Author Archives: issues


Climate deadlock In “Breaking the Climate Deadlock” (Issues, Summer 2014), David Garman, Kerry Emanuel, and Bruce Phillips present a thoughtful proposal for greatly expanded public- and private-sector R&D aimed at reducing the costs, increasing the reliability, managing the risks, and expanding the potential to rapidly scale up deployment of a broad suite of low- and … Read More

Editor’s Journal: Telling Stories

KEVIN FINNERAN “The universe is composed of stories, not of atoms” Muriel Rukeyser wrote in her poem “The Speed of Darkness.” Good stories are not merely the collection of individual events; they are a means of expressing ideas in concrete terms at human scale. They have the ability to accomplish the apparently simple but rarely … Read More

What Fish Oil Pills Are Hiding

DAVID SCHLEIFER ALISON FAIRBROTHER One Woman’s Quest to Save the Chesapeake Bay from the Dietary Supplement Industry Julie Vanderslice thought fish were disgusting. She didn’t like to look at them. She didn’t like to smell them. Julie lived with her mother, Pat, on Cobb Island, a small Maryland community an hour south and a world … Read More

Natural Histories

400 Years of Scientific Illustration from the Museum’s Library In a time of the internet, social media networks, and smart phones, when miraculous devices demand our attention with beeps, buzzes, and spiffy animations, it’s hard to imagine a time when something as quiet and unassuming as a book illustration was considered cutting-edge technology. Yet, since … Read More


Twister To create his self-portrait, Twister, Dan Collins, a professor of intermedia in the Herberger Institute School of Art at Arizona State University (ASU), spun on a turntable while being digitally scanned. The data were recorded in 1995, but he had to wait more than five years before he could find a computer with the … Read More

From the Hill

Details of administration’s proposed FY2015 budget Officially released March 4, President Obama’s FY2015 budget makes clear the challenges for R&D support currently posed by the Budget Control Act spending caps. With hardly any additional room available in the discretionary budget above FY 2014 levels, and with three-quarters of the post-sequester spending reductions still in place … Read More

How Hurricane Sandy Tamed the Bureaucracy

ADAM PARRIS A practical story of making science useful for society, with lessons destined to grow in importance. Remember Hurricane Irene? It pushed across New England in August 2011, leaving a trail of at least 45 deaths and $7 million in damages. But just over a year later, even before the last rural bridge had … Read More

Breaking the Climate Deadlock

DAVID GARMAN KERRY EMANUEL BRUCE PHILLIPS Developing a broad and effective portfolio of technology options could provide the common ground on which conservatives and liberals agree. The public debate over climate policy has become increasingly polarized, with both sides embracing fairly inflexible public positions. At first glance, there appears little hope of common ground, much … Read More


What’s My (Cell) Line? Cloning Wildlife: Zoos, Captivity, and the Future of Endangered Animals by Carrie Friese. New York: New York University Press, 2013, 258 pp. Stewart Brand What a strange and useful book this is! It looks like much ado about not much—just three experiments conducted at zoos on cross-species cloning (in banteng, gaur, … Read More

Final Frontier vs. Fruitful Frontier: The Case for Increasing Ocean Exploration

AMITAI ETZIONI Possible solutions to the world’s energy, food, environmental, and other problems are far more likely to be found in nearby oceans than in distant space. Every year, the federal budget process begins with a White House-issued budget request, which lays out spending priorities for federal programs. From this moment forward, President Obama and … Read More

Collective Forgetting: Inside the Smithsonian’s Curatorial Crisis

ALLISON MARSH WITH LIZZIE WADE Federal budget cutting is undermining the value of the museums’ invaluable collections by reducing funds for maintenance, cataloging, acquisition, and access. As the hands on my watch hit 11 o’clock, I was still fighting with the stubborn dust clinging to my chocolate-colored pants. The dust was winning. I knew it … Read More

Little Cell, Big Science: The Rise (and Fall?) of Yeast Research

NIKI VERMEULEN MOLLY BAIN Trying to add another chapter to the long history of yeast studies, scientists at the cutting edge of knowledge confront the painful realities of science funding. Manchester, the post-industrial heart and hub of north England, is known for football fanaticism, the pop gloom and swoon of The Smiths, a constant drizzle … Read More


Evidence-driven policy In “Advancing Evidence-Based Policymaking to Solve Social Problems” (Issues, Fall 2013), Jeffrey B. Liebman has written an informative and thoughtful article on the potential contribution of empirical analysis to the formation of social policy. I particularly commend his recognition that society faces uncertainty when making policy choices and his acknowledgment that learning what … Read More

The New Visible Hand: Understanding Today’s R&D Management

Perspectives: Rethinking “Science” Communication CRAIG BOARDMAN The New Visible Hand: Understanding Today’s R&D Management Recent decades have seen dramatic if not revolutionary changes in the organization and management of knowledge creation and technology development in U.S. universities. Market demands and public values conjointly influence and in … Read More


Eagle GREGORY BENFORD EAGLE The long, fat freighter glided into the harbor at late morning—not the best time for a woman who had to keep out of sight. The sun slowly slid up the sky as tugboats drew them into Anchorage. The tank ship, a … Read More

Is U.S. Science in Decline?

