institutions, and then Silicon Valley and the private sector brought it to the masses. What this history ignores, however, are the many computer enthusiasts and hobbyists of the 1980s who used modems to connect to bulletin board systems—creating thriving online communities well before most people ever heard about the “information superhighway.”
On this episode, host Jason Lloyd is joined by professor Kevin Driscoll from the University of Virginia to discuss how the forgotten history of bulletin board systems can help us understand today’s social media-dominated internet and build healthier, more inclusive online communities.
Food is an essential part of our lives, but for many people fresh food is something they find in a grocery store, not growing in their communities. How can art and advances in agricultural science create new food resources, connect communities, and create more resilient food systems?
On this episode, host J. D. Talasek is joined by artists David Allen Burns and Austin Young of Fallen Fruit and professor Molly Jahn from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to explore how creativity and systems thinking can change the food system.
- Read about the “Subversive Beauty of Fallen Fruit” in Issues, and learn more about the Fallen Fruit collective’s artwork and projects by visiting the group’s website.
- Explore the Endless Orchard to collaborate in creating the largest public orchard in the world.
- Read Molly Jahn’s Issues article, “How ‘Multiple Breadbasket Failure’ Became a Policy Issue,” on her journey from making new squash varieties to trying to improve global food security.
- Learn more about risk in food systems by visiting the Jahn Research Group, and take her free courses on “Systems Thinking.”
BONUS EPISODE: A Historic Opportunity for U.S. Innovation
This summer, Congress is trying to reconcile the differences between two massive bills focused on strengthening US competitiveness and spurring innovation: the House-passed COMPETES Act and the Senate-passed USICA bill. In this episode, we speak with Mitch Ambrose from FYI, the American Institute of Physics’ science policy news service, about the historic conference aimed at negotiating the House and Senate bills. What are the competing visions for US competitiveness in the bills? How do the details get worked out, and what happens if Congress fails to reach an agreement?
Follow FYI’s coverage and subscribe to their newsletters at aip.org/fyi.
Biotech Goes to Summer Camp
Who gets to be a scientist? At BioJam, a free Northern California summer camp, the answer is everyone. This week we talk with Callie Chappell, Rolando Perez, and Corinne Okada Takara about how BioJam engages high school students and their communities to create art through bioengineering. Started as an intergenerational collective in 2019, BioJam was designed to change the model of science communication and education into a multi-way collaboration between the communities of Salinas, East San Jose, and Oakland, and artists and scientists at Stanford. At BioJam, youth are becoming leaders in the emerging fields of biodesign and biomaking—and in the process, redefining what it means to be a scientist.
Read their essay, "Bioengineering Everywhere, For Everyone," and see the youth artwork.
Visit the BioJam website to learn more.
Rethinking Hard Problems in Brain Science
When it comes to exploring the mind-boggling complexity of living systems—ranging from the origins of human consciousness to treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s—Susan Fitzpatrick has long been a critic of reductionist thinking. In this episode we talk with Fitzpatrick, who has spent three decades supporting brain research as president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, about new ways to understand the human brain, the difficulty of developing an effective Alzheimer’s treatment, and how scientific research can successfully confront complex problems.
- The James S. McDonnell Foundation website
- Susan Fitzpatrick’s review of Metazoa by Peter Godfrey-Smith and Life’s Edge by Carl Zimmer
- Her review of Brains Through Time by Georg F. Striedter and R. Glenn Northcutt
- Her review of Mind Fixers by Anne Harrington
- Her review of Chasing Men on Fire by Stephen G. Waxman and Understanding the Brain by John E. Dowling
- “Asking the Right Questions in Alzheimer’s Research,” her Feature essay in the Fall 2018 Issues in Science and Technology
Demystifying the Federal Budget
How do budgets evolve into policies? As Congress starts to appropriate money for President Biden’s 2023 budget requests, we talk with Matt Hourihan, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hourihan tells of his own introduction to the byzantine mysteries of the budget, how the process works (and sometimes doesn’t work!), and what the numbers reveal about today’s science policy priorities.
- Find more resources to understand federal research & development funding by visiting AAAS’s R&D Budget & Policy Program.
