Sunday, April 29, 2007

Huge rally for Turkish secularism

Read the full 29 April 2007 article on BBC News.

Lead: "Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in Istanbul in support of secularism in Turkey, amid a row over a vote for the country's next president. The protesters are concerned that the ruling party's candidate for the post remains loyal to his Islamic roots."

Comment: This follows naturally on my last posting. The clash now in Turkey is importantly between the knowledge system of a world religion, and that of those who prefer a modern secular nation and secular knowledge systems in political, educational, economic, legal and other institutions. JAD

Vatican Knowledge Systems

Read "Vatican Panel Discounts Limbo for Unbaptized: Greatest Impact of Change May Be Relief for Parents" by Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, April 29, 2007.

As I have pointed out in this blog many times, different institutions have different knowledge systems. The Catholic Church, and the system it has evolved over 2000 years to warrant statements of religious belief, is especially interesting. The Church's knowledge system is very old, informing the religious beliefs not only of 1.1 billion Catholics, but of many other Christians and "People of the Book". It has also been successful in adapting to changing social and economic conditions, and the challenges posed by competing knowledge systems.

Perhaps the most famous aspect of the system is the doctrine of Papal Infallibility -- that the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when he solemnly declares or promulgates to the Church a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals as being contained in divine revelation, or at least being intimately connected to divine revelation. This doctrine dates from 1870, and the last such pronouncement was in 1950. At this point, the theological argument goes beyond my understanding, but it seems to recognize that teachings of the Church can be in conflict one with another, and that there must be a process for the reconciliation of such teachings or of the understanding of the dogma.

The Wikipedia posting on Papal Infallibility points out that an Ecumenical Council can also be deemed infallible. It was such a council in 1870 that established the dogma of Papal Infallibility.

The current announcement, made after three years of study by a Vatican-appointed panel of theologians, has declared that limbo is a "problematic" concept that Catholics are free to reject.
"We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge," said the commission's report, published last week with the pope's approval.
The common Catholic teaching about limbo rose in the 13th century, and became progressively less popular in the 20th century.
The Vatican commission stressed that there is no mention of limbo in the Bible and that it was never a part of church dogma. Nor, by the way, is the commission's own advisory opinion.
The WP article further clarifies:
A commission member, the Rev. Paul McPartlan, a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, said that in the run-up to the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965, there were proposals to add limbo to the central teachings of the church.

But the senior bishops who prepared the council's agenda rejected those proposals, noting that the idea that unbaptized babies cannot go to heaven simply did not match the "sensus fidelium," Latin for "the sense of the faithful," McPartlan said.
Thus the Catholic Church's knowledge system, as it deals with religious dogma, combines concepts of absolutely authoritative sources (divine revelation, ex cathedra pronouncements of the Pope, infallible pronouncements of Ecumenical Councils; dogma that members of the church must believe), with learned pronouncements by teams of theologians who have studied the matter in depth, with that which is the sense of the faithful, with a responsibility of the individual members of the church to determine their own beliefs on many matters that are not defined by dogma.

Obviously, the Church's system for the dissemination of its religious teachings includes the training of priests and nuns, who in general are less specialized than its theologians, and the teaching of church members by the clergy.

This is a complex, nuanced knowledge system that works very well. Not surprisingly, since it is at a very minimum the product of 2000 years of evolutionary development in the hands of huge numbers of very gifted people who see its products as of the greatest possible importance.

More about truthiness in the Bush administration

Read "Most Katrina Aid From Overseas Went Unclaimed" by John Solomon and Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post, April 29, 2007.

According to the article on September 7, 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Karen Hughes sent a cable from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide. Hughes, a former White House communications adviser, had recently been named Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs -- a job she still holds. The Ambassadors were to "(a)ssure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans 'practical help and moral support' and 'highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving.'" They were to repeat this message again and again, as in an "echo chamber".
The article further states:
Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.
Comment: An example of State substituting a right-sounding message for hard cold facts -- what Stephen Colbert calls "truthiness". JAD

Stephen Colbert
Colbert Report website

A world of connections

“Everybody talks about the emerging markets being the big opportunity for the cellular industry in the next few years, but in the longer run there are going to be a lot more devices talking to each other,” says Paul Jacobs, the boss of Qualcomm, which makes mobile-phone chips.

The Economist magazine has a telecom survey in its edition of April 26, 2007.

Broadband subscribers

A Global Trend Towards Democratic Government

There were approximately 20 democracies in 1950 out of the world’s 80 sovereign states. In 1974, about 40 of the world’s 150 countries could be called democratic. Today, according to Freedom House, there are about 120 democracies, or two thirds of the world’s 193 states.

Freedom House, however, finds that not all democratic nations are really free.
Source: Freedom in the World 2007

The global trend toward electoral democracy is clearly one that will have important implications for the 21st century, especially in terms of the way knowledge is used in defining public policy.


Democracy's Challenge
By Peter Berkowitz
on the State Department website

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Condom Information in Abstinence Programs Called Inaccurate -

Condom Information in Abstinence Programs Called Inaccurate -

"Each of these assertions turns up in federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs: Condoms fail to prevent HIV infection 31 percent of the time during heterosexual sex. The chances of getting pregnant while using a condom are 1 in 6. And condoms break or slip off nearly 15 percent of the time.

And each of them is wrong, says John S. Santelli, a pediatrician and a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health."

Comment: Again, ideology trumps truth! JAD

Do You See a Pattern in Bush Appointments?

Today's Washington Post (WP) has a lead article on the resignation in disgrace of Randell Tobias, the deputy secretary of state responsible for U.S. foreign aid.

WP also has an article implying that Paul Wolfowitz, the President of the World Bank, will be accused of a serious breach of ethics by a panel investigating his service. Yesterday WP ran an article that stated:
Under a diplomatic arrangement in effect since the creation of the World Bank in 1944, the U.S. president has the right to appoint the chief of the institution. Europe has the power to appoint the head of the bank's affiliate, the International Monetary Fund.....

If the board ultimately votes to remove Wolfowitz, a Bush administration official said it would jeopardize the governing arrangements of other international financial institutions, including Europe's right to appoint the leader of the IMF and Japan's authority to name the head of the Asian Development Bank.
Yesterday I posted a message that the European Parliamentary Working Group on Separation of Religion and Politics has urged Ellen R. Sauerbrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, to withdraw from a meeting that it considered inappropriate for formal participation by a U.S. government senior official. I have documented over some time the controversy over Sauerbrey's qualifications and political views (Search my blog with the term "Sauerbrey"). One of those prior postings also dealt with the controversial nomination of Julie L. Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau at the Department of Homeland Security, in a maneuver circumventing the need for approval by the Senate.

Yesterday I posted on the appointment of Cristina Beato as deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, another appointment that by diplomatic tradition is under the control of the President of the United States. Beato is another controversial Bushie, whose appointment as Assistant Secretary for Health foundered on charges that her resume had been inflated. (I once posted that the Office of Global Health Affairs of the Department of Health and Human Services, early in the Bush administration. required all Department staff seeking to visit PAHO headquarters in Washington D.C. to apply for foreign travel permission to do so; search this blog with the term "Steiger" for other examples of that offices international work in the Bush Administration.)

