"It is the unhappy fate of the scientist today that he must play the role of Cassandra in the body politic, sending his fellow men to bed with nightmares in the hope to be heard in time."

- Arthur von Hippel, in "The Molecular Designing of Materials" (h/t @upbeatprof)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Joint Academies' Statement Real? Yes.

I found myself wondering if this Joint Science Academies Statement is for real. I really want it to be, but I like the so-called Chief Seattle thing and the so-called Mandela inaugural address a lot too. Wishing something doesn't make it true. You would think a thing like this would get a whole lot of notice.

Anyway, it is linked from the Royal Society, and it also appears on the US National Academies' site, which is reassuring. I would hate to have to retract that posting.

I really want it to be true. So, I am glad to report that it appears to be true, though I admit to still be hanging on to a shred of doubt.

So now I wish it were getting more attention. Why isn't this on everybody's lips these days?


inel said...

Hi Michael,

I always amazes me that the obvious sources with straightforward statements rarely make ripples, let alone waves, in either the mainstream media or by special appearance on blogorama.

Do you want to know the other two blogs, apart from ours, that posted on this?

The Chronicle of Higher Education (behind a subscription wall that seems non-existent now)



That's it! None of us received any comments. So, I am breaking that pattern by writing to you ;-)

I even broke with my own tradition and quote-posted the entire Royal Society press release, with a link to the JAS. I received no comments, and only seven visitors.

It's time to join together to trumpet such news far and wide. This is nothing to do with framing, nor linguistics. Perhaps it has more to do with a lack of momentum for relevant information: once it is "out there" in the public domain it needs to be pushed, promoted, highlighted and propagated to disparate audiences.

Incorrectly, I guessed that such high-level statements would have been high-profile online, and so I just moved the JAS link up my right-hand widget column for easy access to the two statements.

One of the problems with major (large organisation or graphics-intense) websites is that search engines do not have deep and rapid visibility into them—they may just scratch the surface occasionally—so our blogs can serve a purpose in acting as pointers to deep and meaningful chunks of information that would otherwise remain buried. Perhaps there's a role here akin to an archaeologist's in identifying and presenting valuable information to the public? It is not framing. Rather, it is more to do with unearthing, understanding implications and piecing bits of a puzzle together (with reinforcing "glue" and fixative to preserve) in order to make as complete a picture as possible. After that has been done, it is a case of maintaining a healthy shelf-life for the product online :-)

EliRabett said...

Picked up on it from
John Fleck
. More concerning is your seed of doubt. That will be picked up on. You are publishing in a public form with all that implies, not having a discussion in the coffee room

Michael Tobis said...

Eli, yes I am aware that there will be echoes of my doubt, but I suggest that the reality is impressive enough that I think it will outweigh the effect.

The important thing at this point is to call enough attention to this remarkable statement.

My point is that, presuming the royal academy and the NAS haven't been casually hacked, this is ought to be considered an extremely important statement. I am surprised to the point of astonishment that this isn't front page news.

inel said...

Hi Michael,

I have visited each and every one of the national science academies websites to see how widely the two JAS were sourced, and whether search engines would be likely to serve up the information to 'seekers'.

Some countries covered the topic in online newspapers, yet their science academy websites buried the original documents; other countries promoted the news more easily and freely in both places. National newspapers relied on Reuters sources.

Martin Rees, President of The Royal Society in the UK, was quoted by Reuters on 16 May, and that news was reported same day in many countries, including South Africa and India, and reached Scientific American and Plenty Magazine, NY, as well as Cordis News for the EU, whereupon it was translated into German, French, Italian and Polish (and usually, Spanish too, but not quite yet) and also appeared in Croatia :-)

However, the National Academy of Sciences only had one news report, and that was in an outlet I have not heard of before ~ Living on the Earth, MA.

