Author Archives: Kevin Finneran

Editor’s Journal: Take a Deep Breath

This article is in The Energy Transition, Winter 2017

Anxiety reigns among the overeducated, the hyper-rational, the super-scrupulous. Academics, think-tankers, and journalists are trying earnestly to understand why so many Americans have lost their respect for intellectual rigor. Hell, there seem to be millions of people gleefully indifferent to facts or truthfulness. What does this mean for those of us who purport to be […]

Middle Class Muddle

This article is in The Criminalization of Immigration, Fall 2016

The fate of the US middle class has taken center stage in political and economic discussions. Donald Trump promises to bring back the well-paying jobs that he says were lost to foreign countries because of misguided federal regulations and trade policies. Hillary Clinton has joined Trump in expressing her doubts about the impact of trade […]

Responding to CRISPR/Cas9

This article is in Summit on Human Gene Editing, Spring 2016

The prospect of influencing the course of human evolution through technological intervention has been thought about for a long time, but usually in an abstract or theoretical way. But that possibility has become an impending reality at a breathtaking pace in the past few years. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier published a paper in Science […]

Outlier Thoughts on Climate and Energy

This article is in Climate and Energy: The Outliers, Winter 2016

As the Paris climate talks were starting, activist Bill McKibben wrote in Foreign Policy magazine that “The conference is not the game—it’s the scorecard.” He explained that he did not expect the negotiations to produce any significant breakthroughs, but they would consolidate the progress that has been made in recent years through many smaller agreements […]

Editor’s Journal: Jailhouse Rot

This article is in Incarceration, Fall 2015

Americans seem to have a thing for prisons. Not only do we have the world’s largest prison population, we have a rich and incongruous pop culture heritage of films and songs about prison life. On film from Cool Hand Luke to Jailhouse Rock, from Shawshank Redemption to Orange Is the New Black. In song from […]

Educating the Future Workforce

This article is in Educating the Worker of the Future, Summer 2015

Work ain’t what is used to be, and in the future it won’t be what it is now. Standardization, mechanization, electrification, and now robotification and computerization have driven constant upheaval. At each stage observers have expressed alarm that worker dislocation will create a social nightmare of unemployment and financial ruin. The changes have been disruptive […]

Editor’s Journal: Science Advice or Political Cover?

This article is in Caught in Traffic, Fall 2002

What type of advice are political leaders looking for? Science advisory committees are being dissed by the Bush administration according to recent stories in Science, the Washington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Several committees that provide scientific input to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been disbanded or completely repopulated […]

Editor’s Journal: Telling Stories

This article is in Telling Stories, Summer 2014

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 […]

Editor’s Journal: What’s Food Got to Do with It?

This article is in Global Food Fight, Summer 2001

A host of deeper and broader concerns are the real motivation behind the genetically modified food ruckus. Displacement is the common psychological practice of redirecting an emotional response from the original person or event to a different person or event that an individual believes is a more acceptable object of the emotion. Understanding this concept […]

Editor’s Journal: What’’s Art Got to Do with It?

This article is in The Online Challenge to Higher Education, Summer 2013

For the past eight years Issues has been including art in addition to its written articles. There’s nothing unusual about including illustrations and other types of visual material to accompany articles in magazines. It’s an effective way of presenting data, attracting attention, or emphasizing a point. The graphic materials are developed after an article is […]

Editor’s Journal: The Age of Hubris and Complacency

This article is in Preserving Biodiversity, Spring 1999

When times are good, it’s easy to believe that they will stay that way. It’s early March. The Dow is getting ready to add a digit. The U.S. military is flexing its muscles in Iraq and Kosovo. The chattering class is contentedly chewing on the paltry remains of the Monica media feast. What else is […]

Editor’s Journal: The Two Cultures Revisited

This article is in Climate Change: Where Do We Go From Here?, Spring 1998

Let’s try again to close the gap between the sciences and the humanities. Science Wars is the title of a book of essays edited by Andrew Ross and published in 1996. The inflated premise of the book is that a fierce intellectual battle is being waged between the cultural critics of science and the scientific […]

Editor’s Journal: Where’s the Science?

This article is in The Action Begins for the New Administration, Spring 2001

The administration is rushing into action before appointing the science and technology officials who should be participating in critical decisions. The Bush administration recently decided not to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide in spite of the fact that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has become increasingly firm in its view that the release […]

Editor’s Journal: Weighing Our Woes

This article is in Homeland Security, Winter 2001-2002

Just as we marshal resources against terrorism, we must increase our efforts to control an even more prolific killer–infectious disease. The horror of September 11 is difficult to absorb. We all looked in disbelief as the tape of the buildings collapsing was played over and over and over again. We watched thinking that if we […]

Editor’s Journal: The Path Not Studied

This article is in The Path Not Studied, Summer 2008

KEVIN FINNERAN Corporate executives, elected officials, political analysts, leading academics, and the rest of the national elite have formed a chorus of voices proclaiming the value of more and better education for all Americans. The message to the nation, particularly the young and disadvantaged, says in essence: Do what we did and you will have […]

Editor’s Journal: Questions That Blur Political Party Lines

This article is in Questions That Blur Political Party Lines, Fall 2008

Presidential election season is not the best time to be a policy wonk. Seminars at Harvard’s Kennedy School or colloquia at the National Academy of Sciences can feel like exercises in the theater of the absurd when voters seem eager to turn the choice of a vice president into an episode of “American Idol.” As […]

