The Global Environment: Critical Issues for the Next Century - Henry W. Kendall Memorial Symposium at MIT (4/5)
FRANCIS: The next issue is the role of science and scientists in public policy. There is a panel discussion moderated by Howard Reese. Howard is the executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. And Howard will introduce his panel.
HOWARD REESE: Thank you, Francis. While everybody's sitting down, I've been asked to respond to two questions. One, where is Tim Wirth's speech? A FedEx arrived from his office this morning, unfortunately completely empty.
Therefore, we'll make an effort to get it transcribed, and it will probably appear at least on our website, which is ucsusa.org, sometime over the next several weeks when we can make that happen. Possibly also at MIT and elsewhere. Secondly, people have asked, what is the orange book outside? That is actually a sort of memoir that Henry Kendall had been working on before he died. It's a collection of all of his articles, ranging from physics to his work in the environment and national security, and some original sections that he wrote and we worked with Springer-Verlag to get published. It just arrived from the publisher this morning. So there is a flyer out there. If you're interested, you can take one back with ordering information.
We're going to change tacks here a little bit this afternoon. We're also going to give the audience a chance to participate at the conclusion of our panelists here. You heard various talks this morning about some of the more serious critical issues facing our future, ranging from climate change to nuclear weapons and biodiversity. These are all issues where it is absolutely essential for policymakers, the media, and the public to be adequately informed about both causes and solutions, and where the scientific community can play an important role.
Often, there are controversies where the data is insufficient or unclear, or where the scientific consensus has not been adequately communicated or at its worst, deliberately clouded by those who oppose action. Clarifying the scientific consensus and mobilizing scientists for thoughtful and effective actions were goals that drove much of Henry Kendall's work in the public arena with the Union of Concerned Scientists and other organizations.
Indeed, today, UCS has a large and innovative project called the Sound Science Initiative, designed primarily to facilitate the participation of scientists in public policy issues. So we thought it would be appropriate today to spend some time examining the role of scientists in the public policy process from three different perspectives. That of a US representative on Capitol Hill, a journalist with Newsweek magazine, and a senior official at the US Department of Energy responsible for setting national policy on some of the key issues we've been hearing about today.
Congressman Rush Holt is a Democrat from New Jersey, serving his first term in the US Congress. I believe congressman Holt is one of just two members of Congress with a PhD in physics. Prior to his election in 1998, Dr. Holt was assistant director of the Princeton plasma physics laboratory. Sharon Begley is a senior editor at Newsweek magazine, where she has worked since 1977. Ms. Begley is well-known for her ability to translate complex scientific theories or issues into compelling, informative, and I'll underscore, accurate prose. She covers a broad range of scientific, health, and environmental issues, exemplified by these three recent titles. The Birth of the Planets, Are we all a Little Crazy, and To Walk on Mars.
Dr. Ernie Moniz is undersecretary at the US Department of Energy, where he is responsible for R&D priorities on energy, environment, national security, and fundamental science. Many of you here will, of course, know him as Professor Moniz from the Department of Physics at MIT. I've asked each speaker to focus on some broad questions about how scientific input is assembled, used, not used, or abused in the media and the public policy process, to comment on their own personal experience as journalists or scientists in decision-making roles.
For example, what's it like to be a scientist on Capitol Hill? How do journalists sort out the facts on complex controversial issues when you have to meet a 1 o'clock deadline? How is national policy made when the science is not yet clear or all the data isn't in? Each speaker will have 15 to 20 minutes, and then we'll have an opportunity for them to react or ask questions of each other. And then we'll open up the floor for questions from the microphone.
After the discussion period, I want to show another short film. And I have to apologize, I hadn't seen that film we showed this morning for a while. I thought it was 11 minutes. It turned out to be 21 minutes. The film I will show in a little while is only 59 seconds, and I can guarantee you that.
It is one of the last projects Henry was working on at UCS, so I think it'll help tie some of the themes of the day together. So before we finish this panel, I will show you that. So let's begin with Rush Holt.
RUSH HOLT: Thank you, Bud. And thank you for inviting me to be with you this afternoon. I don't venture as a freshman member of Congress. I don't venture very far from Central New Jersey often. But for Henry Kendall and for his memory, I am pleased to be here. It's an honor. I see a number of friends, many of whom I haven't seen for years, a few I've seen in recent days. Dick Garwin in my office not long ago. And I might add, Dick embodies some of what I will be talking about today, which is effective lobbying.
But Henry Kendall was really a living testimony to how scientists and politicians can work together to further public welfare. And he testified numerous times, of course, before Congress about issues of safety and planetary survival. But it's his leadership of the UCS that particularly impressed me. It's deeply rooted in a belief that with accurate information, public and policymakers ultimately will make the right decision.
He had a rare gift for taking a long view and understanding how human activities and natural systems are intricately interconnected. He encouraged all of us to not shy away from the big problems facing the future of humanity and the natural world. And I think it's fair to say that he used his scientific abilities to identify those big problems and to frame the questions.
I have been a member of UCS since, I think, certainly the early '70s. I believe since my first year in graduate school. And Henry Kendall was a role model, not because I aspired or ever expected to be a Nobel Prize winner in my physics, but because I was constantly searching for ways to apply my science for the public good. And he offered a model for doing that.
I'm often asked why a physicist would leave a perfectly good job helping to run a major research lab to roll around in the muck of politics. I'd spent many years teaching at Swarthmore College and elsewhere. And it's a long answer, too long for this discussion, but there are several parts to it. One is, of course, anyone who knows my background knows that it was in my blood.
I grew up surrounded by politics. My father was a US senator. The youngest person, in fact, ever elected to that body. And my mother was Secretary of State of West Virginia, the only woman to have held that position. And although through most of my career, I was working as a physicist in the laboratory and the classroom, I also was looking for opportunities outside the classroom.
I worked for a couple of years for the New York City Environmental Protection Administration. I worked for the US State Department on arms control and nuclear nonproliferation for a couple of years. And I spent a year as an American Physical Society congressional science fellow. And that's when I really thought hard about the interface between science and politics, science and Congress in particular.
I certainly remember our first week, our orientation week as congressional fellows. Several dozen mostly mid-career, some young, some older scientists, microbiologists, chemists, physicists getting briefings from the Congressional Research Service and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and people from the Office of Technology Assessment, rest its soul. And we were sitting there somewhat nervous whether we had made the right decision to leave the laboratory or the classroom for a year to work on the Hill. And one speaker said, now, of course, you understand that here in Washington, facts are negotiable.
And we squirmed nervously in our seats. And the next day, a speaker, I think it was from the Congressional Research Service, who said, you must understand that here in Washington, we treat facts differently. And finally, still a day later, we were beginning to understand what we had gotten into when, still, another speaker said, of course, in Washington, perceptions are facts.
But we did learn a lot that year. We learned a lot about the role of science in the Congress, and what science does, and what it doesn't do there. We certainly learned this important lesson that you've all heard, usually attributed to Tip O'Neill from right down the street here, that all politics is local. And I think that even applies to global warming, global climate change, and to comprehensive test ban treaties, and any number of other things.
The district I represent in New Jersey, the 12th congressional district, is a swath across the central part of New Jersey from the Delaware River to within four blocks of the Jersey Shore. It's a sprawling suburban district, and one of the best educated in the country. About 2/3 of the people there have college education, nearly twice the national average.