- Visit AAAS’s Science Insider for breaking news and analysis on science policy.
Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattHourihan.
Chasing Connections in Climate Action
There is scientific consensus on climate change and its human cause, but how to understand and address global warming remains a divided topic in American life. Art and religion are two lenses through which new perspectives on climate change might be discovered. In this episode, we talk to photographer James Balog and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe about how their work creates connections across different ways of knowing, such as art, science, or religion. How can these connections—along with a better understanding of influences such as personal geographies and socioeconomic backgrounds—inform meaningful ways to confront climate change?
· Visit Katharine Hayhoe’s website for more of her work and links to her social media.
· Extreme Ice Survey: James’s innovative, long-term photography project to give a visual voice to the planet’s changing ecosystems.
· Read James’s new book, The Human Element: A Time Capsule from the Anthropocene
· Read Katharine’s new book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World
· Watch Katharine’s Global Weirding: Climate, Politics, and Religion videos on Youtube
Can Bureaucracy Build a Climate Revolution?
Between 2009 and 2019, India brought electricity to half a billion citizens, and then turned around and presided over a grid where power from wind and solar became cheaper than electricity from coal in 2018. India’s carbon-heavy government ministries have shown a surprising ability to engineer deep change. Kartikeya Singh, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, talks with us about what role these ministries–which employ 20 million people—could play in creating an energy sector that is ecologically and economically sustainable.
Read Kartikeya Singh’s essay, Bureaucracies for the Better.
Creating a “High-Minded Enterprise”: Vannevar Bush and Postwar Science Policy
Vannevar Bush is a towering figure in US science and technology policy. A science adviser to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman during and after World War II, he mobilized the US research community in support of the war effort and was a major figure in the creation of the National Science Foundation.
Although his influence on the history and institutions of US science and technology is unparalleled, the full breadth of Bush’s thinking remains underappreciated today. We talk with writer and educator G. Pascal Zachary, Bush’s biographer and editor of a new collection of his writings, about this remarkable polymath, the background behind his landmark report, Science, the Endless Frontier, and his surprising legacy for the information age.
- The Essential Writings of Vannevar Bush, edited by G. Pascal Zachary.
- Faith & Science, an excerpt from a 1955 letter Vannevar Bush wrote to employees and supporters of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
- Beyond the Endless Frontier, an article series from Issues that grapples with Bush’s legacy for today’s science policy.
Maximizing the Good of Innovation
The United States is justifiably proud of the accomplishments of its taxpayer-funded biomedical innovation system. But these innovations don’t benefit all Americans equally, which means, among other things, that the richest live 10 to 15 years longer than the very poor. In this episode we speak with Shobita Parthasarathy, a professor at the University of Michigan and director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. Parthasarathy explains how to think differently about the country’s innovation system—by removing societal bias, rethinking patents, and ensuring equitable access to medical advances—to allow all Americans to thrive.
Read Shobita Parthasarathy’s article, Innovation as a Force for Equity.
Explore more of Parthasarathy’s work by visiting her website.
Check out Parthasarathy’s podcast, The Received Wisdom, a podcast about how to realize the potential of science and technology by challenging the received wisdom.
Fighting COVID with Art
The COVID vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection, serious illness, and even death from COVID, but many are hesitant to get vaccinated. Because art is a powerful tool for connecting with communities, building stronger relationships between artists and public health programs may be a way to increase people’s confidence about vaccines. On this episode, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and Jill Sonke, director of the Center for Art in Medicine at the University of Florida, join us to explore the question, “What role could artists and culture bearers play in discussions of vaccine confidence?”
Shaky Science in the Courtroom
Eyewitness testimony and forensic science are key forms of evidence used in criminal cases. But over the past few decades DNA analysis—and the exonerations it has prompted—has revealed how flawed these types of evidence can be. According to the Innocence Project, mistaken eyewitness identifications played a role in 70% of convictions that were ultimately overturned through DNA testing, and misapplied forensic science was found in nearly half of these cases.
In this episode we speak with Jed Rakoff, senior US district judge for the Southern District of New York. Judge Rakoff discussed the weaknesses in eyewitness identification and forensic science and offered thoughts on how judges, policymakers, and others can reform the use of these methods and get stronger science into the courtroom.