Look too at my posting on the Bush administration nomination of Josette Sheeran (Shiner) to head the U.N. World Food Program, another intergovernmental program whose head is by tradition appointed by the U.S. Government. Sheeran was once managing editor of the Washington Times, a conservative newspaper, founded in 1982 by Sun Myung Moon.

Ann Margaret Veneman, the Bush administration's nominee who became the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), was also controversial, seen to have been chosen for her political ties rather than her expertise in the important areas covered by UNICEF.

Peter Smith, who was the highest ranking American in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as Assistant Director General for Education, also recently resigned amid controversy including an audit report that implied improprieties and ethical lapses on his watch. (Click here to read more on that case.)

Then of course there was the case of John Bolton, the controversial Bush administration insider, who resigned his recess appointment as Ambassador to the United Nations when it became apparent that he would not be confirmed in that post by the Senate, having lost the support not only of the Democrats, but of my Republicans. He is notable, among many other actions, for asking the deletion of all references to the Millennium Development Goals from the documentation that was being prepared for the 2005 United Nations Summit meeting.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sauerbrey to Speak at Questioned Conference

Read "THE FOURTH WORLD CONGRESS ON FAMILIES" by J. Goodrich on The American Prospect Online Edition.

The 4th World Congress on Families (organized by the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Warsaw, 11-13 May) is perhaps not what you might think. It defines its purpose as follows:
We assemble in this World Congress, from many national, ethnic, cultural, social and religious communities, to affirm that the natural human family is established by the Creator and essential to good society. We address ourselves to all people of good will who, with the majority of the world's people, value the natural family. Ideologies of statism, individualism and sexual revolution, today challenge the family's very legitimacy as an institution. Associated with this challenge are the problems of divorce, devaluation of parenting, declining family time, morally relativistic public education, confusions over sexual identity, promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, poverty, human trafficking, violence against women, child abuse, isolation of the elderly, excessive taxation and below-replacement fertility. To defend the family and to guide public policy and cultural norms, this Declaration asserts principles that respect and uphold the vital roles that the family plays in society.
Ellen R. Sauerbrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, is scheduled to speak at the meeting. Sauerbrey is a very conservative political appointee, who failed as a candidate for governor of Maryland.

The European Parliamentary Working Group on Separation of Religion and Politics has urged her to withdraw from participating in the event, stating:
The United States rightly prides itself on supporting and spreading religious tolerance, pluralism and inclusion. This conference, and many who will be attending, reject that ethos outright. We have no problem with people expressing beliefs and convictions that we do not share. In a free society, that is right and just. However, we do object when foreign government officials lend support to such views, especially when platforms are used to denigrate and attack those with whom they disagree.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Plant vault passes billion mark

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Plant vault passes billion mark:

"The Millennium Seed Bank will present the seed, from an African bamboo, to Chancellor Gordon Brown, as it seeks funds to continue operating after 2010.

"Part of the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) at Kew, the bank already stores material from 18,000 species, some of which have become extinct in the wild.

"Seed banks are seen as an essential part of plans to curb the rapid loss of biodiversity, in Britain and worldwide."

"If policymakers are serious about funding adaptation to climate change,
seed banks are a key part of that"
Paul Smith

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Foresight: S&T Knowledge Trends in the 21st Century

A few days ago I posted some thoughts about trends that would define the 21st century. In keeping with the topic of this blog, let me consider specifically trends in scientific and technological knowledge and how they will influence developments in this century.


As in previous postings, in the following I consider "science" to refer to modern science, with its prototypical institutions of professional societies, laboratories, and higher education, and with professional scientists supported by cadres of technicians and other helpers. I am especially interested in the applied sciences, such as applied agricultural research, meteorology for weather and climate forecasting, hydrology for aquifer management, and epidemiology for public health. If I switch to "folk science" or knowledge of the natural or social world found in traditional cultures and cultural institutions, I will try to add a descriptor to make the distinction clear.

Similarly, I consider "technology" to refer to modern technology, with its prototypical institutions of engineering and other professional societies, industrial laboratories, and higher education; members of the science-based professions such as engineers, physicians and agronomists are its prototypical practitioners with their associated paraprofessionals and support personnel. If I switch the discussion to "traditional technology", I will again try to add a descriptor for clarification.

Science includes the natural sciences, the social sciences, and if you wish to have them in a separate category, the behavioral sciences. Thus scientific knowledge includes knowledge of the natural environment of man, or the social environment of man, and of human behavior. Technological knowledge includes knowledge of the man-built environment. Now, with mankind's footprint so heavy on the environment, scientific knowledge increasingly includes knowledge of the interaction of man and the environment.

The Importance of Scientific and Technological Knowledge

Science can be seen as an institution for the creation and validation of knowledge. It is a process in which information is based on observation, and especially replicated observation. The testing and retesting of hypotheses, and the vigor of peer review and professional discourse on the veracity of assertions gives scientific consensus a high level of epistemological validity. So too does the insistence on conformity of theory and observation.

Technological information is tested. Does it work in practice? Indeed, the standards of validation of technological knowledge have left much to be desired in the past, but are improving. Thus blinded case-control studies are increasingly the gold standard for the validation of new medical techniques and pharmaceuticals. Not only do crop scientists test their new crops extensively in the laboratory and the field station, increasingly they are testing them in farmers fields. Modern markets, with their improving information systems including regulatory agencies and consumer groups, provide another means of validation of the quality of technologies embodied in products and manufacturing processes.

Simply, I suggest that modern scientific and technological knowledge systems can produce more accurate and valid information than alternative knowledge systems. Of course, not all nations have scientific and technological knowledge systems of equal quality. The biological information produced in Russia in the Lysenko era was not as good as that produced elsewhere in Europe or North America. Currently, non-scientists in the U.S. government are accused of rewriting the conclusions of scientific deliberations on environmental issues. Some Chinese manufactured goods appear suspect in terms of quality control -- and thus in terms of the technology they embody or the way that technology is used. Indeed, the safeguarding of the integrity of modern scientific and technological knowledge systems within their borders would appear to be a responsibility for every nation, as is the safeguarding of the international scientific and technological knowledge systems a responsibility of the community of nations.

Investment in Scientific and Technological Knowledge Creation

As nations have developed economically, they have tended to spend more on science and technology, and more specifically on research and development -- the creation of scientific and technological knowledge. The following figure suggests that the most developed nations have already saturated the portion of GDP allocated to R&D, spending two or more percent of GDP on R&D. Those nations will spend more on research and development as their GDP's continue to rise, and may spend a greater portion of GDP on R&D if R&D productivity increases or if better means of translating scientific and technological knowledge into profits are institutionalized.

Less developed nations, however, are not only increasing GDP, but increasing the portion of GDP spent on R&D as they progress economically. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are expected to enter the list of the most powerful economies of the world by 2050, and with other developing nations invest much more in research and development.

While, as the figure below shows, North America and Europe currently account for almost two thirds of global research and development expenditures now, Asia is already accounting for almost one third, and is likely to have a larger share in the future. Of course, lower costs in poor countries can result in more knowledge produced per dollar spent on research and development.

It seems likely, given the rapid pace of globalization, that firms will increasingly invest in R&D in new labs and new countries, taking advantage of lower costs and other incentives for doing so.

Thus I suggest that investment in scientific and technological knowledge creation will continue at an even faster pace in the 21st century than in the 20th. Moreover, I expect the global pattern of investment in technological knowledge creation also to shift to include new centers.

