Author Archives: Kevin Finneran

Trump v. Reagan: Who Proposed Largest Cuts in Research Spending?

This article is in News Updates,

4/3/17 – Donald Trump, like Ronald Reagan, has proposed large reductions in federal research spending. According to Matthew Hourihan of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one major difference is that Trump is more eager to cut support for basic research.

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: 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 […]

Editor’s Journal: Talk to Me

This article is in Atoms for Peace: Fifty Years Later, Spring 2004

No president has ever lacked for free advice. Everyone has some policy wisdom to share. But the Bush administration has been plagued with advice-related complaints. It began with receiving secret advice on energy policy from the energy industry, continued with not asking the scientific community for its advice on global warming, and went on to […]

Editor’s Journal: History Lesson

This article is in Science in the Gilded Age and the Birth of NAS, Winter 2013

When you’re watching Steven Spielberg’s terrific new movie Lincoln, remember that this was the same Congress that passed the Morrill Act and created the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Although many of them clearly harbored deeply racist beliefs and were not above narrowly self-interested politicking, they were also capable of tackling profound questions of human […]

Editor’s Journal: The Henry and Bryna David Endowment

This article is in Elizabeth F. Loftus on Memory Faults and Fixes, Summer 2002

The article by Elizabeth Loftus that begins on the following page is the first annual Henry and Bryna David Article/Lecture. It was presented in person at the National Academy of Sciences on May 7, 2002, to an invited audience. Financial support for the activity comes from a generous bequest from the Davids’ estate to support […]

Editor’s Journal: Wider Education

This article is in The Future of Higher Education, Winter 1999-2000

December 10, 1999, the day I began to write this column, I came across two press reports that reinforced my belief that the time was right for Issues to publish this special issue on the future of higher education. That day’s Washington Post reported that the U.S. Army is preparing to offer college-level courses via […]

Editor’s Journal: Weapons and Hope

This article is in Limiting the Tools of War, Spring 2003

As Freeman Dyson observes in his book Weapons and Hope, scientists and engineers have a complex relationship with military weapons. Advances in science have over the years made possible ever more powerful weapons, and scientists and engineers have been intimately involved in applying new scientific developments to the design of more advanced weapons. Acutely aware […]

Editor’s Journal: And Now for Something Completely Different

This article is in What Next?, Spring 2014

The poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote that “The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” And for most people, she is right, even though the hardcore Issues reader might not be happy about it. We value the dispassionate logic of intellectual discourse, the relentless building of argument on the sturdy foundation of evidence. We discount […]

Editor’s Journal: Science: Too Big for Its Britches?

This article is in Immigration Policy, Fall 2014

KEVIN FINNERAN Science ain’t what it used to be, except perhaps in the systems we have for managing it. The changes taking place are widely recognized. The enterprise is becoming larger and more international, research projects are becoming more complex and research teams larger, university-industry collaboration is increasing, the number of scientific journals and research […]

Book Review: Moneyball: How Economics Shapes Science

This article is in Science in the Gilded Age and the Birth of NAS, Winter 2013

Moneyball: How Economics Shapes Science by Paula Stephan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012, 367 pp. Kevin Finneran The chorus of praise that has greeted Paula Stephan’s How Economics Shapes Science is well deserved. I am only echoing other reviewers by describing it as learned, insightful, eloquent, and timely. Stephan, an economist at Georgia State […]

Editor’s Journal: Living Legos

This article is in Ending the Inertia on Energy Policy, Winter 2008

Benjamin, I have one word for you: syntheticbiology. Of course, there is no need to update The Graduate, and that is really two words, but rewriting that line is a national pastime, and if we can string together small stretches of DNA to create a new organism, why fret over mashing a few words together. […]

Book Review: Too much ado about testing

This article is in The Future of Higher Education, Winter 1999-2000

Too much ado about testing The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, by Nicholas Lemann. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1999, 406 pp. Kevin Finneran Nicholas Lemann, a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of the outstanding history The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It […]

Editor’s Journal: The Ehlers Report

This article is in Meeting New Challenges for U.S. Industry, Winter 1998-1999

To be fair, one should be realistic about what can be achieved in a relatively brief overview of all U.S. science and technology (S&T) policy. When House Speaker Newt Gingrich directed the House Science Committee in February 1997 to prepare a report that would help the House “in developing a new, sensible, coherent long-range science […]

Editor’s Journal: Five-Year Plans

This article is in What Science Can Do, Summer 2009

The comically ambitious and perennially unrealized five-year plans that were a hallmark of the dysfunctional Soviet political system throughout the middle of the 20th century have discouraged serious thinkers from using the phrase. Perhaps because of fear of being associated with Soviet blunders, forward-looking policy gurus seem to prefer 10-year or 25-year outlooks. But having […]

Editor’s Journal: The Electronic Word

This article is in An Informed Approach to Substance Abuse, Fall 1998

Check it out:, Publication on the Internet has been in the headlines recently. First, the posting of the Starr report on the grand jury investigation of President Clinton created an electronic logjam as hundreds of thousands of people downloaded copies of the report. Then a group of hackers took over the New York […]

Editor’s Journal: Scrutinizing the Inscrutable

This article is in Seeing Through Preconceptions: A Deeper Look at China and India, Spring 2007

China and India are not mysterious, but one cannot assess their economic prospects without taking into account history, religion, culture, and politics. Business and government leaders around the world are pondering developments in China and India. Everyone can see that the future of more than a third of the world’s population is of paramount importance, […]

Book Review: Containing the fire

This article is in Energy Conundrums, Summer 2006

Containing the fire American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. New York: Vintage, 2005, 721 pp. Kevin Finneran Now that American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin has won the National Book Critics Circle Award and […]

Editor’s Journal: The Hidden Presidential Campaign Issues

This article is in The Global Battle over Biotech Foods, Fall 2000

Bush and Gore are eager to promote ideas with wide appeal, but where do they stand on more controversial questions. I’m for mom, apple pie, and science. Al Gore and George W. Bush both recognize that American voters like science. It strengthens the economy, keeps our military one step ahead of everyone else, gives us […]

Editor’s Journal

This article is in New Horizons for a Flat World, Winter 2006

“I’M HOME FROM HAVING A COLONOSCOPY—everything went fine, but I think I’ll let the drugs leave my system for a while longer before doing any serious blogging.” —Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds) 12/5/05, 11:19 am. To be fair, this is not a typical Glenn Reynolds opening, but when I decided to visit a few of the most […]

Editor’s Journal: The Info/Biotech Connection

This article is in What’s New about the New Economy, Fall 2001

Federal research funding should reflect the reality that many biomedical innovations have roots in the physical sciences and engineering. Although wide agreement exists that information technology (IT) and biotechnology will be the primary sources of innovation for the foreseeable future, this insight seems not to have penetrated fully into federal research policy. Biotechnology research, particularly […]

Charles Darwin and the Human Face of Science

This article is in Better U.S. Health Care at Lower Cost, Winter 2010

The latest success in Charles Darwin’s victory lap marking his 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species is a starring role in a major motion picture. Creation, a film by Jon Amiel starring real-life husband and wife Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Charles and Emma Darwin […]