There's a heavy concentration of research and development in the district, and some colleges and universities. [INAUDIBLE] knows one of them of Princeton, but also some other fine, less well-known colleges and universities in the area. In this district, there are some people who appreciate the importance of research and development in our economy to maintain the kind of growth that we hope we could maintain in order to deal with almost anything else material that our government deals with.
There are some people who understand the nature and role of science in society, but really not so many. My district is not that different from most districts around the country. The scientists there shy away from politics. The politicians there shy away from science. They often seem to be in two separate worlds. And, indeed, it does seem that the perceptions are factual.
I think I am in a privileged position. Certainly, it is a privilege to serve in the House of Representatives to represent nearly 700,000 people, to try to balance the interests of 700,000 people, something that one former physicist who has worked for many years on Capitol Hill talks about as trying to feel the heft of the different issues. Not to balance these issues in any analytical way, because to do so would overwhelm any bank of parallel processors that you could come up with. But it is an honor and a challenge to represent this district.
The members that I serve with in Congress are a remarkable set of people. Most of them, by and large, very, very good at what they do at balancing these interests. It's frustrating from the outside to watch it. And I must tell you, from the inside, it is sometimes frustrating. Although, having worked on the Hill as a congressional fellow nearly two decades ago now, and having spent the intervening years around Capitol Hill a great deal, nothing that happens there would surprise me.
It is very effective at representing society at large. Congress and members of Congress value science, but they would be hard pressed to tell you why. The House of Representatives is, if nothing else, representative. They represent the hopes and the fears of the people of the country and the misapprehensions of the people at large.
The members of Congress, by and large, are smarter than most, but not necessarily wiser than most. Certainly, none of us is wiser than the collection of people whom we represent. And that's something Henry Kendall understood. Henry Kendall understood that to influence public policy, in other words, to lobby, used a couple of approaches. One appealed to the wisdom of society at large, and one appealed, Henry appealed, to the wisdom of individual members of Congress. He realized that it took a two prong approach.
I feel that I have a responsibility to try to help my colleagues in Congress understand science, understand the terminology, and techniques, and technicalities to the extent that they are relevant to the policy issues, but also to understand the role and goals of science. I was working under the tutelage, I would like to say, of someone who was remarkably wise, and whose loss we also mourned this year, and that's George Brown.
Congressman Brown from California understood better than anyone in Washington in the past 20 years, if you'll forgive me, Ernie Moniz and others, he understood better than anyone in Washington the role and nature of science, and was generally good at communicating that. But one person isn't enough. We need to work on communicating that to the members of Congress, both directly and indirectly through the input from the citizens.
But ask me if I think the views of scientists carry any special weight on Capitol Hill, and what factors enhance or degrade the credibility of scientists who want to participate. Well, there is significant credibility granted to the independent and thorough approach inherent in science. And when scientists are successful in articulating the meaning of science and scientific research in the ways that Congress and the general public can understand, they are then regarded as valued experts, and often asked for testimony and hearings, and consulted in legislative matters.
They are seen as smart people, but smart people who might be able to argue equally well on either side of the issue. You have your scientists and my scientists. So in that sense, scientists are sometimes, in fact, too frequently seen only as another interest group. And this is accentuated when it is apparent that so-called science is used to develop predetermined results for political needs, as seems to be the case in, I would say, the tobacco industry and in other special interest groups, as they try to employ junk science to support their position. So the Sound Science Initiative that Henry launched is to be applauded.
A misunderstanding of the scientific method by politicians can lead to problems, like the one that has developed regarding public access to scientific data funded under government grants. A year ago at this time of year, as we approached an appropriations train wreck, to use the parlance of Washington, as we seem to be approaching again this week and next, in an omnibus appropriations bill, there was hidden some language a Senator Shelby insertion that requires that all data obtained with federal grants be available to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. It was added without a hearing without open discussion. Final regulations are now in place.
And while the openness of scientific exchange that exists in the research community is vital to maintaining scientific progress and vibrancy, this legislation, instead of creating more openness, will, I'm really quite convinced, create several problems for the scientific community. It will subject researchers to harassment by groups with ulterior motives. Universities will have to deal with the costs and develop administrative ways of responding to requests for information, as well as protecting the researchers from those who wish to politicize science.
The openness of scientific exchange that exists in the research community is vital for maintaining scientific progress. And this legislation, I think, will make industries reluctant to continue or enter into partnerships with federally funded researchers. Once data are commingled in a partnership, it may be difficult to distinguish data produced with federal funds and those produced with other funds.
The resulting reluctance of industry to enter partnerships will significantly hurt fast-paced high tech industries. And as another example, tobacco companies and organizations like the National Rifle Association are already using intimidation and freedom of information threats to stop research that shows that their products or procedures are harmful.
This legislation will open up researchers, I believe, to further harassment. I'm taking an active role in combating this, working to try to repeal this provision. Here again, the late George Brown, who had, I think, the clearest grasp of the role in the process of science, recognized this instantly. He found this buried in the omnibus appropriations bill of last year, and immediately sought its repeal.
It's going to take a while to build the political support to get the repeal. It really depends on what effect these regulations have on researchers. But I have now taken the principal sponsorship of the George Brown bill to repeal this. I don't know what the relationship was between Henry Kendall and George Brown, but I do know that George Brown worked for at least the last three decades on a number of issues where he must have had close association with Henry Kendall, be it nuclear safety, anti-satellite weapons, the banning of anti-satellite weapons, International Science nonproliferation to name a few.
And he, like Henry, was fearless. Each of them put at risk their principal work. Remember, Henry got involved in politics. He dirtied his hands before his reputation as a scientist was as secure as it eventually became. Similarly, George Brown would dirty his politics with his fearless pursuit of his vision where his clear thinking and his scientific thinking led him, regardless of where the political chips would fall long before he was safe. And, in fact, he was never safe politically. George Brown was at great risk every two years, as, well, a number of us are.
So that is why we honor Henry now, because he had this fearlessness. He recognized what was important, and he went after it, damn the torpedoes, but also asked one way to improve the manner in which scientific input would be utilized in Congress. Well, I can say that simply, one way to do it would be to revive the Office of Technology Assessment.
I still shake my head in disbelief that Congress would abolish the Office of Technology Assessment and say, in effect, don't tell us. We don't want to know. But that's what happened back in 1995 in the 104th Congress. And the climate now will not allow its rebirth. I'm hopeful that in about a year and a half, the climate will be different, but we can talk about that.
I won't sit down without mentioning science education. That's what it all comes down to. It's dearest to my heart. Of course, in the 10 years that I was at the Princeton plasma physics laboratory, certainly, I got the most satisfaction from my work in science education, founding a series of programs, a number of programs, in fact, in science education, doing my best to involve scientists in the schools.
It probably was the most significant thing I did at the plasma physics laboratory, with all of the important work that goes on there. Promoting science education is a vital step in ensuring that the public has an understanding of science, not just an appreciation of the fruits of science, but an understanding of the methods of science, to know how to evaluate sound science from bogus science. And it starts in the earliest years.
I don't need to tell you the importance of science education for all students, not just for future scientists, but for all citizens. I think it should take the form of every science for every student in every year so you don't have to wait until your senior year to take physics or your junior year to take chemistry. It should be integrated throughout. But if you think for just a moment what a revolution that would be in the training that you had to have more integrated interdisciplinary science, but if you think about what a difference it would make for an organization like UCS if we did approach science that way.
