Author Archives: Kevin Finneran

Editor’s Journal: Talk to the Hand


This article is in Infrastructure for a Stormy Future, Winter 2018


Friends, colleagues, and relatives from across the globe all seem to have the same questions: What is it like to be in Washington, DC, in the age of policy mayhem? What role is there for policy wonkery and expert advice when evidence, facts, intellectual consistency, and honesty are decomposing on the compost heap? Grizzled veterans […]

Editor’s Journal: No Time for Rubbernecking


This article is in Climate and Energy, Summer 2017


Among the most annoying driving experiences is to endure a long traffic jam only to discover that the cause of the delay is not an accident on your side of the road, but rubbernecking at the results of an accident on the other side. We all know that nothing is gained by staring at the […]

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: 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: Irrational Exuberance


This article is in Tapping Talent in a Global Economy, Spring 2009


We’re back! The mood at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science was buoyant. President Obama speaks science. The crowd for Al Gore’s talk filled not only the main ballroom but also the giant ballroom in another hotel that served as the overflow room. All the sessions devoted to […]

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: 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: Can Science Get Any Respect?


This article is in The Global Environment, Fall 1996


This has been an up-and-down year for the public image of science. Those smart-ass humanist critics of science got their comeuppance when Social Text, one of their trendy journals, published an article by Alan Sokal, a physicist at the City University of New York, that turned out to be a parody of their incomprehensible critiques […]

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 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: 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: Let (Most) Discussions Begin


This article is in Can We Cope if the Lights Go Out?, Spring 2002


“Science must be seen as organized evil,” warned one speaker. “Science is a force that can liberate us from everything from tooth decay to violence and premature death,” declared another. When Columbia University’s Center for Science Policy and Outcomes (www.cspo.org) set out to include a broad perspective on how to govern scientific and technological change […]

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: Changes Big and Small


This article is in Building a Military for the Future, Winter 1996-1997


Concerning face lifts and lifting spirits. Issues has made very few changes in its format or appearance since a major overhaul in 1987. We created the Real Numbers section in 1990, added art to the cover in 1991, and introduced the From the Hill section in 1995. Cartoons started appearing sporadically in 1995. It doesn’t […]

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: 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, […]

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: 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: 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 […]

Editor’s Journal: Is Anybody Listening?


This article is in Where is Information Technology Taking Us?, Spring 1997


The real action begins after an article is published in Issues. One of the satisfactions of publishing a magazine is in generating a physical product. For many magazines, that’s enough. Success is achieved when the reader is informed, amused, uplifted, or stimulated. Issues aims to do this for its readers, though the absence of engrossing […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]