The problem for the US, is that the news coverage simply highlighted 'US contests G8 climate communiqué' and that was that! Blogs picked up on that. Interestingly, this appeared ON THE SAME DAY as the statements were reported. As a result, anyone searching on 'US G8 climate' would get that contesting result and hear nothing about the Science Academies' Joint Statement apart from a brief mention in the final two paragraphs:

"The US stance was in stark contrast to a joint statement issued yesterday by the national science academies of all G8 nations and Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. It drew attention to the IPCC findings and urged a goal of confining global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. The academies said: "Our present energy course is not sustainable . . . The problem is not yet insoluble, but becomes more difficult with each passing day."

The statement was published in Berlin where Ms Merkel said the appeal should encourage the G8 to take firm action."

Hmmm … controversy always wins press attention over the non-controversial rational statements, no matter how important the latter. This is a good example of that principle in practice :-(

P.S. You can delete this and my earlier post if you prefer to discuss this at the water cooler instead of in public. It's your call. Anyway, I do not want to annoy the famous professorial techno-bunny ;-)

inel said...

P.S. The FT.com source of that article supplied to MSNBC is here, and MSNBC received no ratings nor comments (probably because no troll showed up to start the usual emotional roller-coaster). The whole affair is rather peculiar.

inel said...

All JAS in every language I can find, in PDF and HTML versions with press contacts too, are now in my handy table. It will be easy to find references when the G8 meet.

Healthy scepticism is fine, as long as you keep an open mind ;-)

MSM will only pick the JAS up and run with it if bloggers cause them to be unable to ignore it. I still think Martin Rees did a good job getting this in European press outlets via Reuters. He did that on the same day as the prestigious Royal Society Science Book prize, so he had his work cut out for 24 hours, I expect. The science reporters in the UK were more interested in the results of the Book Prize (being writers themselves, of course) and they had been tracking that story with interest for weeks. The fact that the JAS were released at the same time did not help coverage here.

Heiko said...

I don't know what's so contentious about this statement. It seems very much a lowest common denominator to me, and could appear verbatim on the White House website.




For example, they say the target of 2C above pre-industrial would be challenging, and there'd still be serious impacts. What they don't say is that the target should be adopted. As for concrete actions, what's conspicuously lacking is eg the word taxes (not a single mention in the document).

Michael Tobis said...

Heiko, hello and thanks for the links.

I'm not sure whether or not it is contentious, or whether or not the current administration would endorse it. (I am pretty much confident they would not emphasize it, though.)

That said, I suggest it is important, and that most members of the public would not readily endorse the four points which I highlighted.

Are you saying that the statement is so far from newsworthy that it merits no more than a single passing mention in the English language press?

Heiko said...

I guess the media haven't picked up on it, because it doesn't provide a good story. They'd like it to contain something contentious, new, sensationalist.

I am not sure how far the White House would emphasise it, but they could include that in one of their press releases pushing the merits of say the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development


The joint statement sounds awfully similar, both in what it emphasises, and what it doesn't, namely the stuff that is contentious (cap and trade, carbon taxes, specific limits on carbon emissions or temperature rise).


I see that there isn't much press coverage, what there is, is quite instructive, because it tries to make it sound contentious in some fashion.

I've looked again at what you've written and I haven't been able to find four points highlighted?

inel said...

Hello Heiko,

The four comments that Michael highlighted are on his 'Bad news re: good news about bad news' post at Gristmill:

Among the crucial statements in this document (PDF):

"Our present energy course is not sustainable."

"Responding to this demand while minimizing further climate change will need all the determination and ingenuity we can muster."

"The problem is not yet insoluble but becomes more difficult with each passing day."

"G8 countries bear a special responsibility for the current high level of energy consumption and the associated climate change. Newly industrialized countries will share this responsibility in the future."

Michael, if I am wrong, please delete my comment in your moderation process.

Michael Tobis said...

Inel, exactly right.

Sorry for the delay here; I've been traveling.

Also sorry to my couple dozen fans that things have been slow around these parts of late. I have been gathering quite a lot of ammunition this last week, though, so saty tuned.

Pico said...

I found this yesterday because I just assumed there would be one and Googled for it so I could use it in a door-knocking campaign that was started in Melbourne today in preparation for the build up to Copenhagen.

I was a bit surprised that there is only a G8+5 statement. By contrast there is a statement on the effects of CO2 on ocean acidity that has 70 science academies signed up. See here.