There was an article in the Washington Post this week, an excellent op ed piece by none other than Newt Gingrich, arguing why we must invest in research and development. It was quite a good article. Vern Ehlers, the other physicist in Congress who sits on the other side of the aisle from me, copied the article and sent it out to all colleagues. Previously, I had talked to my staff and I said, should I copy this and send this out to all my colleagues? And I'm still kicking myself that I didn't.
But he talked about not just the importance of the fruits that come from a vigorous federally funded research and development program, and what that meant for the research and development programs, privately funded, corporately funded, and so forth, but he also talked about the lesson of understanding-- he didn't put it in these words, but I would put it in these words-- how to think. That's the lesson that we would learn from a science education program that I envision for this country, a science education program that teaches people why research is good, not just that it powers our economy, that it provides the new ideas that we need for growth and productivity, but a way of thinking that challenges are previously held beliefs.
We all, as you know, go through life looking for evidence to confirm what we think we already know. I envision a science education program that leads students to use the methods of science every day to challenge what they think they already know. Henry Kendall did that on a societal scale. And that is why we celebrate him and his memory today. And I'm honored to be here to join you in that celebration. Thank you.
HOWARD REESE: Thank you, Rush. It's very hard to cut a speaker off when they keep saying, Bud asked me to talk about this. So if you all do that, we're going to be in trouble. Let me now turn to the perspective of a journalist, Sharon Begley from Newsweek magazine.
SHARON BEGLEY: Thank you, Bud. When I saw the composition of the panel that Bud had put together for this afternoon, my first reaction was, let's just dispense with the niceties and call us the forces of darkness, because you have on the one hand, Congress, which sort of willfully tries to torpedo environmental legislation on issues that you all care deeply about, and the administration, which, at least in the eyes of some, fails to show the courage and leadership that many of us feel are needed on environmental issues. And then, of course, the press, which doesn't cover the stories as well or as much as many of you would like. But there you have it. And it's nice of you to hold your rotten tomatoes.
That said, there is, I think, a lot of fairly good environmental coverage in the press. But I'll focus on why there's not more of it and why it's not better, because that's a lot more fun. If you were my reporters and I was the assignment editor at a newspaper, or a news broadcast, or a magazine, here are some stories that if you came and proposed them to me, I could almost certainly guarantee you 50 column inches or two minutes in primetime.
DDT got a bum rap. There was no reason to ban it, and doing so reflected junk science and environmental hysteria. TCE has also been unfairly pilloried. TCE is best known as the organic solvent that was present in the drinking water wells in Woburn, Massachusetts. That's the town where some of the children died of leukemia. It was a subject of the book and then the movie Civil Action. Third, EPA's program to test 15,000 chemicals for their endocrine effects is also junk science and a waste of taxpayer money. And four, global warming and climate change will be a boon to at least some regions of the world.
Now, these, unfortunately, are not hypothetical examples. These are stories that ran. And they did not run in out of the way outlets. They ran in, in order, the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and, mea culpa, Newsweek. I won't read you from each of them, but I just took the DDT one. I'll read you a few of the excerpts.
Many scientists doubt that DDT is much more hazardous than malathion. This was written when New York City was apparently besieged by mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus, and undertook a program of aerial spraying of malathion. Rachel Carson had little scientific expertise. She mistakenly claimed that DDT causes cancer, which wasn't proved then, and still hasn't been.
And then the obligatory quote from the eminent scientist, there's never been any good evidence that DDT is harmful to humans. There's some evidence that it hurts birds, but even that's iffy, unquote. And finally, DDT might have contributed to the decline of populations of some birds, like Eagles and Falcons, although some scientists have long attributed the declines to other factors. So as Congressman Holt was saying, you have your scientists, and the other side has theirs.
What I think these stories and these story selections illustrate is that editors these days put a premium on high drama, on sensationalism, and especially on stories that appear to contravene the conventional wisdom. Now, maybe it's to your credit that issues like climate change and the perniciousness of environmental toxic is now perceived as the conventional wisdom. In many spheres, they are. And therefore, to take a position questioning that is deemed somehow good journalism or at least worthy of some significant play, because if nothing else, you get talked about and you get people talking.
And I also don't know how we've gotten to this point, but to write a story or to do a newscast that really takes the position advanced by the coal industry or the chemicals industry is, at least in many journalism quarters, perceived as somehow braver and smarter than taking a line that would be attributed to the environmental community.
So that category of stories is the first entry on what I would call the taxonomy or the biodiversity of stories that have elements of science and public policy. The second category relates to quantity, rather than quality. And it's one I call the Franco syndrome. Those of you with long memories will perhaps recall that the Spanish dictator lingered on his death bed for weeks, and weeks, and weeks.
And I suppose the wire services did-- well, they certainly could have moved a story every day, saying, Franco is still dying. Franco is still dying. Franco is still dying. For many environmental stories, we have the problem of, the world is still warming. Species are still vanishing. How does that differ this week, my editors ask me, from the conditions last week, or last month, or last year? There's a reason these things are called newspapers, and news magazines, and news broadcasts.
For those of you who care about these issues, you have to make a concerted effort to explain to people like me what happened. What's different this week from last? Why should I be doing it? How can I convince my editors that this deserves space more than a movie review, or an earthquake, or all of the other issues that are competing for space and for airtime every day?
The third category of story comes from the multi-handed reporter. On the one hand, we have this. On the other hand, we have something else. On yet another hand, we have something else. You see these kinds of stories because reporters, even those who cover science as their beat, are not scientists. Very few of them have science training. That's changing a little bit, but it will still, for many years, be the case.
They therefore feel unqualified to make judgments. You can't get in trouble if you simply repeat the arguments of both sides. This is a tried and true technique. It carries over from political reporting from reporting on social issues, where if you are doing a story on, let's say, school vouchers, it's perfectly legitimate to say this size says this will be the outcome of issuing school vouchers so that parents can send their kids to private schools with taxpayer money. The other says, no, this will be the outcome.
For many issues like that, there simply is no defined answer. And by giving both sides, you have done your journalistic duty. This carries over into areas of science. And it is the job, the responsibility, perhaps, of those of you who care about these issues to explain to people like me how a question like climate change is not like school vouchers. There is a consensus on climate change. If you can point out to me where to find it, and what it is, and why that consensus exists, that will go a long way to disarming the multi-handed reporter.
Now, in all fairness, there is a lot of science that is too knew for there to be a consensus. One emerging issue is genetically modified foods. There was a paper just over the summer in nature, which looked at fields that had been planted with so-called Bt cotton. This is cotton that is engineered to carry a gene so that it expresses the insecticide known as Bt.
Turns out that in these fields planted with Bt cotton, pink bollworms, which are a leading cotton pest, developed resistance to Bt. It's very common. This has been the bane of the use of insecticides since World War II. However, the resistance was carried on a recessive gene. The scientists argued that that was OK, because given random mating, recessive genes generally are not expressed. They would not be expressed to such an extent that the entire population or a significant fraction of the population of pink bollworms in any field would be resistant to the insecticide that you have engineered your cotton to produce.
But other scientists came along and said, but these resistant insects develop more slowly than the susceptible insects. Therefore, they would be out of phase for random mating. When the susceptible insects were ready to mate, they would mate with each other. But here you have these laggards, who tend towards developmentally slowed, but who carry the resistance gene. There's none of these guys to mate with. They mate with each other by simple Mendelian inheritance. A fair proportion of them would therefore express the resistance gene, and you would have a field of Bt-resistant pink bollworms. It's too early to know which of those positions is right. And to do justice to the story, I don't think you can do more than present both positions.
