Posted tagged ‘National Science Foundation’

HELP! We Are Being Poisoned!

May 20, 2011

Panic stricken crowds flee from the tragic Chicago fire.

The following discussion may seem far way from the broad topic of Explorology, but that is not and never has been the case. Scientific research is exploration of the most essential kind, and that is exactly what we will be talking about here.

Well, just like shouting ‘FIRE’ in a crowded theater, running out onto the street and shouting the above would either get you restrained or redirected to a mental institution. What if you are right? What if we should be shouting for help? Some of us do, and sadly too few responsible corporate and government leaders hear us. Actually, it’s pretty certain they hear us, but ignore us; hoping we will go away.

The above scenario instantly and dramatically changes if a news break or official announcement states that we are being poisoned, but by terrorists. Alarm bells ring, all kinds of serious looking people wearing protective clothing and headgear appear. Oops, false alarm, no terrorists and all the pollution samples are ignored or discarded. Everything returns to normal poisoning.

Our governments, national, state, and local all have many environmental and health agencies loaded with dedicated and skilled watchdogs. They all are ready and eager to extend their range and detection efforts, but unfortunately they are kept on short leashes. O.K. the whining and moaning stops here. The thrust of this blog article is to consider potential areas that either need expanded research or the initiation of new research.

We will approach this by considering a series of questions, some of which are hypothetical, but believed to be highly relevant.

Research and Regulation; are they compatible? Yes, they cooperatively exist today, but both need continual fiscal support, updating and solid leadership. Research has already established areas that need regulation to prevent harm to humans, but opponents of regulation legislate crippling acts that impede regulation or even abolish it. Research, is often affected by fickle funding which is also affected by oppositional lobbying attacks that either divert or stall funding for vital research into dangerous hazards to humans and our environment.

Innovation and Regulation; can they co-exist? Right now, it is a struggle. Entrepreneurs often regard regulation as barriers, both financial and operational, that prevent them from being successful and profitable. History reports many, many cases of the regulatory process being misdirected or ‘blinded’ by specific influence from corporations who seek to run outside the regulatory envelope. This is a clear example of the collapse of ‘arms-length’ relationships between the regulators and the corporate operations they are supposed to be monitoring.

Can sound and proper regulation be achieved and sustained? The first requirement is protection of regulatory agencies from politically inspired legislation that seeks to diminish or abolish their efforts. Changes, or redirection of any regulatory agency‘s operations should be exclusively the result of either or both research results and court decisions. The only legislation that would be permissible would relate to the scope of operations of the agency. In most cases this would result in White House executive orders and not direct legislative action. Most importantly, the regulatory process must be fully sensitive to new research data that either redefines or expands the target areas under the agency’s purview. Again, history records many areas where new data has been either overlooked or intentionally ignored due to political or corporate pressure.

Can scientific research receive increased government support and assurance of complete data review? Well, here again there are variables affected by political and social disputation of some findings (e.g climate change). This nation has a wealth of scientific review organizations most effectively represented by both the National Science Foundation and the National Academies of Science. These two organizations, plus the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy should exclusively moderate and resolve any such disputes. Assuming the data is correct and vital, the next step is inclusion of that data in the operational profiles of the responsible regulatory body.

Enforcement; obstruction or opportunity? Proper and complete enforcement of various regulatory issues is a variable. Screams from the offenders and their political cohorts claim “Big Government” intrusions. As a result the issue gets totally obfuscated by the harangue and the critical issue is left in limbo. If the enforcement process sought to provide suggestions and even means to derive alternative methods or products that avoid the offending process then suddenly the screams could become cheers and ‘intrustion’ bows out to ‘support’. For such a new relationship between enforcement and compliance there would need to be considerable changes in the regulatory process that would include sci-tech and financial support to induce the necessary new methods or policies. Yes, that costs money and time, but look at the money and time spent avoiding the regulatory process and the intense impact on the environment and humans. All of these avoidance strategies ultimately cost more and accomplish nothing, whereas a regulatory process that supports change as an enforcement aid could produce the desired safe environment. Most would call this constructive regulatory enforcement.

Is there a role for citizens in the research and regulatory process? The answer is,’absolutely.’  What is lacking is a fully coordinated process of taking those citizen inputs and reviewing them and assembling clear examples and descriptions of specific problems. Right now there are a host of environmental and consumer advocacy groups that take citizen input and present them to government, at all levels. The problem is, that these efforts often fall on deaf ears and no action occurs. This is often represented by glamorous, clamorous Congressional hearings that are filled with sound and fury, but yield little real results. This is an area of critical change. A clearing house process that evaluates citizen input via environmental groups provides a non-political and usually sci-tech assessment of the issue. Additionally representatives of the affected regulatory body as well as the offending organization also evaluate and comment on the issues. The end product is an official presentation to the Congress and the White House that enhances and further depoliticizes the issue. This should improve the chances of the problem receiving both full attention and support from the government. The objective is supportive enforcement as discussed above.

