A PR professional’s take on science and the public


In a recent article in Wired, a big Hollywood PR specialist gives her views on how to handle the current problem of the public’s view of science. The answer: Science needs a publicist.

I totally agree that science needs some professional image help. But-and there is always a but-with our current funding model for research, who [...]

Government discusses how to improve access to publicly funded research

The Office of Science & Technology Policy is a board that advises the President on the “effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs” (is that broad or what?). Last week, they launched a blog forum to solicit public input on the issue of access to publically-funded research. This is all part of the Open Government Directive dedicated to bringing more transparency to how our government works. The discussion of open access to publically funded research has three focal points:

  • Implementation (Dec. 10 to 20): Which Federal agencies are good candidates to adopt Public Access policies? What variables (field of science, proportion of research funded by public or private entities, etc.) should affect how public access is implemented at various agencies, including the maximum length of time between publication and public release?p
  • Features and Technology (Dec. 21 to Dec 31): In what format should the data be submitted in order to make it easy to search and retrieve information, and to make it easy for others to link to it? Are there existing digital standards for archiving and interoperability to maximize public benefit? How are these anticipated to change.
  • Management (Jan. 1 to Jan. 7): What are the best mechanisms to ensure compliance? What would be the best metrics of success? What are the best examples of usability in the private sector (both domestic and international)? Should those who access papers be given the opportunity to comment or provide feedback? … continue reading this entry.

Hyped Health Risks, Vaccines and Bill Maher

Bill Maher has been receiving a lot of criticism, but not for his political views or his satirical take on society, or even his anti-religious propaganda. Bill Maher is receiving criticism because he has taken up the flag against “western medicine” and has become yet another celebrity vehicle for spreading misinformation, specifically on vaccine safety. While his negative views on science and medicine are not new news, things came to a head when in September Maher tweeted that:

If u get a swine flu shot ur an idiot. … continue reading this entry.

Music Videos for Science Geeks

I am a Life Sciences girl. Unlike many of my fellow skeptics, my interest in science cannot be traced to watching Cosmos as a kid. I happen to think large fuzzy animals are cool, but space is pretty cool too. However, I can easily recognize the incredible contribution that astrophysicists, like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, have made toward promoting science appreciation among the broader public (both have terrific website’s BTW). But, I was a little shocked at my own reaction to this music video created by The Symphony of Science, who auto-tuned some sound bites, added some nice visual editing and set it to soothing music. The combination sounds a little cheesy, but to be honest, I was quite moved by this and wanted to share. … continue reading this entry.

An Argument Among Skeptics, Part II: Rebuttal

Ninety-one percent of Americans correctly responded that aspirin is recommended to prevent heart attacks. (Photo from wiki commons.)

So the Pew study from this summer showed that only 32% of the public “think that humans, or other living things have evolved due to natural processes.” But, that statistic by itself doesn’t say a whole lot, 32% compared to what or who? How does that compare to the American public in 1809, 1909, or 1959? How does that compare to England or to China or to Russia? You can obviously see that any of these comparisons would be problematic. So the Pew study instead compared the American public to a population of 2,500 formally trained academic scientists, of which almost 90% find the evidence for evolution compelling. Here we get to the crux of the “disconnect” that TQM mentions.

Why isn’t the American public as well informed on issues of science as are scientists? … continue reading this entry.


A Venerable Orang-outang, a caricature of Charles Darwin as an ape published in The Hornet, a satirical magazine

"A Venerable Orang-outang", a caricature of Charles Darwin published in The Hornet, 1871

Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, co-authors of “Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future,” wrote an op-ed piece for the Guardian yesterday rehashing their views on the tumultuous relationship between science and religion. Their points have all been made before… and have all been criticized before, e.g. But in this piece, they wrapped up their discussion of how the rift between science and religion might be assessed and resolved by asking the question: What would Charles Darwin do (WWCDD)? … continue reading this entry.

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