As I said, I think that's the exception, at least among the issues that we heard described this morning, where there is a consensus opinion. So I'd like to spend a few minutes on how those of you who are scientists and who care about these issues can help us report them fairly and accurately. To repeat, help us find the consensus and understand it. Whether it's the IPCC report, whether it's the National Academy of Sciences report, whether in a field very different from those we're talking about today, NIH consensus conference, these things exist. You can point us to them.
Second, your, I don't know if I should call them opponents, but those scientists who say that DDT is not a problem and was unfairly banned, they're very clever. And you have to be equally clever. People who doubt the need for environmental regulation are often not very forthright about what's known and what isn't. It's important for scientists to point out that for someone to say there is no basis for public policy, generally for tighter regulations on pesticides or on CO2 emissions, that has a flip side. There may similarly be no basis for concluding that current policy is justified. That's an important thing to remind reporters of.
Third, too many reporters, again wearing the skeptics hat, equate the absence of evidence with evidence of absence of harm generally. Again, a lot of us know that those two are not equivalent. Scientists are often not explicit about the distinction, especially scientists who oppose regulation on the issues that we're talking about. Again, point that out to people like me who call you.
Fourth, scientists, especially on issues that are highly polarized, are more and more labeling as false or wrong interpretations of evidence that they simply do not regard as valid. I tore out a commentary from Nature Biotechnology on GM, genetically modified foods. And eight times in the course of a one-page article, the scientists labeled as rumor and innuendo allegations that there was anything to worry about with genetically modified crops.
Here-- and I don't have to remind this audience of this-- the more accurate distinction is between facts and hypotheses. The debate over that is one of the essences of science. When I call you about some issue, it's very helpful for you to explain to me what are the facts. What do we know based on solid empirical evidence? And what are hypotheses that deserve further investigation?
Fifth, scientists could be much more helpful and more explicit about what is a value judgment and what is a statement with, again, solid empirical support. At least some of the people who downplay the risk of climate change, of loss of biodiversity, of environmental toxics do so because they see other issues as much more important. The lack of clean water to much of the world's population, tobacco.
But they fail to say explicitly that they are making a value judgment. So when someone says to me, oh that's simply not a major risk, that's not an important risk, that's not a problem that we should worry about, it might not seem obvious that they're making a value judgment. But to a reporter listening to a scientist, often, that comes across as a scientific statement as opposed to one that's laden with ideology and politics. Again, for those of you who care about the issues we heard about this morning, it's helpful for you to point that out.
I'll leave you with one final hurdle or obstacle. Scientists know that yesterday's heresy can become today's orthodoxy. I'll reach way into the past so that I don't trample on anyone's toes for an example. Continental drift. In the early decades of this century, you would be laughed out of the room if you said that the Earth's plates were moving around like the chocolate on a chocolate-covered cherry. But today, of course, it's the foundation of geophysics.
Reporters see it a little bit differently. Reporters are convinced that today's orthodoxy can turn out to be tomorrow's N-rays or polywater. Reporters are always on the lookout for something which is, today, accepted and conventional wisdom, but which might be overturned tomorrow. Sometimes, doing that takes precedence over sorting out the facts.
HOWARD REESE: I actually don't think we need Sharon's five or six step process. We just need to clone her a few thousand times over. Let me now turn to Ernie Moniz.
ERNIE MONIZ: Thanks, Bud. Actually, I think as Rush was indicating, I think those of us as physicists in Washington still are viewed with some kind of suspicion and as a curiosity. Certainly in my own role at DoE just two days ago, I was giving a talk at a meeting of the--
ERNIE MONIZ: Oh, that better? I was just saying that certainly in my role, perhaps as with Rush, as a physicist in my job, still viewed as something of a curiosity and many of the places the job takes me. Two days ago, I was giving a talk to the Western United States and Canadian Natural gas people, guys who drill wells, pipelines, end users.
And the introducer decided that it was appropriate to tell a story that a physicist-- he knew that I engaged somewhat in fishing, in fly fishing, that a physicist was out on the stream before the season was open. The warden came over and asked him to pull his fly out of the water, preparing, of course, to fine him. The physicist pulled out a magnet. The warden decided, OK, moved on. The physicist, of course, snickered. He didn't know the steelheads were running.
So this is a not untypical reception of physicists in these jobs. But whatever the case, I'm certainly pleased to have this chance to take part of this symposium honoring Henry Kendall. I've certainly personally had the opportunity to admire Henry for essentially my entire physics career. Indeed, my first year of graduate school at Stanford, I worked in Dick Taylor's group in the Friedman-Kendall-Taylor collaboration that proved to be so productive in my absence, of course, since I then moved on to a different group.
Here at MIT, also particularly in my years as department head in physics, Henry was always very supportive. And I just wanted to stress, he was always there also for discussions and action in terms of undergraduate education. Particularly, laboratory experiences was one of the areas that he focused on.
And in my more recent public service career, Henry, of course, stands out I think as one of the truly great physicist contributors to shaping important public policy debates. By the way, in the program it says that I will give a perspective from the White House, but actually I will do DOE which is sort of halfway between Capitol Hill and the White House.
Let me note some of the ways in which Henry contributed to the diverse portfolio of Department of Energy activities. Indeed, in some ways, the diverse DOE portfolio almost seems to have been put together as a way to engage Henry. Science, energy, environment, and nuclear national security issues, all of which he was engaged in. In science, of course, DOE is the largest supporter of basic and applied research in the physical sciences. And of course, Henry's role in the work recognized by the Nobel Prize speaks for itself in his contribution to particle physics, a field that for which DOE is the principal steward.
But beyond that, a major study done about four years ago, the so-called Galvin study, was one that has helped reshape our approach to at least trying to get a more of a corporate engagement of our laboratories with the Department, and Henry was a very important member of that Commission. In energy and environment, the Department's responsibilities range from environmental remediation of the Cold War legacy mess to addressing sustainable development through new energy technologies and energy policies. Henry, again, contributed in a major way in both areas. Perhaps less well-known than the latter is in the former. That is, the issue of environmental remediation.
Again, on the Galvin Commission, Henry was the principal driver and principal author for a chapter that emphasized the need for the Department to engage its laboratories in technology development to help environmental remediation. To do it faster, perhaps, to do it cheaper, and more-- and perhaps even more important, to drive towards better end states as we try to clean up this mess. That agenda that Henry set out, and really was the principal driver for, is not an easy one to implement. But I think we are making progress and, indeed, the last two days I've been in Idaho precisely to advance that agenda that Henry set out in terms of bringing science and technology to bear on this important environmental challenge.
Of course, you've already heard this morning about Henry's extensive work on the sustainable world, one that can help improve the lives of an enormous number of the world's citizens while preserving our environmental values. Again, I would just say that DOE's principal role here is in addressing new energy technologies that, in fact, address environmental challenges at all geographical scales, from local in an urban environment to the global issues that Bob Watson certainly discussed this morning.
Finally, in national security, and again, Dick Garwin covered many of the issues, the Department's principal role is as steward of the nuclear weapons stockpile and as a lead agency for nuclear nonproliferation, particularly through our work in Russia to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear materials, and nuclear weapons know-how. Henry's last service to the government, I believe the program notes this, came when he signed out in February of this year the Child's Commission report. This was a report which has served-- is serving the Department of Energy very well. It's a report that focuses on the human resource needs to maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile-- a declining stockpile-- in the absence of nuclear testing. And in fact, that challenge, the human challenge in that program, is an important one, and our ability to manage that challenge and to convince Congress that we have managed that challenge will be very important in the remaining discussions in the next years on the CTBT.
