Eating the Seed Corn: Science Policy Reading List for March 30, 2017

The assault by the Executive Branch of the US government continues on basic scientific research and sound policy based on science. Here is a reading list covering some key issues from the last couple of weeks:

  1. Perspective: “In Trump’s budget: The unwisest cut“, by NYU President Andrew Hamilton. (Washington Post)
  2. Latest Trump budget cuts at a glance“, by the Associated Press. Discusses the President’s proposal that the current year’s science budget be slashed to pay for the start of border wall construction. (Washington Post)
  3. Trump, in break from other world leaders, digs in on coal“. Matthew Daly and Jill Colvin, Associated Press. A discussion of Trump’s new executive order, which begins to unravel President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan.” Ironically, it was not regulation by the federal government that doomed the coal industry; it was coal, and how non-competitive it is in the free market of energy choices. (Washington Post)
  4. Despite Trump Move on Climate Change, Utilities’ Shift From Coal Is Set to Continue“. Cassandra Sweet. The market has spoken: coal is a loser. (Wall Street Journal)
  5. Trump puts the planet on a dangerous path“. Washington Post Editorial Board.
  6. China affirms climate pledge after Trump rolls back rules“. Joe McDonald, Associated Press. Illustrates the fact that the President is weakening U.S. leadership on the world stage, diminishing our influence as a nation. (Washington Post)

A Study in Fahrenheit (The Weeks in Review, March 13 – 25)

Our treacherous refrigerator.

I reached into the freezer to grab one of the waffles. It compressed under the touch of my fingers. Frozen waffles aren’t supposed to do that. Frozen beets aren’t supposed to leak juice out of their sealed bags. Frozen mugs aren’t supposed to be half-liquid.

An application of a thermometer revealed what I dreaded. The freezer was hovering around 38F. The fridge compartment was at 45F. The refrigerator was not working right. I glanced at my watch. I had a few hours before my flight. That wasn’t enough time to do anything useful. So, I pulled the garbage can over and got to work disposing of food. All the dairy had to go. The bags of once-frozen vegetables had to go; such things don’t survive a thaw and a re-freeze. Before long, I had half-filled the garbage bin outside with ruined or highly questionable food.

This was the start of my trip to Argonne National Lab, back on March 14. Things got a lot better after that inauspicious beginning. My time at the lab was great, though bittersweet. My weekend when I returned home was a mix of yard work and fridge shopping. My return to SMU this past week was busy with a seminar and a prospective graduate student visit, as well as lunch with prospective SMU President’s Scholars interested in physics, math, or biology and biochemistry.

It was an interesting couple of weeks.

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Tips for Science Advocates

Many of the 2008 high-energy physics laboratory users who advocated for basic science research investment in a trip to Washington D.C. in 2008.

I spent a number of years in the early 2000s participating in yearly science advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. As part of a team of high-energy physicists who would visit the Hill for two days, walking from building to building to meet with Members of Congress, I learned a few useful things about being an advocate for Federal support for basic science research. Now that Donald Trump’s administration has laid out the blueprint for their thinking on Federal spending – a blueprint that largely cuts, cuts, and cuts more at science agencies (with the notable absence of any mention of the National Science Foundation) – perhaps you are thinking about being an advocate for basic science research investment. After all, spending must originate in the House of Representatives, not in the Executive Branch. That’s the requirement of the Constitution. The President can make recommendations, but the House has all the power to initiate spending legislation and together, the Senate and the House control all the powers of the budget. Advocating NOW to steer the budget process in the House and Senate is the positive way to affect the process. Perhaps these tips will help.

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Anti-Steve: The Week in Review, March 5-12, 2017

To get to the Tri-Cities in Washington – Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick – you hop a flight in Seattle and make the short trip inland to a beautiful mountain-ringed desert plain.

This was quite a week! After last week’s near-exhausting onslaught of post-CERN jet lag and my student, J’s, PhD thesis defense (as well as a number of home repair and other such chores), this week I had something of a break to look forward to. Jodi and I are both on approved leaves from teaching this semester, and so we are spending a lot of time in the field – at laboratories and other institutions where our research is ongoing. I’ve been bouncing between SMU, CERN, and Argonne National Laboratory. Jodi is currently at about the mid-point of a 5-week visit to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA. I traveled here this week to visit her and spend some time relaxing a bit before I hit the road again for Argonne this week.

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