The Production of Scientific and Technological Knowledge

Publication of scientific and technological journal articles expanded greatly in the 20th century, and seems likely to continue to expand. It also seems that the rate of technological invention increased, as industrial research laboratories were institutionalized, and as institutions were improved linking research in government and academia with industry.

The geographic pattern of scientific and technological knowledge creation is also changing. As the following chart shows, Europe has recovered from the S&T destruction of the first half of the 20th century, and has surpassed North America in annual scientific and technological publications; Asia is likely to do so soon.

Source: "Scientific Publication Trends and the Developing World,"
The American Scientist, Volume: 88 Number: 6 Page: 526

Scientific and technological fields go through stages of development. The 20th century saw the rise of technological systems based on the internal combustion engine, electricity, and new information and communications technologies. I would suggest that the information and communications technologies are still in a growth stage, and that materials technology will be reinvigorated by advances in nanotechnology. I expect to see biotechnology yield very important economic returns in the 21st century, and space technologies and cognitive and brain science based technologies offer grand promise.

It seems clear that there will have to be a major shift in energy technology in the 21st century, since the growth in petroleum based technological systems can not be maintained. One expects nuclear and renewable energy technological knowledge to be generated, with important economic consequences. So too, advancing environmental degradation will put a premium on the scientific and technological knowledge that can be used for sustainable development and for restoration of degraded lands and environments. Indeed, we may see a large scale substitution of communications systems for transportation systems, or of decentralized production systems based on robotics technology.

The Dissemination of Scientific and Technological Knowledge

Scientific information tends to be published, and made freely available. Technological information is often held as proprietary property by the individuals and firms that generate new knowledge, at least for a period of decades.

Schooling has been expanding hugely over time, and as GapMinder's education tool reminds us, while schooling is a far scarcer service in poor countries than in rich, it is expanding everywhere. The expansion of university education is especially noteworthy, and reached some 70 percent of the age cohort in the most schooled countries. The joint trends, of increasing income and increasing schooling at all income levels for developing nations, suggest that education conveying scientific and technological knowledge will be much more common in the 21st than the 20th century.

Schools can be an important place for the transfer of scientific and technological information, and for science and technology knowledge acquisition. In developed nations, there have been decades of effort to improve the science and technology teaching. On the other hand, many school systems in developing nations, handicapped by inadequately prepared teachers and lack of resources, do a poor job, even for those students who attend school for extended periods. Indeed, some schools controlled by those who would reject modernizing influences, indoctrinate students against scientific and technological information and thinking.

Worldwide, people are living longer, healthier lives. The demographic transition that has occurred in rich countries has seen the numbers of children decreasing in the latter part of the 20th century. Those trends suggest that the importance of adult education and lifelong learning is increasing relative to that of childhood education, but also that investment in longer and better childhood education is justified. Still, the communication of scientific and technological information in adult education should be of increasing concern in the 21st century, as people will have longer working lives, face greater technological change, and be confronted with a growing body of scientific and technological knowledge.

The media also provide an important source for non-formal scientific and technological information dissemination. Popular science journalism in print and broadcast media are important in developed nations already.

Digital is replacing print on paper. The Global Information Infrastructure development (see the graphs below) is allowing faster transmission of scientific and technological information, and online publications seem likely to replace print on paper journals for much of the dissemination of scientific and technological information.

Source: World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report 2006:
Measuring ICT for social and economic development

One of the results of these trends is that people in developing nations are more connected to sources of scientific and technological information than ever in the past, and are likely to be much more connected in the foreseeable future.

The Stock of Scientific and Technological Knowledge

The global stock of scientific and technological knowledge has been growing throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and as investments in research and development and scientific and technological knowledge creation are further enhanced in the coming century, the stock should grow faster still.

Scientific and technological information storage is being revolutionized in response to the Information Revolution. Not only are vast amounts of information increasingly available via the Internet and World Wide Web, but knowledge is increasingly embodied in machines.

Scientific and technological knowledge depreciates with time, and it seems likely that it will depreciate more rapidly in the next century than it did in previous centuries, at least for many societies. Technological knowledge depreciates as new technologies are invented that are more efficient than the old. Social science knowledge depreciates as social conditions change and the results of the scientists become outdated. Natural science knowledge depreciates as natural conditions change, or as new and better knowledge outdates that which exists.

An issue is whether the appropriate scientific and technological knowledge is accessible. The appropriate technological knowledge depends on the factor endowments of the specific location where productive activity is to take place; labor intensive, capital saving technologies are needed for poor nations, and labor saving, capital intensive technologies for rich nations. So too, knowledge from the natural sciences on tropical systems is needed in the tropics and on temperate systems in temperate climates. All too often, knowledge stocks in the past have been centralized in rich countries, and inappropriate knowledge has been transmitted to those in poor nations.

Globalization suggests that the global patterns of industrial production will continue to change over the next century, and indeed may change even more rapidly than in the past. Thus newly industrializing countries may well be seeking not only larger stocks of locally available scientific and technological knowledge, but more rapidly changing local stocks.


It has been suggested that large scale organizations grew in the 19th and 20th centuries because they were successful, and that they were successful because they institutionalized more successful knowledge systems than alternatives such as markets and traditional institutions of production and governance. It has also been noted that many organizations are outsourcing functions, using inter-organizational market information processes rather than intra-organizational bureaucratic information processes, because the new technologies redress the balance making markets more efficient than bureaucracies for some functions. The trends in changes in relative institutional efficiencies for dealing with scientific and technological knowledge seem likely to have profound implications for the 21st century.

In developed nations, scientific and technological knowledge systems have become profoundly interlinked with a wide range of institutions. The industrial research laboratory is a prototypical example of a element of both the technological knowledge system and the bureaucratic, organizational knowledge system. Other examples abound: forensic science in the criminal justice system, biomedical science in the medical system, agricultural science in the farming system. Indeed, in developed nations, scientific and technological knowledge have largely replaced traditional knowledge systems in many ways -- "old wives tales" are seen as archaic rather than as a legitimate, authoritative source of information.

On the other hand, the "culture wars" are significantly rooted in social conflict as to the more or less legitimacy and authority of scientific and technological knowledge systems versus religious and other traditional knowledge systems. Just think about the controversies over evolution, stem cell research, birth control, etc. The conflict between the Bush administration and the scientific community over the use and misuse of scientific information in government can be seen as an example of a clash between political and scientific knowledge systems.

It might be worth emphasizing the degree to which knowledge from the social sciences has been integrated into modern life in developed nations. Organization theory and research informs organizational design and management. Economics has become a key tool of government. Educational systems have been informed by learning theory and other advances in psychology.

In developing nations, the penetration of scientific and technological knowledge systems into other social systems is often far less advanced than in the United States, Japan or Western Europe. People often still look to traditional authorities for information, and still use technologies passed from generation to generation through traditional channels. The traditional practitioner is often the source of advice on health problems, not the doctor; the neighbor is often the source of advice on farming, not the extension worker; people often learn crafts by apprenticing to experienced craftsmen, rather than perusing instruction manuals for new machinery.

Development and modernization will involve legitimizing institutions that deliver better scientific and technological information as authoritative sources in place of traditional institutions. Thus, it will be important to further legitimize modern investment by international industrial firms in developing nations, as those firms internalize important channels for the transfer of appropriate manufacturing and related technologies.