Come On! Is this something that can ever be put in place? Well, that is totally up to each of us. How really active are we in the entire process that evaluates and acts on environmental and health issues? Do WE consider these issues when we vote for our elected representatives? Do WE work as closely as we should with advocacy groups that seek to achieve some or all of the changes presented above? Lastly, do WE really care about our planet, our global well being, and full support for the scientific research that make all our lives better and safer? Government is US. What we do not follow up on weakens US and allows unregulated, renegade behaviors to endanger all of us. So we jump up, shout and scream and blame government, but that is US. So the ultimate solution is our own direct and immediate involvement. Can we get with it, NOW?

IMAGE CREDIT:

Panic in the streets of Chicago during the tragic Chicago Fire. From the Chicago Historical Society – Copyright 1996

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THE INSEPARABLES: SciTech and Government

May 4, 2011

Yes, this is a highly prejudicial blog article. It is pro-science and definitely proposes new ways to both strengthen America‘s SciTech prowess and at the same time elevate the general well-being of humankind globally. Some, kindly, would term this as a solicitous appeal while others would…well?

In a rampage of proposed budget slashes a deficit threatened government reacts instead of carefully enacting. Yes, enacting would address the deficit, but in a manner that sustains the core strengths of America. One of those most important core strengths is our scientific and technological prowess. Put simply, can this government sustain itself and this nation without progressive science and technology? Similarly, is there much hope for this progressive and vital core without an equally progressive government? Truly, these are inseparable partners with a desperate interdependence.

So, what do we do?

President Obama in his 2012 budget proposal increases Federal spending on SciTech by 13%. On the surface this appears good and progressive. What is not clear is where that increase, if approved, will be applied. Additionally, one must wonder where the justifications came for that increase. In other words what SciTech advice was used to make that determination?

The White House and the Congress have many resources, but there are also strong inputs backed more by whimsy and illogic that solid justifications. Most of this kind of response seeks to degrade SciTech and in doing so pushes the nation backwards. On the positive side input from strong sources, including the Congressional Budget Office, the White House budget staff, the National Academies of Science, the National Science Foundation and a host of private and university research organizations all submit supporting data for their fiscal needs.

As critically important as full funding support for SciTech is, an exclusive focus just on that issue is dangerously and terminally myopic. Yes we need to finance a full spectrum of research, including space exploration, but for this to become a fully acceptable and supported standard we must pull down the walls of scientific exclusivity. At the same time we must break through the barriers of suspicion, superstition and theological extremism that blockade SciTech progress. These are false adversaries promoted mostly by political opportunism. That’s right it comes far less from the pulpit and more from wild-card politics. The common ground is the deep spirituality that comes from new discoveries and explanations that enrich and elevate humankind and all that surrounds us. Science does not defy us, it continue to define us and in doing that we grow and evolve and glorify our place in the Cosmos.

Regardless how you chose to justify it, humankind has a mission and now we spend more time denying it and its rewards than we do in seeing the light of discovery that is shining in our faces. There is so much astounding beauty and exciting revelations out there that our SciTech selves help us to see and appreciate. It is only the unexplained that imposes fear and suspicion. With each new revelation provided by SciTech, humankind moves forward, but also closer together.

Here is the essential connection. Government must be of and by the people, and science promotes an ever-expanding environment that enhances our surroundings and thereby improves human life. Stop science, and life then diminishes and thus governance – thus extinction  Shall we vote for extinction through both poor financial management, and even poorer use of our ability to explore, discover, and thereby explain? Good governance that promotes assertive SciTech, unifies humankind with the Cosmos. SciTech and governance together from now on work to forever protect and espouse this unity. Is it mystical? No, there is no mystery. Is it spiritual? Absolutely, each new revelation strengthens us and provides an incredibly deeply spiritual sensitivity for each other and for all that surrounds us.

SciTech is vital and governance is its essential promoter and protector. They are truly inseparable. Banish either and we banish humankind.

IMAGE CREDIT: I was born into Einstein’s and Roosevelt’s age and learned to value their commitment to progress and the well-being of all humankind. The image above is courtesy of “Time Line” http://tinyurl.com/3tal7g4

READER REFERENCE: For more about scitech and the funding crises you may wish to read Parts I and II of this blog: Tag-Along Science: (1) http://tinyurl.com/3d6ez8c and (2) http://tinyurl.com/3e5txtq