Is U.S. Science in Decline? YU XIE Is U.S. Science in Decline? The nation’s position relative to other countries is changing, but this need not be reason for alarm. Who are the most important U.S. scientists today?” Our host posed the question to his guests … Read More

Conservatism and Climate Science

Conservatism and Climate Science STEVEN F. HAYWARD Conservatism and Climate Science Objections to liberal environmental orthodoxy have less to do with the specifics of the research or the economic interests of the fossil fuel industry than with fundamental questions about hubris and democratic values. It … Read More

A Survival Plan for the Wild Cyborg

A Survival Plan for the Wild Cyborg RINIE VAN EST A Survival Plan for the Wild Cyborg In order to stay human in the current intimate technological revolution, we must become high-tech people with quirky characters. Here are seven theses to nail to the door of … Read More

Court Sides with Whales

The United Nations’ highest court has halted Japan’s large “research whaling” program in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica. But the decision will not stop all whaling by Japan or several other countries, and creating a “whale conservation market” that sells sustainable “whale shares,” as described in Issues, may provide an effective alternative to legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect global … Read More

Looking for New Ways into Space

In the spirit of a call in Issues for bold new technologies to advance space exploration and development, an international group of experts has backed the use of beanstalk-like “space elevators” to carry people and goods into orbit, and NASA has announced plans to build ion thruster engines popularized in “Star Wars” to power a mission to capture an asteroid.

Promoting Free Internet Speech

Speaking during a visit to Beijing, Michelle Obama declared that freedom of speech, particularly on the Internet and in the news media, provides the foundation for a vibrant society. Striking a similar theme in Issues, Hilary Rodham Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State, said that protecting open communication—online and offline—is essential to ensuring the fundamental rights and freedoms of … Read More

Protecting the Unwanted Fish

The conservation group Oceana has released a new report detailing how “bycatch” is damaging the health of U.S. fisheries. Ecologist and writer Carl Safina has examined this and related problems in Issues, calling for a new era of fisheries management that will beef-up old tools and adopt an array of new “smart tools” to protect these valuable and threatened resources.

Alternate Routes to Career Success

Education expert Michael J. Petrilli argues in the online magazine Slate that many students would be best served not by focusing them on pursing a traditional college education but rather by providing them with sound early education followed by programs in high school and at community colleges that help them develop strong technical and interpersonal skills. Issues has examined various ways … Read More

Progress in Childhood Obesity, yet Challenges Remain

A major new federal health survey has reported a 43% drop in the obesity rate among young children over the past decade, but older children and adolescents have made little or no progress. In Issues, Jeffrey P. Koplan and colleagues presented lessons from an earlier groundbreaking study by the Institute of Medicine on what the nation should be doing to … Read More

Pitbull Promotes Education

Along with making school attendance compulsory, states and cities should develop programs to keep students—especially those at risk of absenteeism and poor performance—engaged in learning from elementary grades through high school graduation, two education experts have noted in Issues. In an innovative application of this spirit, the pop star Pitbull is supporting a charter school in Miami that engages students … Read More

Immigration and the Economy

The financial services company Standard & Poor’s has recently released a report suggesting that increasing the number of visas issued to immigrants with technical skills will boost the U.S. economy and even spur job growth for native-born workers. Several Issues articles have made similar cases (here and here), but an expert in labor markets has also argued that the nation is producing more … Read More

Leveling the Playing Field for Women in Science

Issues has explored the status of women in science from several angles, including in an examination of how to plug the leaks of both women and men in the scientific workforce, and in a personal essay about the choices women often face when confronting the “system” of science. Many of these and other ideas are explored in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Mary … Read More

Real Numbers

Real Numbers Poverty and vulnerability to storms Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines on November 2, 2013, left behind more than 6,000 dead and displaced a T population the size of Los Angeles. The scale of the damage is a result not only of the severity of the storm but also of the vulnerability of … Read More

Reconstructing the View

Reconstructing the View Reconstructing the View The landscape has been a source of artistic exploration and contemplation since the earliest cave drawings. Represented in paintings and photography as well as film and the tourist’s snapshot, a variety of perspectives have all contributed to building within our collective imagination a sense of the places we inhabit … Read More

The Politics behind China’s Quest for Nobel Prizes

The Politics behind China’s Quest for Nobel Prizes JUNBO YU The Politics behind China’s Quest for Nobel Prizes China is applying its strategy for winning Olympic gold to science policy. It may be surprised by the outcomes—but overall, the world will benefit. Skeptics about the capacity of China to join the ranks of the industrialized … Read More