And two National Academies reports:
The Marvelous and the Mundane: Art and the Webb Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope’s revolutionary technology is expected to reveal secrets of every phase of cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies. In this podcast, we talk with DC-based artist Tim Makepeace about his exhibition Reflections on a Tool of Observation: Artwork Inspired by the James Webb Space Telescope that celebrates the awe-inspiring technology while drawing attention to the fact that it is a human endeavor that reveals the nuts, bolts and wires of the instrument. Tim is joined by art historian Anne Collins-Goodyear whose research exploring the relationship between art and technology provides thought provoking historical context.
See a selection of pieces from Tim Makepeace’s exhibition, Reflections on a Tool of Observation: Artwork Inspired by the James Webb Space Telescope and visit the CPNAS website to learn more about the exhibition.
Visit Tim Makepeace’s website for more works.
Follow Anne Collins-Goodyear’s current work at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
It may surprise you to learn that the enormous dinosaur skeletons that wow museum visitors were not assembled by paleontologists. The specialized and critical task of removing fossilized bones from surrounding rock, and then reconstructing the fragments into a specimen that a scientist can research or a member of the public can view, is the work of fossil preparators. Many of these preparators are volunteers without scientific credentials, working long hours to assemble the fossils on which scientific knowledge of the prehistoric world is built. In this episode we speak with social scientist and University of Virginia professor Caitlin Donahue Wylie, who takes us inside the paleontology lab to uncover a complex world of status hierarchies, glue controversies, phones that don’t work—and, potentially, a way to open up the scientific enterprise to far more people.
Read Caitlin Donahue Wylie’s article, What Fossil Preparators Can Teach Us About More Inclusive Science.
Check out Caitlin Donahue Wylie’s book, Preparing Dinosaurs: The Work Behind the Scenes, which is available for open access.
The Art of a COVID Year
In the early days of the pandemic, communities began singing together over balconies, banging pans, and engaging in other forms of collective support, release, and creativity. Artists have also been creatively responding to this global event. In this episode, we explore how artists help us deal with a crisis such as COVID-19 by documenting, preserving, and helping us process our experiences. San Francisco artist James Gouldthorpe created a visual journal starting at the very onset of the pandemic to record its personal, societal, and historical impacts. We spoke with Gouldthorpe and Dominic Montagu, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
See a selection of James Gouldthorpe’s artwork from the COVID Artifacts series on Issues.org.
Eternal Memory of the Facebook Mind
Social media platforms like Facebook and Spotify analyze huge quantities of data from users before feeding selections back as personal “memories.” How do the algorithms select which content to turn into memories? And how does this feature affect the way we remember--and even what we think memory is? We spoke to David Beer, professor of sociology at the University of York, about how algorithms and classifications play an increasingly important role in producing and shaping what we remember about the past.
- David Beer reviews Streaming Culture: Subscription Platforms and the Unending Consumption of Culture by David Arditi: “More and More and More Culture”
- Social Media and the Automatic Production of Memory: Classification, Ranking, and the Sorting of the Past by Ben Jacobsen and David Beer
- Spotify Wrapped, Spotify’s yearly wrap-up of your listening habits.
Doing Science with Everyone at the Table
Could we create more knowledge by changing the way we do scientific research? We spoke with NASA’s Psyche mission’s principal investigator and ASU Interplanetary Initiative vice president Lindy Elkins-Tanton about the limitations of “hero science,” and how she is using an inclusive model where collaborative teams pursue “profound and important questions.”
Read Lindy Elkins-Tanton’s essay, Time to Say Goodbye to Our Heroes?
Science Policymakers’ Required Reading
Every Monday afternoon, the Washington, DC, science policy community clicks open an email newsletter from the American Institute of Physics’ science policy news service, FYI, to learn what they’ve missed. We spoke with Mitch Ambrose and Will Thomas about this amazing must-read: how it comes together in real time and what it reveals about the ever-changing world of science policy itself.
Find FYI’s Trackers and subscribe to their newsletters at aip.org/fyi.