On science blogs this week: Gathering

tam@nasw.org @tamfecit

THE 75TH BIRTHDAY OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCIENCE WRITERS BEGINS TODAY AT YALE, AND YOU CAN BE THERE EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT THERE. The meeting program, which continues tomorrow with a full day of concurrent professional workshops, can be found here. There will be podcasts and slidecasts of some of these valuable sessions; find them here.

These are the scheduled podcast topics: Profitable freelancing: Starting a business and keeping it productive; How to be an effective science public information officer in the changing media world; Civics of science: Literacy and the collapse of science journalism; Get the Numbers Right: A workshop on reporting statistics; Rebooting science journalism: Adapting to the new media landscape; New funding models for journalism.

Maybe some day we'll be able to afford Webcasts.

Find the Science Writers 2010 group blog here. The assembled bloggers are science-writing grad students and freelances who won NASW travel fellowships to the meeting, and they are kindly sharing their meeting experiences in return for travel expenses. TINSTAAFL.

There will be tweets aplenty too. Here's a small sample you can sample. Follow the official meeting tweets @ScienceWriters and use #sciwri10 in your own tweets about the meeting.

A number of folks have told me they expect to be tweeting, and you can follow them, too. Mariette DiChristina, editor-in-chief at Scientific American, is just about to step down as NASW president; follow her @SAeditorinchief. Also from SciAm is news editor Robin Lloyd, a new NASW Board member, @robinlloyd99.

NASW Board member Bob Finn, who heads the San Francisco bureau of the International Medical News Group, can be found @bobfinn. Dan Ferber, top freelance who chaired the NASW Freelance Committee for several years, is @DanFerber.

Written in Stone author Brian Switek is @Laelaps and says he will also be blogging at his usual stand here. Superbug author Maryn McKenna is @marynmck and says she may or may not be reporting on the meeting at her blog here.

Knight Science Journalism Tracker Charlie Petit says he plans to post on the meeting Monday in his usual spot here.

POST-ELECTION POSTMORTEM. What effect will Tuesday's election have on US science and medicine? By and large, nothing good, say the post-election bloggers. A sampling:

Janet Raloff briefly summarizes some possibilities at Science News, concluding.

...R&D is unlikely to see a major boost in federal funding during the next two years. In fact, cuts could become the order of the day, some R&D budget analysts suspect. But even those who closely follow micro-politics on Capitol Hill do not yet have much that's solid to go on

Newly elected Republicans, she points out, tend to be climate change deniers, but will they be able to influence policy? And there is hope that biomedical research funding may not suffer much.

At New Scientist, Andy Coghlan conducts a short walk through state-level science-related results, noting how California firmly rejected a proposal to rescind the state's toughish regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and Colorado declined to grant embryos full citizenship. OTOH, Kansans resoundingly elected Sam Brownback their governor, which is not good news for the teaching of evolution.

Jeff Mervis, at ScienceInsider, tells us something about Texas representative Ralph Hall, who will probably lead the House science committee. He is 87, the oldest member of Congress.

At 80beats, Andrew Moseman asks whether the results will halt all national action on climate change,and his answer is not terribly hopeful. Gabriel Nelson of Greenwire expects the Environmental Protection Agency to be pilloried at Congressional hearings.

At Climate Progress, Joe Romm draws comfort from the fact that the two major Senate candidates who were prominent deniers, Carly Fiorina in California and Ken Buck in Colorado, were both defeated. But a guest post describes the positions of newly elected House members on the environment, immigration, taxes, and spending, and notes that half of them are climate-change deniers. Also at Climate Progress, Daniel J. Weiss fantasizes about what a hypothetical clean energy agenda might look like if the Republicans chose to cooperate.

Also dreaming the big dreams. this time at Big Think's Age of Engagement, is Matthew C. Nisbet. He describes his post-partisan plan to engage the public on climate change, in which science writing plays hardly any part:

The goal should not be to defend the science of climate change or to boost climate literacy, since science is not what is at issue in the policy debate, and science is not what shapes public judgment or preferences...Instead, the goals should be to promote relevant areas of knowledge beyond just technical understanding of climate science that include understanding of the social, institutional, ethical, and economic dimensions of the debate along with familiarity with the costs and benefits of a range of policy proposals.

The closest Nisbet comes to incorporating science writing into his agenda is to advocate launching

state-specific digital news communities that provide locally tailored coverage. These digital news communities would include original reporting and professionally edited news content, features, and commentaries along with a range of user-generated and social media functions. This content can also be shared and distributed to partner organizations in the region such as public media organizations and/or the local newspaper.

I'd be interested in knowing how these digital news communities are to be set up and/or funded.

Dot Earth's Andrew Revkin predicts that cuts in science funding will spread beyond climate science:

This election almost guarantees an end to the brief stimulus-driven period of increased investment in advancing energy technologies that could supplant finite fossil fuels. END QUOTING Take a look at his graphic charting trends in R&D spending; the only potential bright spot is health funding.

We'll see. At the Columbia Journalism Review, Trudy Lieberman notes that health care was a crucial issue for voters, second only to the economy. Yet the press missed the most important point of health care politics, she said. Which is this: Republicans chose to run against the health care legislation, and were successful at it, despite the fact that the bill that passed was built on Republican ideas.

So what might be in store for the health-care reform legislation that incoming Republicans have sworn to rescind? At Kaiser Health News, Jackie Judd interviews Marilyn Serafini, who declares:

a lot of Republicans are coming out of this election saying the message was: 'America hates health care reform,' and really when you look at the polls of the last few weeks, the last even couple of months, America is split. About half of respondents have said consistently in polls that they are okay with the bill, they even like the bill, and about the same number say they do not like it. So, the message is not very clear at this point, but it certainly doesn't mean that America overwhelmingly supports repealing the legislation.

Kaiser also asked several health care experts what they would say to the new House speaker, John Boehner, if they were trapped in an elevator with him briefly. What a thought. But some chose to respond with appealing irony — and even hope. Ethan Rome, of Health Care for America Now, said he would urge Boehner to continue the successful Republican strategy of just saying no.

When the Tea Party types want to pursue a health care repeal that everyone knows is going nowhere, you should tell them, “Hell, no!” When your GOP comrades want to play politics by defunding the health care law and holding up its implementation, tell them, “Hell, no!” When the insurance companies want to jack up our premiums at will, tell them, “Hell, no!” — and then pass a strong rate-review bill. And when people razz you about smoking or tanning, do whatever the hell you want — you're only going to have this job for two years.
Nov. 5, 2010