So as you can see, from this discussion of what the Department of Energy is about and areas in which I'm certainly engaged, my personal answer to the charge of this panel, the role of scientists in public policy, is basically working on Henry Kendall's agenda. He really did advance us in all of these-- in all of these ways. He was one of, I think, a number of faculty here at MIT, elsewhere as well but I will focus on my home base at MIT, who I think, by valuing public service and demonstrating it, really helped a number of us, certainly in my generation, to accept the challenges as they came forward.
The role of-- the role of scientists in public policy is, of course, built on the role of science in public policy. And as I just reviewed, for the DOE, science and technology underpins everything we do. And yet, there are very few scientists in senior roles where decisions are taken in the administration and including in the Department of Energy. Which again, is basically science ener-- a science agency. Thus, the major role for most science-- for most scientists, whether inside or outside the government, tends to be in conveying scientific information and judgment to the non-scientists-- lawyers, et cetera-- who in fact, are those in most positions making decisions.
That dialogue, I think, needs to be based on some very simple principles. The information and judgments need to be truthful yet streamlined and without the endless hierarchy of qualifications that sometimes characterizes scientist communications. It needs to be without arrogance, particularly without disdain for politics, because that is the business of reaching decisions. And it needs to be regular and not just offered in response to a funding shortfall. I think that guidance typifies scientific advice that tends to be effective.
Let me just mention a few examples of the types of scientific interaction that I think we need to be able to reach good choices, good policy, good programs. One role-- one obviously important role, and it's very important for DOE certainly, one very important role is for the scientific community to help shape science support. There's no need going in here into the role of science in our society, in our economy, et cetera, Rush touched on that.
I just want to emphasize, because even though it's obvious I think it happens not frequently enough, emphasize the importance of community processes in coming forward to Washington. I think when a community is coming in and speaking together, having gone through its internal discussions, sometimes bloody, to reach a set of priorities and sticks to it, it's a very, very effective way of moving the whole political system.
Let me give you one example. In fact, I'll draw upon Russia's own professional field, before politics, that is. Infusion. Infusion is a case where-- the fusion plasma science area-- is a case where the program was going along, frankly I think, having some problems within the community in terms of its directions. Congress, in the end, decided that it was time for that field to re-evaluate its future. The message was pretty clear. It was a 30% cut in funding in one year to the next.
This was very difficult, as Rush knows. Some staff in the Congress, et cetera, were viewing that as simply the first step towards continued major declines in that field. I think that community deserves a lot of credit. What they've done is, in a dialogue involving OSTP, DOE, OMB, the Congress, and the community, they have, in what is a difficult process, pulled themselves together, done a joint roadmap, provided a common vision as to where they're going. And in fact, this year the budget has now started to turn up, and I believe the field is on a much stronger scientific foundation and one that promises very important science results, and perhaps even, in the long-term, an energy future. So again, but the message here is I think it's an example of a community getting together, really having frank discussions about their field, where it was going, coming-- working with the government in shaping their vision, and in fact, I think being on a very, very sound foundation to go forward.
Let me turn to a second area relevant at DOE where I think scientists, again, working together-- government scientists, those from universities, in this case industry as well-- come together in mapping out an applied research future, namely that involving energy to energy technologies. Frankly, in the-- this is actually, again, a legacy in a certain sense of the Galvin report that Henry worked on. That report emphasized the importance of having DOE sort of reorganize its portfolio and engage in a road mapping process going forward to identify the important areas of applied research that best aligned with our policy goals-- our environmental policy goals, for example, policy goals involving private sector developments such as restructuring, et cetera.
That lesson was taken to heart. I think it's an example where it shows, I think, the importance of our trying to get more scientists into senior positions. Because what happens is, in this case, and I think it's a good example, I think by having senior decision making scientific leadership, one is able, then, to energize the senior career technical people to work with the community and have an effective process. That process this year has gone forward, and without going into details, it has put new energy into the program-- and that was not a pun-- put new energy in the program, and in fact, identified three or four major gaps in the portfolio, major opportunities going forward, that will serve our energy goals and serve our environmental goals.
So I think, again, having emphasizing the need for us to get, I think, more scientists in these kinds of positions, I think will help get more of these kinds of what I view as very positive results. And finally, let me turn to the issue of science-- the science role in framing, shall we say, major policy decisions, fundamental decisions involving the economy or the environment or national security. What I want to do is just emphasize one-- one point which can sometimes be frustrating to scientists but I think in no way minimizes the importance of their interaction.
There are, of course, a number of areas, and I can mention regional effects of global warming, I can mention our attempts at resolving long-term geological isolation of nuclear waste, I can mention the recent discussions in terms of stockpile stewardship and the CTBT debate. Brief debate. As areas that I would say have sort of a common-- one common element, they are areas in which, clearly, scientific technical input is absolutely critical to reaching decisions. But in some sense isn't enough.
Data are incomplete, yes. But one can argue that even with complete data there remains the need for a political decision. Because at some level there is a balancing of risk along timescales in what is not a purely scientific judgment. If I just take the issue of Yucca Mountain and nuclear waste, one can imagine in that case that one has done all of the experiments one wishes in terms of measuring water percolation and measuring ion exchange coefficients of radio nucleotides and doing engineered barriers, et cetera. One still faces the issue of a decision that's being taken, roughly speaking, on a 10,000 year scale.
Stockpile stewardship. It's not a 10,000 year scale but it's a 30 year scale, let's say, in terms of providing assurance, in terms of safety and reliability of weapons without integral testing. I mean, Dick went into some of the reasons why we think that that is, in fact, a very, very sound program and one that does merit our committing to the CTBT. But the fact is, there are issues that go into a political sphere and scientists, I think, cannot get discouraged from continuing to engage in these discussions.
Sometimes it is frustrating. I'll just mention that in the CTBT discussion, a discussion I had two weeks ago with an unnamed senator, involved his saying that, in the end, he had no real substantive objection to the CTBT but that it just seemed too much like gun control. And he did not vote for the CTBT. But I think what I wanted to-- I'll just end up by saying that I think there is this issue of a number of very important scientifically based decisions that have to be made, ultimately political decisions have been made, where this issue of how one evaluates risk in the context of very, very long timescales, is a difficult issue, particularly in the face of rather extensive scientific illiteracy.
And so I think there are two pathways there which we need to work on. Actually, Rush, already addressed the issue of improving scientific literacy in the long-term as a very important one. But the issue also is how the science community can find the right way to discuss these kinds of questions where you need lots of scientific information but you also have to supplement that with the discussion of risk in the context of long timescales. It's a difficult one but a task worthy I think of those who wish to carry on Henry's work. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you all for those very insightful talks. Let me first ask the panelists whether they have questions for each other or responses to the comments made by each other. And then we'll turn it over to the audience.
MODERATOR 2: Sorry. This is not the house mic. You have to use one of the silver mics.
BEGLEY: I mentioned-- this is a question for Rush-- I mentioned that reporters, at least, try to find the consensus document or the consensus point of view. Friends who work at the Academy talk about how their reports, even when requested directly by Congress, just fall into a black hole on the Hill. I'm wondering how much weight, again, a National Academy of Sciences report carries relative to other considerations.