Schools can be an important vehicle for changing the attitudes of their students relating to alternative knowledge systems. The schools can often inculcate students with a preference for religious or scientific sources of information, towards traditional cultural or external cultural sources. Increasingly, as it increasing penetration and quality of services, the media can play a comparable role.

Final Remarks

It seems clear that the 21st century will see poor nations follow the path already taken by the richer nations, substituting scientific and technological knowledge for traditional knowledge in many of their institutions. Indeed, I expect the process to continue in developed nations, and to lead to the obsolescence of traditional knowledge systems in some developing nations.

The process will not be without dispute. People will fight to maintain their authority; institutions have not survived for millennia without means of self protection, promotion and defense. Indeed, the revolutionary expansion of the global communications will place traditional and modern societies in new and uncomfortable proximity, and perhaps exacerbate the inter-society cultural wars.

Gapminder - World HIV Chart

Gapminder - World HIV Chart

Comment: Who says wealth does not influence health? JAD

When and How Many Species Have Been Domesticated

Source: Science 20 April 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5823, pp. 382 - 383.

Duarte, Marbá and Holmer in their paper, "Rapid Domestication of Marine Species", provide the figure above, pointing out how rapidly mankind has been domesticating marine species in the last century.

The article also points out that there are 250 domesticated land plants, 44 land animals, 180 freshwater animals, 250 marine species and 19 marine plants.

Comment: This is a very small number of species on which to base the future of our species. I think we need to do a lot more systematic biology to inventory the species of the world, and a lot more bio-prospecting to identify species that we can utilize, as well as a lot of work to domesticate additional useful species. I heard recently that there are 6,600 drugs in our pharmacopeia, which is a significant advance over the past, but not nearly enough. That number, however, puts into perspective the paltry numbers of species mankind has domesticated so far. JAD

Knowledge Economy Forum: April 2007

Knowledge Economy - Background:

"The sixth Knowledge Economy Forum that the World Bank is organizing to support countries in ECA in their transition to becoming increasingly knowledge-based. "

Aid to Africa Fell in 2006

According to this article in the Washington Post
The Africa Progress Panel met in Berlin yesterday to chide the world's richest countries for neglecting a 2005 commitment to double aid to Africa within five years and to help lift the poorest continent out of poverty by 2015.......

The meeting followed a World Bank report this month that global aid to poor countries fell to $103.9 billion last year from $106.8 billion in 2005. The decline jeopardizes the G-8's goal of doubling aid to Africa as well as the United Nation's "Millennium Development Goals," which include reducing global poverty by increasing aid to Africa.

Today is Malaria Day

April 25th is Africa Malaria Day worldwide and the first Malaria Awareness Day in the United States.

Since 1972 there have been an estimated 14 billion cases of Malaria and some 94 million deaths.

The eradication of Malaria is probably not possible right now, and new armaments against Malaria are needed. While research on prevention and treatment of Malaria should continue with great vigor, a lot more could be done now to control the disease.

Progress is being made, but not nearly fast enough!

Insecticide impregnated bed nets are a good tool, but the entire toolbox should be called into play. Mosquito control, including spraying inside houses with DDT should be more widely used. Engineering works can reduce breeding grounds for mosquitos. People with malaria should be found early and treated, both to protect them and to keep them from spreading the disease. Prophylactic drugs should be more widely distributed.

Bushie Gets PAHO Post as Reward

Al Kamen writes in today's Washington Post:
Friday's the day when longtime Loop favorite and Health and Human Services official Cristina V. Beato will take the oath of office as deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization.

In February 2003, her boss, Assistant Secretary for Health Eve Slater, stepped down after losing an ideological battle with her deputy, Beato, and other conservatives at the department and the White House. Beato was later nominated to replace Slater, but that move foundered amid allegations of résumé embellishment by Beato. She remained acting secretary, however, for many months.
Charles Mahtesian wrote in in August 2004
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has sent Beato a nine-page list of questions to be answered. Some are resume-related, but a few have nothing to do with her credentials. These other inquiries are of a different nature -- such as how much of Beato's travel involved political events and whether she was involved in the controversial rewriting of an HHS report on inequities in health care for minorities.

These questions are more than just blind stabs in the dark. The reference to the minority health-care report is designed to underscore the Democratic contention that the Bush administration is "politicizing" science. The curiosity about Beato's travel arrangements stems from her road trips proselytizing for the administration's Medicare plan - and possibly from her impolitic appearance at a July 2003 town hall meeting held by Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., just before he announced he would challenge Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, a member of Kennedy's committee......

If nothing else, one thing is certain about Beato: Over the course of her career as a polarizing hospital administrator - she was at the center of controversy surrounding hospital policy on restricting undocumented immigrants' access to medical services - and as a Bush political appointee, she has made a habit of stepping on toes.

"Mystery of Hold Wrapped in Enigma"

Mystery of Hold Wrapped in Enigma -

"Who placed an anonymous hold on legislation that would require senators to file their campaign finance forms electronically?

"The bill was poised for passage last week when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) rose on the Senate floor and announced, 'Mr. President, on behalf of a Republican senator, I object.'....

"Over the past week, the Sunlight Foundation continued to update its list, crossing off names as its members obtained denials. Yesterday morning, they were down to two -- Republican Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.)."

Comment: I hope the voters in Arizona or New Hampshire (whichever is appropriate) take notice. JAD

Ralph Bunch

Dr. Bunch accepting the Medal of Freedom
from President Johnson

"May there be, in our time, at long last,
a world at peace in which we, the people, may for once begin to make full use of the great good that is in us."
Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Beginning in 1947, Ralph Bunch served as assistant to the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine, and thereafter as the principal secretary of the U.N. Palestine Commission. In 1948 he traveled to the Middle East as the chief aide to Count Folke Bernadotte, who had been appointed by the U.N. to attempt to mediate the conflict. In September, when Bernadotte was assassinated, Bunche became the U.N.'s chief mediator. Working concluded the task with the signing of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the work for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 and many other honors.

Dr. Bunch was the foremost U.S. expert on colonialism in Africa, and at the end of World War II went to the State Department where he advised U.S. representatives to the Dumbarton Oaks Conference and the meetings that established the United Nations. He helped draft the trusteeship provisions of the U.N. Charter and assisted in organizing the Division of Trusteeship at the United Nations, becoming its director in 1947. He later served as undersecretary for Special Political Affairs and undersecretary-general of the United Nations.

He was active in the civil rights movement, using his great prestige to draw public attention to and support for civil rights in the United States. He declined President Truman's offer of the position of assistant secretary of state because of the segregated housing conditions in Washington, D. C.; helped to lead the civil rights march organized by Martin Luther King, Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965; supported the action programs of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and of the Urban League.

This week Andre Varchaver spoke to the students in my class, drawing on his very long experience with the United Nations. As I listened, it occurred to me that the students probably did not know about Ralph Bunch. I had the advantages of being old enough to remember his fame, of graduating from UCLA (Bunch is its most distinguished graduate), and actually having known one of his friends from his Los Angeles days. It seemed the least I could do to recall his importance in this posting on the blog.