Editor’s Journal: Postdoctoral Training and Intelligent Design

This article is in Computing Solutions to Airline Safety and Other Policy Dilemmas, Winter 2005

If we want to attract the best students to science and nurture their talent most effectively, we need to rethink the current system. “Kids, I’m here today to tell you why you should become scientists. In high school, while your friends are taking classes such as the meaning of the swim suit in contemporary TV […]

Editor’s Journal: A Plague o’ Both Your Houses

This article is in The Continuing Problem of Nuclear Weapons, Spring 2006

“A plague o’ both your houses! They have made worms’ meat of me.” Mercutio knew what he was talking about. In Romeo and Juliet, it is not just his own life but also youthful love that is crushed by the blind animosity between the Capulets and Montagues; on the U.S. policy stage, it is the […]

Editor’s Journal: At Last

This article is in Information Technology and the Research University, Fall 2005

The last time that the look of Issues was updated was the fall of 1988, when I joined the magazine. The 1988 design put Issues at the forefront of the movement toward desktop publishing. Of course, the software was relatively primitive at the time, and we opted for a design that was much stronger on […]

Editor’s Journal: Why Is This So Hard?

This article is in The Road to a New Energy System, Fall 2009

If everyone from T. Boone Pickens to Vinood Khosla to Steven Chu agrees that the world needs to develop affordable, low-carbon, efficient, and sustainable energy technologies, why do we have to spend so much time dithering about the design of research and development, demonstration, diffusion, and adoption programs? Why are governments and the private sector […]

Editor’s Journal: Remembering George E. Brown, Jr.

This article is in Rethinking What Research Government Should Fund, Fall 1999

Issues is honored that the article on the Small Business Innovation Research program that George Brown coauthored with James Turner for the Summer 1999 Issues was the last article that Rep. Brown worked on before his death on July 15. As he did with so many topics, Rep. Brown approached the subject with deep knowledge, […]

A New Era

This article is in Does Education Pay?, Fall 2013

This edition of Issues in Science and Technology marks the beginning of a new era. Arizona State University is joining with the National Academies and the University of Texas at Dallas as a co-publisher. ASU’s participation will be led by its Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO), and CSPO co-director Daniel Sarewitz will assume […]

Editor’s Journal: Let Them Eat Pixels

This article is in The Delicate Balance: Environment, Economics, Development, Spring 2000

The digital divide is real, but it’s not nearly as important as many other inequities. President Clinton says, “Our big goal should be to make connection to the Internet as common as connection to telephones is today . . . We want to join with the private sector to bring more computers and Internet access […]

Editor’s Journal: Expanding Innovation

This article is in Innovation Policy around the World, Spring 2010

Innovation is good. Everyone says so. It will increase worker productivity and thus the world’s wealth and the value of work. It will cure deadly diseases and ease the ailments that afflict us as we age. It will enable us to tap the unlimited resources of renewable energy and to use our finite resources of […]

Editor’s Journal: Straight Talk

This article is in The U.S. Fusion Program at the Crossroads, Summer 1997

Which of the following does not belong? a) firebrands b) visionaries c) opinion leaders d) S&T policy wonks Unfortunately, the answer is obvious. Let’s face it: Most of what’s written in S&T policy discussions does not captivate the public imagination. Remember Michael Dukakis? He was the guy who was laughed out of the 1992 presidential […]

Editor’s Journal: The Merits of Meritocracy

This article is in Science and Foreign Policy, Summer 1999

The nation must think through its contradictory attitudes toward academic achievement. On May 17, 1999, the Wall Street Journal reported on the disappearing valedictorian. One of the side effects of high-school grade inflation and a complex system of extra credit for some demanding courses is that it is not unusual for a graduating class to […]

Editor’s Journal: Don’t Know Much Trigonometry

This article is in Domestic Security Revisited, Winter 2007

A new poll revealed that 86% of Americans are aware that China and India are working to produce more workers with technical skills, and only 49% believe that the United States would rank at or near the top of the global economy 20 years from now. In addition, 70% said that general science and math […]

Editor’s Journal: Washington’s Media Maze

This article is in The Energy/Climate Complex, Spring 2011

Policy analysis should not be merely an academic exercise. The goal is to inform and influence public policy, and therefore it has to reach the movers and shakers and the decisionmakers. That means it has to arrive at the right time via the right medium. But how does one do that in a world of […]

Something Old, Something New

This article is in Is Information Technology Creating a Productivity Boom?, Summer 1998

First, I want to welcome back the National Academy of Engineering as a sponsor of Issues. NAE was an original sponsor and supported the magazine for more than a decade. During a period of transition in its leadership, it suspended its sponsorship, but now that it has regained its equilibrium under the leadership of Wm. […]

Editor’s Journal: Research Reconsidered

This article is in Transportation Safety, Winter 2000-2001

Basic? Applied? Who knows, who cares? Let’s move on to more interesting and important questions. A group of experienced analysts and practitioners of science policy gathered in Washington in late November to discuss the theme of “Basic Research in the Service of National Objectives.” The purpose was to continue a discussion that began with two […]