HOLT: Well, I can't speak from long experience on the Hill, but I can speak from fairly long experience around the Hill and short experience as a member. I would say that a study of the National Academy of Science-- well, along the line-- let me back up and say, along the lines of this prevalent view of science as another interest group, a report from the National Academy of Sciences has slightly more, slightly more effect, than a study from any other think tank. Scientists are generally regarded as smart people so it's smart people that worked on it.
But there is, I think, not much appreciation of the system and the controls that go into a report from the National Academy. In other words, it is not much of an appreciation-- there is not a great appreciation of the scientific approach and contribution to a study.
MODERATOR: Other questions or comments?
MONIZ: I have a question for Sharon, although it's probably more just an expression of frustration. But any advice you can give would be welcome. For example, last week I was quoted in one of the newspapers you mentioned in your stories, the first one in fact, and what was frustrating was this was a case where the reporter, who in my view, is generally a very good reporter, called close to the deadline, asked for a clarification on a certain issue. It was totally wrong, I said it was wrong, and so the result was the article was printed as it was except with my quote at the end which made absolutely no sense in the context of this article. And I guess it's a question, observation, question, advice.
BEGLEY: Yeah. That can be the most frustrating thing but I think you described the relevant parameters. The guy was probably an hour or so from deadline, he had written the top 26 inches of his story and he left the bottom inch for you. And this is, you know, another example of the multi-handed reporter. Even if you had conveyed this criticism to him directly, again, not knowing who it was, but I think the reaction would be, OK, but I gave you if not equal space at least some space.
But reporters are all too human, but because we are, we are also very amenable to being corrected nicely. So if you were to call this person once a couple of days had gone by and point out your unhappiness with this, not just personally, but because it conveyed-- it left a misleading impression, at least next time at least the exact same mistake would not happen again. Which is not to say a new mistake wouldn't happen. But it's worth just picking up the phone.
I'm surprised that not more people call me, to tell you the truth. I get calls from PR people all the time. But when something is in the news and you, as a respectable scientist has something to say, all of us pick up our phones. We don't even have secretaries. I would just urge more of you who care about these issues to be-- I hate this word-- but proactive.
MODERATOR: Sharon, you want to give out your phone number?
Go ahead, Rush.
HOLT: While Ernie was asking that and Sharon was answering, I thought of an illustration of the point I wanted to make about National Academy studies. There was, as you may know, a National Academy study sometime in the last year, I suppose it was, dealing-- it was sort of a wrap up of the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation, as I recall. Non-ionizing radiation.
There also was this week a segment that I didn't see, I gather it was a few minutes long, on the television program 20/20 dealing-- reviving the issue of whether cell phones produce brain tumors. That segment has caused as much of a buzz on Capitol Hill, the 20/20 segment, as this lengthy, thoughtful report from the National Academy dealing with electromagnetic radiation. It's-- you know, it used to be said, you don't mess around with those who buy ink by the barrel in politics.
But of course, nowadays-- that was, was it Jim Farley who said that? I can't remember. But that was about 70 years ago. But now, of course, it would mean those who owned the airwaves. And a segment on 20/20 by those reporters, those-- well, I hesitate to use the word journalist because I think-- I use the word journalist in a positive sense and I-- it seems to me this was, from the little bit I know about it, irresponsible science. And so you don't argue with people who own the airwaves.
MODERATOR: Last word from the panel. Now, I'm not quite sure how we take questions. We may have a roving mic or it's a fixed mix, but this gentleman has taken the lead so it is a fixed mic. Why don't we do this? In one other legacy that Henry Kendall left us that you may not be aware of, that he brought a 10 pound gavel to our board meetings. And I know how to use it very effectively. So we'd like, please, to make your comments or primarily questions very brief and we'll try to accommodate as many people as we can. And state your name, please.
AUDIENCE: Thanks. Well, I guess you're-- well, the gavel is coming on kind of late, I guess. I rushed up here out of impatience, I'm sorry to say. My name is James Williamson and I'm glad to be here for this panel because I'm a candidate for city council here in Cambridge, and I heard mention of Tip O'Neill's great saying all politics is local which gives me the opportunity to come up with a couple of questions which I think will be interest-- it'll be interesting to hear your response to.
The first is that there is one question on the ballot for voters in Cambridge this coming election day and it has to do with nuclear weapons. And it asks the citizens of Cambridge to approve a message calling upon the president and government of the United States to engage other nuclear nations in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention, an international treaty requiring a specific timetable for phased elimination of nuclear weapons, including effective verification and enforcement measures. So my first question would be, if any of the panelists or anybody else might have a comment on this, especially in the light of what I unfortunately had to miss but was a, as I understand it, an interesting discussion about related issues bye Mr. Garwin.
The second thing is, in terms of the environmental issues that Henry Kendall focused on, I think we have some environmental issues here in Cambridge and I wonder if any of the panelists or perhaps anybody else might have something they might wish to say about that. All politics is local, all science and public policy is local. And in Cambridge, just as one example that relates to climate change, in Cambridge there is an enormous boom of commercial real estate, so-called development, in the city involving paving over much of the city, reducing green space, reducing open space, creating huge parking lots that have-- entail traffic generation. So my question is, is this responsible policy in the light of what we understand about the implications for climate change and the environment?
MODERATOR: Does one of you like to respond?
HOLT: Well, where-- this is Rush Holt. Wearing my political hat, I would say, in my experience, local statements of that sort on international strategic matters are not particularly persuasive to those negotiating or making the decisions. It's not that-- it's certainly within, more than within the rights, it may be within the interests of the local political organizations to advance them, but I don't think that they're particularly effective. With regard-- I mean, I think what UCS has done along those lines when it comes-- when it came to anti satellite weapons and that sort-- I think, has been much more effective.
With regard to loss of open space, just a brief comment. We had serious flooding in New Jersey following the hurricane this past month and I wanted to write an op ed piece about what we learned from those floods and from recent data of stream flow, the rise time of streams during flooding, what we learned about if there was any correlation with the loss of permeable ground in New Jersey. And my staff, trained mostly in politics and not in science-- I'm telling a little story on them I suppose-- but they were mystified that I would ask for this. That we might do a little experiment here by looking at the data and write up an op ed piece on it that did not draw from anything that had come from the White House or the caucus of our party. That there were some lessons to learn in a simple scientific way. It is hard in this society to get people to look at simple questions of that sort as scientists.
MONIZ: Let me just add a few comments. First on the nuclear weapons issue you raised, as a member of the NPT, of course, we are committed to ultimate movement towards elimination of nuclear weapons. But that is, of course, discussed in a very broad context of overall military postures, et cetera. And as Rush said, a specific date at this stage, I mean, it might be a political expression, I don't think it will move things quite as much today as trying to maintain the progress that the NPT commits us to in things like the CTBT, things like moving to start three.
Dick Garwin I guess is not here right now but he discussed it earlier. We are trying to move towards-- in fact, one of things Dick mentioned, I should say, he talked about moving beyond launchers to weapons, and in the start three process, we would be able to start going in that direction, including verification transparency, if you like, in warhead dismantlement. So I think there are very specific agenda items out there that would make a big difference over the next decade and certainly I think that's where our focus remains.
With regard to the issue you raised in terms of environmental issues in Cambridge, although I will say it's obviously for other cities and towns as well, let me just make one point. There's the obvious issue, as you talked about, open spaces, et cetera. Very important. But there are other issues going on all the time that are also very important and sometimes don't get the attention. They tend to be more technical and I think our areas where, again, scientists and engineers can make useful inputs.