It is also useful to recall how a U.S. citizen, working through the United Nations, could help to bring peace, at least temporarily, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ralph Bunch symbolizes the proudest part of the record the United States had in the past in attempting to resolve the conflict in the Middle East, and serves as a beacon for a return to policies promoting peace in the region.

Read Dr. Bunch's:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media

Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media

Another good resource on data analysis and presentation for decision making.

Check out the sites posting titled "Mapping the Blogosphere."

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Advance Distibuted Learning Program

Here are a number of links to elements within the ADL program of the U.S. Department of Defense, brought to my attention by my friend and colleague Patrice Lyons.

Advanced Distributed Learning
The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative was formed as a developer and implementer of learning technologies across the U.S. Department of Defense. ADL employs a structured, adaptive, collaborative effort between the public and private sectors to develop the standards, tools and learning content for to improve the military learning envirnments. The vision of the ADL Initiative is to provide access to the highest-quality learning and performance aiding that can be tailored to individual needs and delivered cost-effectively, anytime and anywhere. The ADL website provides information on a number of the tools developed under the initiatives as well as links to the Co-Lab Network formed in support of the Initiative. Among the several technologies the ADL Initiative is currently pursuing are gaming, simulations and intelligent tutoring.
The Academic Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Co-Lab
The Academic Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Co-Lab serves as the focal point for academia in promoting high quality, reusable content for distributed learning. It is part of the Co-Lab Network created under the U.S. Department of Defense its ADL Initiative. This Co-Lab is the ADL academic link to test, evaluate and demonstrate ADL-compliant tools and technologies to enhance teaching and learning. It also serves as an academic demonstration site for ADL tools and content, including those developed by the federal government, academia, and industry.
CORDRA (Content Object Repository Discovery and Registration/Resolution Architecture): An open, standards-based model for how to design and implement software systems for the purposes of discovery, sharing and reuse of learning content through the establishment of interoperable federations of learning content repositories. CORDRA is designed to be an enabling model to bridge the worlds of learning content management and delivery, and content repositories and digital libraries. CORDRA aims to identify and specify (not develop) appropriate technologies and existing interoperability standards that can be combined into a reference model used to enable a learning content infrastructure.
SCORM, the Sharable Content Object Reference Model, or SCORM, as its name indicates, aims to provide the specifications necessary to enable content developers with the ability to produce content that is sharable, reuseable, and most importantly interoperable. SCORM is a key focal point of the Academic ADL Co-Lab (AADLC) created under the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative. As the SCORM evolves, the AADLC evaluates the requirements and changes for the purpose of serving as a resource to the wider academic community, and helps to clarify key issues.

African bank adopts 'landmark' science strategy - SciDev.Net

African bank adopts 'landmark' science strategy - SciDev.Net:

"The African Development Bank Group (ADB) has announced a development strategy for higher education, science and technology.

ADB's 53 member countries adopted the strategy at a stakeholders' consultative workshop in Accra, Ghana last week (12–13 April).

It aims to establish public-private partnerships and programmes for developing technological skills, strengthen science and technology infrastructure and bring about institutional and policy reforms."

World Bank Considers Bujagali Dam Project

According to the BBC, "the World Bank is expected to rule on whether it will back a controversial new Lake Victoria dam, at Bujagali in Uganda. Environmentalists say water levels in the lake are dropping and that the project would make the situation worse."

I wish I knew more about this issue. I have been to Bujagali falls (which are more of a rapids), which are cited by environmentalists as of concern, and I would not like to see them lost. However, I think the bigger issue is Lake Victoria. It is not one of the lakes of the Rift Valley, but a relatively shallow lake covering a vast area. Its level changes greatly according to the rainfall from decade to decade and century to century. On the other hand, it is not obvious to me how damming the river outlet of the lake is going to make it drop faster.

Uganda is in desperate need of more electrical generation capacity. While the hydro-electric power may be expensive, the cost of generating power from fossil fuel, given that it is all imported and the transportation infrastructure in Uganda is weak and transportation costs high, are also high and oil prices are going up.

It seems to me that the Ugandan's should decide whether they want to give up Bujagali Falls (and the tourism that it creates at the source of the Nile) in order to obtain more electricity. As far as I could tell, the Ugandan's were pretty much unanimously in favor of the dam.

I am a tree hugger, and I believe that it is not only locals who have concerns over world heritage sites, but I also know that Uganda is very poor, and needs more electrical power desperately for its development.

I hope the World Bank, which is after all a bank, does the right thing -- for the Ugandans!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lisbon Strategy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lisbon Strategy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"The Lisbon Strategy, also known as the Lisbon Agenda or Lisbon Process, is an action and development plan for the European Union. It was set out by the European Council in Lisbon on March 2000."

This is a rather useful short description of European efforts to use technological innovation as a more effective motor for growth by developing innovation promotion policies.

Bush Administration Gains Support for New Approach on Food Aid - New York Times

Bush Administration Gains Support for New Approach on Food Aid - New York Times:

"As shipping and agribusiness executives, charitable workers, lobbyists and federal employees mingled at Morton’s steakhouse, Charles Worledge, who works for the Long Island-based Sealift Inc., a major shipper of American food to the hungry, offered an insight essential to understanding the politics of food aid.

“I thought this was a charity,” he explained during the party, for which another shipping company played host. 'It’s not. It’s a business.'"

Comment: Duhh! JAD

Thought Triggered by Three Articles

Three pieces I read in the last 24 hours somehow came together in my head.

1. "The occupation of Iraq: It might have been otherwise," The Economist, April 19th 2007. This is a review of Ali Allawi's book, The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace. The reviewer writes:
It has become commonplace, for example, to say that the Americans were woefully ignorant of Iraq's turbulent history and tangled sociology. Mr Allawi goes much further, arguing persuasively that they fundamentally misread Iraq's political culture. They simultaneously overrated the power of its secular middle class and underestimated the attachment of the majority Shias to their faith and to their religious leaders. The idea that the mass of Iraqi Shias would be willing accomplices in their country's makeover into a secular, liberal democracy—which America's neo-conservatives clung to as an article of faith—was absurd.

This fundamental error led to others. There was the naive belief that Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most senior Shia cleric, favoured the separation of mosque and state when, in fact, it was he more than anyone else who was to secure the electoral triumph of the Shia Islamists. And the young firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr was written off as a street thug rather than the leader of a loose-knit but significant grassroots movement among the Shia poor.
2. "Does He Hear the World's Poor? Don't Bank on It" by William Easterly, The Washington Post, April 22, 2007. Easterly writes:
The root cause of his (Paul Wolfowitz') debacle at the (World)bank was pretty much the same as the reason for the fiasco in Iraq: intellectual hubris at the top that disdained the messy realities at the bottom. He imagined it would be as easy to clean up the pathologies of foreign aid as he had thought it would be to create democracy in the Middle East.......

(H)is main objective -- transforming bad governments into good governments -- was simply unworkable.

Wolfowitz's arrogant belief that the bank could overhaul the often nasty politics of the world's poor countries sounded familiar to many bank staffers; his predecessor, James D. Wolfensohn, also had a fondness for utopian schemes. All of this overreaching bogged the bank down, making it less capable than ever of delivering even the simplest things that alleviate the sufferings of the world's poor -- medicine, water, food. Frustrated, suspicious and resentful, the staff was ripe for revolt.....

