Author Archives: Kevin Finneran

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: 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: Testy about Testing

This article is in Standardized Testing Takes Center Stage, Winter 2002-2003

Concerns about race, class, unions, and state budget priorities have elevated the testing of students to a major national issue–and muddied the discussion. Discussions of standardized testing often seem to be about anything but the tests themselves. Advocates of school choice and vouchers hope that poor test results for public school students will convince lawmakers […]

Editor’s Journal: The Power of the Individual

This article is in Feeding a Growing World Population, Fall 1997

The life of Leo Szilard has important lessons for scientists eager to influence public policy. William Lanouette’s fascinating biography of Leo Szilard, Genius in the Shadows, does more than reveal the life of a brilliant physicist and maverick social activist; it sheds a perceptive light on the role of scientists in public policy. World War […]

Chuck Vest, RIP

This article is in The Military of the Future, Winter 2014

Chuck Vest had the uncanny ability to make me feel smarter than I am. Although he undoubtedly knew more and had thought more deeply about any topic that I discussed with him, he always listened as if he were the acolyte and not the sage. He asked such perceptive questions and suggested such insightful implications […]

Editor’s Journal: Just Say Yes to Drug Trial Information

This article is in Ocean Policy: Time to Act, Fall 2004

The road to increased access to medical research might not be easy, but it is the route we must take. Several different research-access stories were in the news in September. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a proposed rule that would require that all scholarly papers based on NIH-funded research be made available for […]

Editor’s Journal: Science Fiction? Yes!

This article is in A New Model for the American Research University, Spring 2015

In the Spring 2014 Issues, we published our first science fiction story. Physicist Gregory Benford’s story “Eagle” explored how radical environmentalists might respond to the launch of a geoengineering project to limit climate change. The success of that story opened our eyes to the potential of science fiction writers to provide a useful perspective on […]

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 ( set out to include a broad perspective on how to govern scientific and technological change […]

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: Prime Time Science

This article is in Flaws In Forensic Science, Fall 2003

Sometimes fantasy beats reality—at least on TV. For decades, the science community has been waiting for a popular TV program that features scientists as engaging dramatic characters and the work of science as exciting as well as intellectually rigorous. Other professionals had established themselves in the spotlight. Lawyers were everywhere from Perry Mason to L.A. […]

Editor’s Journal: Goddam Humans

This article is in The Need for Geoengineering Research, Fall 2010

The social sciences have long been considered the runt in the litter of the science family, if not the bastard child of wild conjecture with deluded mathematics. Broad-minded practitioners of the physical and biological sciences admit that the study of human behavior and social systems presents particularly thorny difficulties that are different in kind from […]

Editor’s Journal: Getting Our Act Together

This article is in Policymaking in the Information Age, Summer 2007

Several of the articles in this issue look beyond specific policy debates to the larger question of the definition of science policy (in the broad sense that includes technology and health policy). The question deserves to be discussed, and it raises the related issue of whether there exists an organized science, technology, and health policy […]

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 […]