Let me just get-- telling the story of-- a story of MIT. In face, I think Francis may have been provost when Bill Dixon started the movement towards the combined heat and power plant, the gas turbine. This is an example where MIT team wanted to build its own, I forget how many, 20 megawatts or something, gas turbine to provide heating, cooling, chilled water for the campus. Environmentally, one phrasing of its environmental benefits was that it was equivalent to saving 10,000 commutes to Cambridge per day. It was-- Bill must have started this in 1984 or something-- nominally being allowed by changes in the regulatory structure. But in fact, Francis, you must know, I think it took 12 years to accomplish because of issues of how technical regulatory issues were being handled vis-a-vis the monopoly utilities, et cetera. These are technical issues very important as we move forward in evolving the energy system in ways that will ultimately have major environmental impacts.
MODERATOR 2: OK. The next question, please.
AUDIENCE: My name is Henry Myers. I'm asking this question to Congressman Holt in the context of the CTB having been an issue more or less in its present form for more than 40 years.
AUDIENCE: And that is, how do you explain the congressional majority having a view of the CTB that differs so much from those expressed tonight by Dick Garwin?
HOLT: I don't have a good explanation. I really don't. There's-- after-- yeah. After all these years I don't have a good explanation why they have turned-- why opponents of that have turned a blind eye to the very cogent arguments and persuasive arguments of the arms control community-- let me, for shorthand, call it that-- over the years. I'm sorry. I wish I did.
MODERATOR: Does anyone else want to--
HOLT: But, obviously, the proponents of the ratification didn't have the answer to this either.
MODERATOR: Anybody else want to take a stab at that one? I will, and I'll give you three or four answers. One, I think the timing was very unfortunate. This was clearly an effort that needed a longer time frame for the proponents to better prepare for and to make their case, and because the vote with the debate was limited to 12 days, it was a massive task on our end to try to make the arguments that I think would have been important. I think it was obviously a very political and very polarized debate that had as much to do with getting Bill Clinton as it did stopping the treaty. And I think, unfortunately, that polarization created a climate in which the few people who really, for their own reasons, wanted to oppose this treaty-- I think for wrong reasons-- could dominate. And a lot of it, I think, is just timing that it was very unfortunate.
AUDIENCE: Except the arguments aren't new. The arguments have been around in their present form for a very long time.
MODERATOR: That's right.
HOLT: That's right. Bud, I would agree with your observations. There's no question, this was a staged defeat.
HOLT: It was staged out of a hatred for the president. There is-- hatred is a destructive sentiment and there are some on Capitol Hill who just can't stand the president and it clouds their judgment in some cases and they-- and it was part of what was going on here. But it doesn't answer-- I don't think it answers the question of why, after all these-- Trent Lott was able to recognize that there was not sufficient support and so if he could stage a defeat of it this way by bringing it up quickly. But it does not-- and he recognized this lack of support. But the question remains, why was-- why is there out in society this lack of support and among society's representatives this lack of support after all these years of cogent arguments?
MONIZ: I'll just add one last word. First of all, I agree with more or less the political observations which have been made, although I do point out, Rush, of course, that certainly polls indicate that roughly 80% of the public, in a nonpartisan way, support the comprehensive test ban. Let me just add-- we'll get there. We're going to get there. It's going to take another couple of years probably.
The other thing I will just mention, and this does go back to the scientific discussion, and Bud said there was not perhaps the time to do this, but we do have to make a better articulation of the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program and we need to articulate better what the verification issues are. I think Dick, Dick Garwin, said it correctly. No one's going to argue that one has verification down to zero. That isn't the point. In going to zero yield, however, we feel very confident that militarily or strategically interesting testing programs would be detected.
And so, ultimately, the question that never got asked is, no matter how you assign risk to some of these issues, and there will be a difference of opinion as to how you assign risk in detail, no one ever finally came around to asking the question, really are you better off with the treaty or without it? And I don't think any reasonable assumption of risk could possibly lead to the conclusion that you were better off without it.
MODERATOR: Next question, please.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Judy Gilmore from Rhode Island. I'm concerned-- I wanted to-- I was hoping that those scientists of you who are working in Washington would be able to help us focus on how scientists can be effective-- create an effective interface with decision makers who innately either feel that decisions are always negotiable or that they can be bought when we're used to dealing with more finite entities as you are looking at, well, what made us have a flood this time and what can we measure. So we're used to looking at measurable things that you can ultimately hopefully prove right or wrong and you're-- all the decisions are being made by people who ultimately don't accept anything as finite and who feel they can negotiate their way out of any box. Thank you.
HOLT: Well, of course, it's interesting. Scientists are much more comfortable with uncertainty than politicians are, believe it or not. Even though scientists have this reputation, obviously, for being-- dealing only with cut and dried facts. In the op ed piece that I referred to that was written by Newt Gingrich this past week talking about research and development, he asked the rhetorical question, well, why is it that scientific research has not gotten the support it should? And he said, in his experience, and I would confirm this, I would concur with this anyway, that scientists are among the worst lobbyists that he has ever seen.
I think we really have to-- we have to work on that. There are some, a few in this room, Henry Kendall and others, who have over the years been effective lobbyists up to a point. But by and large scientists are not good. If you're looking for specific techniques, there is a nice handbook on some of the specifics of dealing with members of Congress written by Bill Wells, William B. Wells, published maybe 10 years ago or less, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I think there was a joint publishing effort and I don't-- and it was something like communicating with Congress, a guide for scientists and engineers. Maybe 100 or 150 pages long. A nice book. I recommend it to you. I'm not sure whether it's still in print but it's-- it's on the internet. William B. Wells. So--
MODERATOR: Good tip.
HOLT: --I recommend that to you for techniques.
MODERATOR: Good tip. Thank you. We'll take three more questions and that will be it because you guys have done a good job in keeping it short. So go ahead.
AUDIENCE: I'm Burton Richter and a physicist and this is addressed to Rush Holt and Sharon Begley. Most scientists think that there is a way to arrive at some sort of consensus on scientific issues, whether they be the science behind the test ban or the science behind global warming. Yet, Congress does not seem to want to set up such a mechanism. You, Rush, said that not only did they abolish OTA but there was no way to set it up for at least a year and a half. And Sharon Begley, if I can paraphrase her characterized science reporting generally as short, sensational, and shallow.
Now, is there-- what is your perspective from both the media and from Washington on how one can set up some sort of system that our government and the press can draw on to get the best consensus on complicated issues? Science doesn't give you all the answers. There's politics or judgments and all the rest of it. But there certainly is scientific fact and scientific uncertainty. But Congress and the press don't seem to want to find it or make use of it. Comments, please.
BEGLEY: As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I was focusing on the stories that fall short of the ideal. I think, in all honesty, we have to say that coverage of, let's say, the climate change issue does reflect the consensus expressed in the IPCC reports more than it does what comes out of the University of Alabama, for instance. and the Greening Earth Society, which sends me something every week.
Letting us know that it exists is crucial. I cover science and environmental policy, and my counterparts at Time and The New York Times and The Washington Post do. But in the huge majority of the papers in this country, the person who gets handed the Greenhouse story for that week is very likely going to cover the sewer bond issue next week. They are not specialists. They may-- let alone whether they can evaluate the information, they often simply do not know that the information is out there to be evaluated.
