Tag Archives: science

Obama sets R&D goal: 3% of U.S. GDP

On Monday, President Obama made a fundamental change in policy. In a speech delivered at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, Obama said the U.S. will begin to reinvest in science and technology.

A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering; to set a goal of reaching space and engaging every citizen in that historic mission.  That was the high water mark of America’s investment in research and development.  And since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income.  As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation’s great discoveries. 

He set a goal that will put investment in science in technology to levels not seen since JFK made the then-audacious claim in 1962 that man would walk on the moon by the end of the decade.

I’m here today to set this goal:  We will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development.  We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science…. This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.

This new plan also includes renewed focus on science education, including an additional $5 billion for the Secretary of Education’s Race to the Top program and improved funding for graduate and post-graduate training.

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Free BJHS Articles Online

The British Journal for the History of Science writes:

The British Journal for the History of Science (BJHS) has a long and established tradition of publishing research of interest to historians in the field of North American sciences.  To illustrate BJHS’s strength in this area, the journal’s editor, Professor Simon Schaffer, has selected some key articles that should be of particular interest.  Click here to access our BJHS North American sciences online selection -with our compliments.

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Isis asks, “What if…?”

The September 2008 issue of the leading history of science journal, Isis, includes a set of articles on counterfactual history — exercises where historians ask what might have been if past events had played out differently than they actually did. For decades most serious historians have dismissed such speculation as pointless (e.g., reported at AHP here), but there has been a percolating resurgence of interest in the question in recent years.

The section, organized by Gregory Radick of the University of Leeds in the UK, begins with the question “Why What If”:

Like the people they study, historians of science make conjectures about what might have been. Unlike scientists, however, historians of science have no tradition of self-consciousness about counterfactual methods. The essays in this Focus section are conversation starters toward that missing tradition. Continue reading

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Does an education in science need history?

Isis, 99(2)In the latest issue of Isis, 99(2), Graeme Gooday, John M. Lynch, Kenneth G. Wilson, and Constance K. Barsky ask an important question: “Does science education need the history of science?” Generalized to address recent questions about the place of “the History of psychology” in “the discipline of Psychology,” their discussion seems particularly timely.

Perhaps predictably, given what is likely my own bias in sharing their article with the readers of AHP, Gooday and his colleagues answer such questions in the affirmative: “science education can gain from close engagement with the history of science both in the training of prospective vocational scientists and in educating the broader public about the nature of science” (p. 322). Their essay makes this case in two parts, with a third suggesting some ways in which historians could further increase the value they offer to science:

First it shows how historicizing science in the classroom can improve the pedagogical experience of science students and might even help them turn into more effective professional practitioners of science [pp. 323-327]. Then it examines how historians of science can support the scientific education of the general public at a time when debates over “intelligent design” are raising major questions over the kind of science that ought to be available to children in their school curricula [pp. 327-329]. It concludes by considering further work that might be undertaken to show how history of science could be of more general educational interest and utility, well beyond the closed academic domains in which historians of science typically operate.

Of the three, the third part of their essay seems most likely to generate the kind of discussion that would help historians of psychology secure the future of History in Psychology. Continue reading

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Classic Science Article Blog Carnival

A gianThe Giant’s Shoulders” (TGS) is a new blog carnival in which scientists select a classic paper from their field and write a short piece about its contribution and influence. (For those who have never heard the phrase, a “blog carnival” is a collection of links to web items on a particular topic that has no one home, but is hosted at a variety of different blogs in turn.) TGS is the brainchild of someone who goes by the moniker “skullsinthestars” and will be posted on a monthly basis for the foreseeable future.

The first issue of TGS is being hosted by A Blog Around the Clock, a blog run by “Coturnix,” the Online Community Manager at Public Library of Science. (I oughta get myself one of these cool web-monikers! Whaddya think? “Professor Psychoradix”? No, too ostentatious. How about “HistoChristo”? Or “HistoChristo29″?) Continue reading

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Does the History of Science Matter?

The June 2008 issue of the leading history of science journal Isis contains a “Focus” section on the question “What is the Value of History of Science?” The section was organized by Jane Maienschein of the Center for Biology & Society at Arizona State U. and George Smith of the Tufts U. philosophy department. They introduce the other five article of the section with a piece entitled “What Difference Does History of Science Make, Anyway?” In the opening paragraph, Maienschein and Smith write:

Simon Schaffer had remarked… that never has the market for books on the history of science been greater-and never has the historical accuracy of so many of the most popular books been worse. We worried that scientists and others want history, but they do not know how to tell good history from bad.

But even if they could tell the good from the bad, what difference would it make? Continue reading

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Science Journalism Sucks (mostly)

Ben Goldacre, a science reporter for the Guardian, has written an interesting (if too short) article on why science journalism is lousy most of the time.

Gary Schwitzer used to be a journalist, but now he has turned to quantitative analyses of journalism, and this month he published an analysis of 500 health articles from mainstream media in the US. The results were dismal. Only 35% of stories were rated satisfactory for whether the journalist had “discussed the study methodology and the quality of the evidence”: because in the media, as you will have noticed, science is about absolute truth statements from arbitrary authority figures in white coats, rather than clear descriptions of studies and the reasons why people draw conclusions from them. Continue reading

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International History of Science Congress in Budapest

BudapestIt has been announced that the XXIIIrd Congress of History of Science and Technology will be held July 26-31, 2009 in Budapest, Hungary. The theme of the conference will be “Ideas and Instruments in Social Context.” The website for the conference can be found here. The full announcement from the Congress Secretariat can be found below. Continue reading

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Proust was a neuroscientist?

Jonah LehrerAs if to build on our recent discussions of clashing historiographic sensibilities (see part 1, 2 & 3), All in the Mind recently turned its attention to Jonah Lehrer‘s book: Proust was a Neuroscientist. (Get the MP3 of his interview here.)

Lehrer’s basic argument is simple: artists have often anticipated aspects of brain science that bench scientists are only now beginning to understand.

Using similar terms, Publishers Weekly described it thus:

Lehrer explores the oft-overlooked places in literary history where novelists, poets and the occasional cookbook writer predicted scientific breakthroughs with their artistic insights. The 25-year-old Columbia graduate draws from his diverse background in lab work, science writing and fine cuisine to explain how Cézanne anticipated breakthroughs in the understanding of human sight, how Walt Whitman intuited the biological basis of thoughts and, in the title essay, how Proust penetrated the mysteries of memory by immersing himself in childhood recollections.

But can Proust, or any of the other artists he names, really be considered a neuroscientist? (In other words, should historians of neuroscience include these characters in the disciplinary lineage?) No, said Lehrer in his interview on All in the Mind. Continue reading

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Happy 535th Nick!

heliocentric model of universeFebruary 19, 1473 was the date of Nicolaus Copernicus’ birth. The Polish astronomer is best known for the posthumously published book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, in which he outlined a heliocentric model of the universe.

So what has all this to do with the history of psychology? According to the “Today in the History of Psychology” website, “a scientific psychology rests on the assumptions generated by the Copernican revolution,” namely, the “promoting [of] objectivity in the study of human affairs.” Continue reading

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