But the problems with Wolfowitz's management of the bank ran even deeper than his botched anti-corruption campaign. He also embraced and expanded the utopian goals of his predecessor, Wolfensohn.

For example, while Wolfowitz was allegedly getting tougher on "bad government" in places such as Uzbekistan, the bank was simultaneously insisting that development programs show "country ownership" -- bureaucrat-speak for having the recipient government take charge of its own programs. But how do you get tough with misbehaving governments while insisting that they run your programs?

Such follies are only one symptom of a deeper intellectual crisis over whether the bank has the slightest clue of how to achieve its grandiose goals. Just as Wolfowitz arrived at the bank in 2005, it produced a report on "Lessons of the 1990s." The lessons were that the bank did not know which lessons to teach; the report showed that countries that had ignored bank dogma (China, Vietnam, India) were thriving, while those under bank tutelage (Russia, Argentina, Zambia) did poorly.
3. "Cold War Realist" by Walter Isaacson, The Washington Post Book World, April 22, 2007. This is a review of GEORGE KENNAN: A Study of Character by John Lukacs. Isaacson writes:
The messy collision with reality that has befallen the Bush administration's freedom agenda and democracy crusade in the Middle East has meant a comeback for the foreign policy doctrine known as realism.....

Kennan's roots as a realist thinker came from a cold view of national interests, narrowly defined, and a dark view of human nature. That made him a traditionalist and a conservative, even though his sharpest critics came from the right. In a passage that gives a revealing taste of his book, Lukacs goes so far as to paint him, admiringly, as a lonely dissenter among the worshipers of progress: "He believed that people, and especially Americans, have reached a time when they must rethink the entire idea of 'progress.'......

Lukacs remains sympathetic throughout this brief book, but he provides grist for those who might have qualms about Kennan's brand of realism. From his early days as a foreign service officer to his later ones as a sage in Princeton, Kennan was unabashedly dubious about democracy. He approved of authoritarian regimes and was contemptuous of America's middle class. He also disdained the role of morality, as opposed to calculated national interests, in foreign policy; he resisted allowing more Jews to immigrate to America after Hitler took power, and he was cool toward America's entry into World War II.
Comment: It is too bad when words pick up political connotations that keep them from meaning what the dictionary says that they mean.

I certainly am in favor of realism (in the dictionary sense) in foreign policy. U.S. foreign policy makers should have had a realistic understanding of the political dynamics in Iraq before invading, and certainly in occupying that country. Indeed, they should have had a realistic understanding of the willingness of the U.S. public to support casualties and support nation building efforts over the long haul; a long haul effort should obviously have been envisioned for achieving a resolution in Iraq appropriate to our national interests. So too should Wolfowitz have had a realistic appreciation of both the difficulties in achieving reforms in developing nations, especially the least developed nations, and the World Bank.

On the other hand, a narrow, short term interpretation of U.S. interests in foreign policy should not, in my opinion, be graced with the title "realism". The U.S. public does support human rights and democratic governance and -- since our national interests are an expression of our citizen's values -- these should be seen as U.S. national interests. Moreover, I feel that in the long term altruism is a better basis for U.S. foreign policy than greed -- it is not only morally superior but more successful even in promoting our economic and security interests. Of course the Unites States has economic and security interests that should be protected, and of course other nations and peoples understand that fact, but the U.S. had a lot of good will internationally (that was beneficial in all of our dealings with other nations) as a result of its fight against Fascism in World War II, the Marshall Plan, the Alliance for Progress, U.S. support for Egypt in the Suez Crisis, and other occasions in which U.S. policy tried to "do the right thing". Realism should not sacrifice the global environment to U.S. corporate profits in the next decade -- a long term view is needed as well as keeping ones eye on the ball in foreign policy. JAD

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The National Academies | News | U.S. Needs New Approach to Improve International Education

The National Academies | News | U.S. Needs New Approach to Improve International Education:

"More support from all levels of the U.S. education system is needed to develop an integrated approach to improving foreign language skills and expertise on other cultures, says a new report from the National Research Council. Also, the Education Department should consolidate oversight of its foreign language and international education programs under a high-ranking official who would provide strategic direction and coordinate its work with other federal agencies."

"Bush's Mistake and Kennedy's Error"

"Skeptic: Bush's Mistake and Kennedy's Error"; May 2007; Scientific American Magazine; by Michael Shermer; subscription needed to read this online.

Shermer says, in part:
We all make similarly irrational arguments about decisions in our lives: we hang on to losing stocks, unprofitable investments, failing businesses and unsuccessful relationships. If we were rational, we would just compute the odds of succeeding from this point forward and then decide if the investment warrants the potential payoff. But we are not rational—not in love or war or business—and this particular irrationality is what economists call the “sunk-cost fallacy.”......

Imagine what would happen if George W. Bush delivered the following speech:
This administration intends to be candid about its errors. For as a wise man once said, “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors.... We’re not going to have any search for scapegoats ... the final responsibilities of any failure are mine, and mine alone.
Bush’s popularity would skyrocket, and respect for his ability as a thoughtful leader willing to change his mind in the teeth of new evidence would soar. That is precisely what happened to President John F. Kennedy after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, when he spoke these very words.


Read AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY SUSTAINS THE U.S. ECONOMY BY RODGER DOYLE in the current Scientific American. (Subscription required.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Demonstration: UNESCO: What is it? What does it do?

UNESCO: What is it? What does it do?
is a very helpful booklet published by UNESCO.

Click on the above image and you will see a word cloud from Many Eyes (A great set of tools for visualizing data). The size of each word is proportional to the number of times that word is used in UNESCO's booklet. The word cloud seems accurately reflects the nature of UNESCO's work. Play with it, and you may learn something about the organization! Use Many Eyes, and you may present information better in the future!

Read "Sharing Data Visualization IBM's site lets people collaborate to creatively visualize and discuss data on fast food, Jesus' apostles, greenhouse-gas trends, and more." by Kate Greene, MIT Technology Review, April 11, 2007.

Foreign Policy: Why Hawks Win

Foreign Policy: Why Hawks Win: By Daniel Kahneman, Jonathan Renshon, Foreign Policy,

"Why are hawks so influential? The answer may lie deep in the human mind. People have dozens of decision-making biases, and almost all favor conflict rather than concession. A look at why the tough guys win more than they should." January/February 2007

Comment: Kahneman is one of the great names in understanding biases in human decision making. This short, readable article brings his expertise to bear on decisions about war and peace. JAD

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"The Rich and the Rest"

Read the full article by Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post, April 18, 2007.

Samuelson writes:
Look at the latest astonishing estimates from economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley and Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics. They find that the richest 10 percent of the population received 44 percent of the pretax income in 2005. This was the highest since the 1920s and 1930s (average: 44 percent) and much higher than from 1945 to 1980 (average: 32 percent).

But the biggest gains occurred among the richest 1 percent. Their share of pretax income has gradually climbed from 8 percent in 1980 to 17 percent in 2005. Indeed, many others in the top 10 percent seem mainly upper middle class. For example, those in the richest 90th to 95th percentiles had incomes of about $110,000.

Major Books Online on S&T and Development

The following books are part of a more extensive set on my social bookmarking site:

These are the websites of key players in the International Science, Technology and Innovation field:

Key World Bank Sites:
* Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI)

* Tertiary Education

* Knowledge for Development Program (World Bank Institute site)

* Knowledge Economy (part of the Europe and Central Asia Region website)

The Organization for Economic Development Program on Innovation and Technology Policy.