It's a horrible thing to say. The level of ignorance out there on the part of people who are being paid to cover this beat, but it is there. And it's a fact of life which scientists who are interested in these issues have to find a way to work around. Which-- I keep coming back to pick up the phone, send people a piece of mail. Your voice will have a greater weight or volume if it comes from AAAS or APS, when a group of scientists get together either via a professional society or some other organizing principle and comes out with a pronouncement on an issue that does carry weight and it is covered. Yes, there may be the almost obligatory inclusion of a quote by someone-- by a scientist who disagrees with that conclusion, but I think, by and large, the consensus opinion will be conveyed in the stories.
MODERATOR: Yes, sir. Burton, let me just say, keep at it. That's--
AUDIENCE: Why won't you set up the OTA? What is it about Congress that makes it [INAUDIBLE] set up its own organization and give it this passionate advice?
HOLT: Well, the OTA was disbanded for, I think, much the same reason that the, well, what's now called OSTP was disbanded under Nixon. It was delivering information that wasn't seen as dispassionate. It was delivering, I guess, what some saw as judgments that they didn't want to hear. And scientists, of course, should not expect-- don't have the last word on balancing the interests. But science certainly can provide constraints on what is possible. And we have still a lot of public education to do to help policymakers understand that.
And so, please keep at it. I'm keeping at it trying to revive such things as the OTA. In the meantime, make sure that every think tank that you know of consults scientists in some of their-- in some of their studies.
BEGLEY: I would just like to add one thing. Although it's less now than it was 10 years ago, there still seems to be an attitude on the part of at least some in the scientific community that to enter politics, not in an elected capacity as Rush has, but just simply to weigh in on an issue, or God forbid to call a journalist, is sullying yourself somehow. And as a result, some of the smartest people just will not get involved in a way that could be beneficial to the issues we're talking about here. There's still a perception that the public scientist is not a true scientist anymore, that he or she has sold out, has gone-- has gone popular and, therefore, will lose the esteem of his or her colleagues.
MODERATOR: I'm going to reiterate that suggestion one more time. Don't just call your congressperson, call your friendly reporter. Yes, sir?
AUDIENCE: My name is [FOREIGN NAME] but I'm international known as Say No. The best thing is to make a demonstration, question the demonstration at the same time. I address it to the lady in the middle. If you stick three fingers of your left hand and the three fingers of your right hand and I ask you, three and three, how much is that. What will you answer?
BEGLEY: I would say six.
AUDIENCE: Six. Fine If I ask you, do you like your mother, what do you answer?
BEGLEY: I would say yes.
AUDIENCE: You say, ah, yeah, yeah, even if she is horrible to you or something. But it is my mother. I like her. Now, that is the same as fundamental education. We call three plus three plus three in Indonesia we call rational thinking. And, yes, I like my mother no matter what, we call that the feeling of feeling. Emotion.
But that is never, never, never, ever given in Indonesia and I don't know in the rest of the world in grade school, pre-grade school, grade school, up to you are a minister, a doctor, that is never given in school. But I have always given this as the basic thing in my student and I give already lectures in 1941 when there was not even a republic. I am the-- I am here from MIT and I have finished here and then it was called here [INAUDIBLE]. When I came back here after 40 years in June, the reunion--
MODERATOR: Could I ask you to finish up quickly, please?
MODERATOR: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: And then ask the, where is the [INAUDIBLE]? [INAUDIBLE]. Do you still have that thing? I want to buy it. It's not there anymore.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Last question, please.
AUDIENCE: Well, I have a question for Ernie Moniz. I'm Dick Garwin and this guys I worked on in ERAB, Energy Research Advisory Board, panel in 1989 or 1990 looking at cold fusion. And this year the Department of Energy, I noticed, has a nuclear energy research initiative that I supported in the abstract. But one of the 10, I think, awardees is George Miley at the University of Illinois, who has a big grant to look at cold fusion and eating up radioactive materials in that process. And I was just wondering how the Department of Energy-- what decision procedure it uses in this case?
MONIZ: Thanks, Dick.
MONIZ: The Neary program that you so wisely supported is-- let me say a couple words. It's a new program this year, small program, $19 million, which is looking at reviving research, in some sense, in terms of longer term use of nuclear fuels, nuclear fuel cycles, proliferation resistant fuel cycles, et cetera. The program is a peer reviewed program, a competitive peer reviewed program.
I would say the program is learning how to do peer review. It has not been the custom in that program to do that. I think, by and large, the process worked extremely well. There was one award, a tentative award, that raised some issues. It has gone back for a second round of peer review. Which is completed but I would not discuss it here.
HOLT: You know, there is an old tradition that if something falls in disrepute you change the name, and I gather there is a resurgence now of chemically induced fusion.
MODERATOR: Well, thank you very much. I promised that I would show this short film. We took a risk this morning in putting together this program in starting with science and religion, which is like oil and water. I'm now going to spend a couple of minutes on science and Hollywood, which is an equally unlikely mix. But this was a fascination of Henry Kendall. He would often call me each week and say, gee, that entertainment industry has an awful lot of power and ability to reach people. Isn't there some way we could harness some of that?
He made some forays out to Hollywood, most of the time unsuccessful, but finally they bit and a group of people came to us about six months ago and said they would like to make a public service announcement on climate change. They needed help with keeping the facts straight and would the Union of Concerned Scientists like to help? And my first reaction and Henry's was, well, it'll be a PSA, it'll come on at 4:00 in the morning, we're not going to reach very many people. And they said, no. You know when you go to the movies and you sit there and you see previews of upcoming shows? That's the spot we want to give you, and we're going to give it to you in 8,000 movie theaters across the country for two months.
So we proceeded, and what you will see in a few moments has not yet been seen east of California. It has started appearing in movie theaters in California. It will move east over the next several months. In many ways, it is a tribute to Henry because he started it. But equally important, I think it's apropos to this panel that we heard a lot about how to better articulate and make our case, both the policymakers, the media, and the public. Bob Watson went through maybe 65 or 70 overheads this morning. I think if you picked out a few themes in there, one of them or two of them were climate change is likely to screw up the hydrologic cycle, it's likely to make some places wetter and some places drier. We tried to take that and distill it with friends in Hollywood down to 60 seconds and this is the result. And then after this film, I'll turn the podium back over to Francis Lowe. Thank you.
- It took billions of years but it was perfect. New life coming from the old, part of it hot, part of it frozen. A constantly moving blend of atmospheric elements kept the thermostat perfect to support the delicate balance. It has been called a miracle, and when you see how perfectly everything works together, you realize that it is.
But today, the earth is warming. If it continues, what quenched our thirst will flood the land. What filled our plates will turn to dust. Nature is not doing this, we are. Nature cannot stop it, we can. But we have to start now.
- It's the only planet known to sustain life. The only one whose atmosphere has been regulated by nature to create the perfect balance. But today the earth is warming and nature is not doing it. Fortunately, all of us know someone who has the power to do something.
[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]
MODERATOR: OK. We need to cut it off. Thank you very much. Those of you who may not know him, that was Patrick Stewart who is the voice of Captain Picard on Star Trek.
MODERATOR 3: Finally, we come to physics. Frank Wilczek is the father, or one of the fathers, of the now very successful model which accounts for almost everything that can happen in present laboratories. So the-- Frank Wilczek is professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and his talk is entitled "Quarks and Gluons, The Story of the Strong Interaction."