Thomas R. O'Donnell

To get candidates to debate science, ask the right questions

In Government on May 20, 2019 at 7:19 am
David Courard-Hauri, Dierdre Egan and David Kurns at Drake University for the March for Science Iowa "Science on the Stump" panel.

David Courard-Hauri makes a point at Drake University during the March for Science Iowa “Science on the Stump” panel. Dierdre Egan and David Kurns look on. Photo by Joe Sheehan.

Hordes of candidates are cutting across Iowa, touring ethanol plants and farms and chatting up voters in coffee shops and living rooms.

It’s to up us to get these would-be presidents to take science seriously, leaders in education and agriculture told an Iowa audience at a recent discussion, hosted by March for Science Iowa. We must demand that they support their views with solid research.

The session (which I helped organize) was designed to get Iowans – and, more importantly, journalists and candidates – talking about science, research and evidence-based policy, subjects that usually get little attention on the campaign trail.

It was illuminating discussion, illustrating Iowans’ diverging views on such science-based issues as climate change and water quality. One thing most spoke to: science advocates must change how they address the issues if they’re to gain support from other voters.

The big question is how to do it.

Advertisements

Putting science on the Iowa presidential caucus campaign agenda

In Government on April 24, 2019 at 11:13 am
The science commandments, from a 2017 March for Science Iowa participant: Thou shalt: Question, Research, Hypothesize, Test, Analyze, Conclude. Thou Shalt NOT: Jump to Conclusions on "Alternative Facts," Illogical arguments, Ideology instead of Reason.

The science commandments, from a 2017 March for Science Iowa participant.

For something that affects our lives in so many ways, science gets remarkably little attention when candidates at all levels – especially for president – talk to voters.

Science-based policies govern our air, water, health, food, communications – nearly everything we do, hear, see, taste and smell every day. A president’s appointees to such scientific agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy Office of Science, Agricultural Research Service and National Institutes of Health can affect our lives more deeply than Congress.

So why doesn’t science get a bigger share of a candidate’s standard campaign speech? Why don’t reporters and news anchors press them on whether they’re prepared to base energy, environmental, health and agricultural policy on scientific evidence? Why aren’t candidates announcing up front what kinds of experts they will appoint to head agencies that support research and create science-based policies?

The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Science Debate has tried to address this problem since the 2008 presidential election. It’s still working to drive discussion on these issues – including providing grants to local organizations with similar goals.

March for Science Iowa is joining in that mission with an event next month.

The woollybear boogie: a fall trek of Lilliputian proportions

In Uncategorized on September 23, 2018 at 2:00 pm
A fuzzy forager beating multiple feet across a little-used blacktop in Van Buren County. See you hanging around my yard light next spring, little fella.

A fuzzy forager beating multiple feet across an Iowa blacktop. See you flitting around my yard light next spring, little fella.

If you drive the little-traveled county blacktops of rural Iowa, as I do, you’re sure to notice a slow (and sometimes not-so-slow) march at this time of year.

They’re easy to spot in the distance: small smudges inching across the blue-gray pavement. The contrast of dark on light and the steady movement draws the eye, making the sojourns of woollybear caterpillars hard to miss, even though they’re relatively tiny.

I saw countless fuzzy travelers on my trips through southeast Iowa one recent weekend. There seemed to be one every few yards, crossing the pavement and, with luck, avoiding the many tires that would halt their travels (and their lives).

What’s going on here?

Urban Utopias

From Garden Cities to Smart Cities, the past and present of cities of the future.

Mary Murphy

Iowa and Beyond

Iowa Science Interface

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state

On Our Own

Sustainability in a Turbulent World

Miss Lou Acquiring Lore

Gallery of Life...

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

Indie Omnibus

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state

Paul Krugman

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state

tsmith

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state

Deixis Online

A blog about research and STEM in the Hawkeye state