Questions that should be answered in making US policy for Iraq

I have refrained from posting on the subject of Iraq since I could not add substantively to the debate. Today, however, I post two issues that should be addressed by those advocating policies for Iraq, especially those advocating precipitous withdrawl:
  • How great is the probability of genocidal ethnic cleansing in Iraq if the U.S. pulls out precipitously? The coercive government of Saddam Husein at least kept the peoples of Iraq from such a course. If the U.S. invasion and departure create the conditions leading to something even worse than what is going on now......?
  • How great is the probability of chaos in the region if the U.S. pulls out precipitously? Is there a real possibility of widespread violence between factions headed respectively by Shiite Iran and Iraq and Sunni Saudi Arabia? What would be the implications of precipitous withdrawal for Israel and Palestine, Lebanon, oil (and European, Chinese and Japanese supplies), internal affairs in other Arab and Muslim nations, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union, etc.?

Software Firms vs Pharma in Congressional IPR Debate

Read "Patently at Odds: Drug and Tech Sectors Battle With Reform High on Agenda" by Alan Sipress, The Washington Post, April 18, 2007.

Sponsors in both the U.S. House and Senate plan to unveil patent reform bills today to address the mounting litigation in the United States over disputed patents and the difficulty of ensuring accurate decisions by U.S. patent agency examiners. Apparently there is a clash of lobbyists coming: the drug industry is expected to seek the strongest possible protection for its blockbuster patents, while the software industry, which wants more flexibility for its fast-moving companies which sometimes inadvertently infringe on patents and which have faced huge judgments for such infringements.

Foresight: the 21st Century

Roger Coate challenged my class the other evening to identify the trends that will mark the 21st century. The following is a partial response. Comments are more than welcome.

Demographic Changes: The global population is growing and growing older. The demographic transition has resulted in low or negative population growth in most affluent countries, and in a different form in China. However, many countries still have rapid population growth, especially poor nations. There is a huge migration from rural to urban areas, and mega-cities are appearing and continuing to grow. Thus even by mid century, there will be a much larger world population, quite differently distributed.

Globalization: International communication, Transnational investment, international trade, and international travel are all growing rapidly. 100 years ago there was also a globalization processes in operation, but it was killed by two world wars and a global economic depression. If the world avoids a similar meltdown in the 21st century, these trends should continue. They may contribute to higher rates of international migration.

Economic changes: Average per capita GDP can be expected to continue growing, even as the world population grows. U.S. economic dominance of the world economy, that existed after World War II has been challenged by the restoration of European and Japanese economies in the second half of the century. China and India seem also likely to become major world economies in the 21st century. Thus we might think of three major economic regions -- Europe, North America, and Asia -- dominating the global economy later in the 21st century.

Technology: Mechanized manufacturing has been, and will probably continue to move to new regions with low wages. I suspect that materials technology, although fairly mature, still has surprises in store for mankind. Information technology has not fully matured, even after a half century, and will continue to offer major economic gains in developed nations; major ICT diffusion will take place to developing nations. Biotechnology (including genomics and proteomics) is probably just beginning to have its commercial impact. Nanotechnology and technologies from the cognitive and brain sciences seem to me likely to produce major economic benefits in the century. Alternative energy technology to that based on fossil fuel will be needed, and one hopes that fusion will become economically feasible.

Environment and Natural Resources: Global warming is a fact, and will continue more or less rapidly throughout the 21st century, depending on the success in policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Anthropogenic changes will also further promote desertification, destruction of coastal zones, deforestation, soil loss, and loss of biodiversity. Water shortages may be a major problem in some regions. Almost all all arable land is already under agriculture, and the ability to absorb more rural population by putting new land under cultivation will be severely limited. Fisheries will be depleted. Oil reserves will be depleted some time in the 21st century. Knowledge of the environment and natural resources will improve rapidly.

Health and longevity: There are lots of unknowns here. Communicable diseases still kill huge numbers of people each year; while the worst impacts are limited to poor people in poor countries, HIV/AIDS illustrates the threat that new and emerging diseases may pose. An aging population will increase the prevalence of diseases of aging, and the attendant medical costs. The development of mega-cities raises the possibility of new health problems. Increasing affluence raises the possibility of increasing problems such as substance addiction and problems stemming from obesity. It is possible that medical research will find ways to extend healthy life expectancy beyond "four score and ten" for those fortunate to escape the problems identified above.

Social Changes: Schooling life expectancy is increasing, and on the average people will be much longer schooled in the 21st century, but here too there will be great differences among nations. Westernization can be expected to continue reaching into regions and peoples who did not Westernize during the 20th century (or before). Many tribal and local languages will disappear, and the numbers of people able to speak at least one of a handful of global languages will increase. As the global information structure continues to improve, popular culture trends and phenomena will be disseminated still more widely, providing greater challenges to the maintenance of local intangible culture. There will continue to be cultural clashes over deeply held cultural values -- including religious, ethical, and political values -- as globalization increases the impacts of cultures on each other. Corporate cultures will increasing compete with national cultures.

Institutional Changes: Transnational and global markets will expand, proliferate and strengthen. More and bigger multinational corporations will exist. Civil society institutions will continue to expand and link regionally and globally. Intergovernmental organizations will continue to expand in authority and function. There will be a further transfer of function and authority from more to less geographically limited governing bodies, such as is taking place from European nations to the European Union. Treaties and conventions will play a greater role in protecting the environment, regulating international commerce, and other areas.

Further Comment: I can only hope that knowledge from the social science, humanities, natural sciences, and technological knowledge of the man-made environment grow sufficiently rapidly to help mankind deal with the changes that will occur in this century. Even more of concern is that people learn better how to utilize such knowledge, and that peoples, nations, and societies become more rational and better able to guide themselves into peaceful and productive lines of action and behavior. JAD

Library Success: A Good Practices Wiki

Library Success

This is a great idea, especially for librarians, who are among the most computer literate. I suspect that there will be many in other professions as well who find the good practices described in "management and leadership", "technology" and other areas of considerable interest.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cognitive Daily: How concerned should scientists be with "framing"?

Cognitive Daily: How concerned should scientists be with "framing"?:

"The debate about Chris Mooney and Matthew Nisbet's recent Science article has gotten quite contentious. Nisbet and Mooney contend that if scientists hope to persuade the public to value science, they must take heed of recent research on 'framing.' In other words, they claim, scientists are failing at presenting their message effectively."

In last week's class on UNESCO, our guest lecturer presented a case study for discussion. It was based on a fictitious small island nation, with a deteriorating environment, that wished to develop a tourism industry to promote economic development. The island was presumed to have requested UNESCO's communication and education program to help it consider how to develop the island information infrastructure to advance its aspirations to develop tourism. A lively discussion took place, and of course there are many ways that improving the national information infrastructure can achieve that purpose.

However, my immediate response was that the issue was poorly framed. In fact our students, deeply interested in education, saw the problem of the island in terms of education -- quite rightly. And of course, education is UNESCO's strongest suit.

But UNESCO is also a scientific organization, and has a lot to say about what science has learned about sustainable development, and especially about the protection of the environmental amenities of small island nations. This ties into environmental tourism especially.

UNESCO is also a cultural organization, and has a lot to say about the protection and utilization of cultural resources -- and especially cultural tourism. But the development of cultural industries (arts and crafts, music, etc.) is a natural complement to cultural tourism, with each supporting the other.

Returning to Mooney and Nisbet's point, perhaps the evolution debate should be framed in terms of the risks of not accepting evolution. If the U.S. educational system does not teach the theory of evolution, we will find it difficult to educate the scientists to exploit modern biology for economic growth. We will also find our graduates looked down upon by the graduates of other educational systems that do teach evolution. We will also be seen as two-faced when we criticize Islamic nations for politicizing education by teaching Moslem ideology instead of modern science.

How do Organizations Learn"

People too often consider organizational learning only in terms of human learning. Of course, organizations can learn by allowing (encouraging) organizational members to learn. Some other ways organizations can learn:
* Information is embedded and knowledge embodied in organizational structure and processes, and an organization can improve its performance (i.e. "learn") by investing in improvements in structure and process.
* Information is embedded and knowledge embodied in plant and equipment, especially these days in computer and communications equipment, and an organization can learn by adding to or improving the knowledge so embodied.
* An organization can learn by hiring someone who knows something than no one in the organization knows, or by firing someone who knows something that is not true.
* An organization can learn by bringing knowledge present within its community more fully and effectively to bear on the problems it faces.
* An organization can learn by outsourcing functions to other organizations if by doing so those functions are better or more efficiently accomplished.

John Seely Brown: Chief of Confusion

John Seely Brown: Chief of Confusion

Check out this website, by one of the most innovative and thought-provoking people in the Americas (North and South).

Check out:
* Introduction: Creating a Learning Culture: Strategy, Practice, and Technology

* Balancing Act: Capturing Knowledge Without Killing It

"Foreign Science and Engineering Presence in U.S. Institutions and the Labor Force"

Christine M. Matthews, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress (97-746), Updated January 12, 2007.

From the Summary:
The increased presence of foreign students in graduate science and engineering programs and in the scientific workforce has been and continues to be of concern to some in the scientific community. Enrollment of U.S. citizens in graduate science and engineering programs has not kept pace with that of foreign students in those programs. In addition to the number of foreign students in graduate science and engineering programs, a significant number of university faculty in the scientific disciplines are foreign, and foreign doctorates are employed in large numbers by industry.
Comment: I should disclose that I am basically retired, and not in the science and engineering workforce any longer. But in this case, I think the U.S. born scientists and engineers may be protecting themselves rather than this country. In terms of our foreign policy and international development policy, there are few things we can do as positive as offering graduate training to scientists and engineers. The graduates who return will often be intellectual and business leaders in their countries; they will tend to be pro-American and to open markets for U.S. products. Those who stay here will often be educators and innovators in our economy. Certainly a drop in the number of U.S. citizens seeking doctoral degrees in science and engineering should be of concern here, but not an increase in the number or percentage of foreign students in doctoral programs. However, professional associations are probably seeking to assure that there is not too much competition with U.S. scientists and engineers that would affect their remuneration. I suggest it is better to keep the U.S. economy strong through innovation and export of high tech products, than to protect the salaries of our scientists and engineers at the expense of the rest of the workforce. JAD

Science, technology and innovation in Europe. Eurostat, 2007.

KS-AE-07-001-EN.PDF (application/pdf Object)

This downloadable document of 156 pages contains recent data on science and technology in Europe.

In Focus: Climate Change and the Environment

In Focus: Climate Change and the Environment:

"In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Bush Administration's position that carbon dioxide was not a pollutant that could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The decision accepted the view of several state governments, which urged EPA to regulate such emissions and returns attention to how government should control harmful greenhouse gases. Brookings scholars have examined policy options ranging from cap-and-trade permits, to technology innovation, to state-level action, to the design of global institutions for managing climate uncertainty."

IEEE-USA Policy Priority:� U.S. Competitiveness & Innovation

IEEE-USA Policy Priority:� U.S. Competitiveness & Innovation:

"At the dawn of the 21st Century, America desperately needs a new national competitiveness strategy that reflects the realities of the post-Cold War world. Today we face a new, more rough and tumble form of global economic competition, especially in the science, engineering and technology based sectors that have fueled U.S. prosperity since World War II. Competing successfully in this new global environment is essential for our national and economic security and to ensure that the U.S. is able to create high-value jobs and maintain a vital national engineering capability. For those reasons, IEEE-USA is actively urging Congress and the Administration to pass laws that will strengthen U.S. competitiveness and innovation as part of our overall Innovation Initiative."

Shaping the Message, Distorting the Science: Media Strategies to Influence Public Policy

A hearing was held by the House Committee on Science and Technology on March 28 on this topic. Excerpts from the testimony are shown below.

Opening Statement By Chairman Brad Miller
Ronald Reagan said that facts were stubborn things. The topic of today’s hearing is a concerted effort by opponents of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to bully scientific facts into submission. And under intense pressure, the facts about global warming caved in, and proved much more elastic than Ronald Reagan had us believe.

Testimony By Dr. James J. McCarthy
It is now clear that for a number of years, both Bush administration political appointees and a network of organizations funded by the world’s largest private energy company, ExxonMobil, have sought to distort, manipulate and suppress climate science, so as to confuse the American public about the reality and urgency of the global warming problem, and thus forestall a strong policy response.

Testimony By Sheldon Rampton
A converse strategy aims at suppressing independent scientific views, discoveries and evidence that are inconvenient to the industry or its lobbying interests. For example, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recently released documents showing "hundreds of instances" where a former and current oil industry lobbyist had edited government reports to downplay the impact of human activities on global warming. The edits were by Philip A. Cooney, the former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Cooney himself has no scientific credentials. He worked for the American Petroleum Institute prior to being appointed to his position within the Bush administration. He now works for Exxon Mobil.

Testimony By Tarek Maassarani
In February 2006, prompted by the well-publicized concerns of Dr. James Hansen and Rick Piltz, (The Government Accountability Project) GAP initiated an in-depth investigation to determine the extent of political interference with federal climate research and the dissemination of scientific information. The investigation found no incidents of direct interference with climate change research. Instead, unduly restrictive policies and practices were found to occur largely in the communication of “sensitive” scientific information to the media, the public, and Congress. The effect of these restrictive communications policies and practices has been to misrepresent and under-represent the taxpayer-funded scientific knowledge generated by federal climate science agencies and programs. The bottom line is, we need the government to be stimulating, not undermining, an informed public debate on important scientific subjects, including climate change.

Testimony By Jeff Kueter
In today’s highly charged environment of climate change policy, it is claimed that the political interference with climate scientists is unique. It is alleged that federal scientists are not free to speak their minds and are subject to oversight by political appointees. The situation is neither unique nor exclusive to one political party. Our book, Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policy Making, documents numerous past examples of where science and politics intersected with damaging impacts on science and negative public policy outcomes.8 Further, those who believe the current situation is unique should make themselves familiar with the story of Dr. Will Happer. As told by Happer in Politicizing Science and widely reported at the time of its occurrence, in the early months of the Clinton-Gore Administration, Dr. Happer, then head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, questioned the Vice President’s views on climate change and ozone depletion. Despite his scientific credentials, he was summarily dismissed at Gore’s direction.