Thursday, May 29, 2008

Class Privilege

Over at Education & Class, there is an on-going discussion about Middle Class Privilege. In other words there are some benefits or privileges associated with being middle class or “better off” than some people. Class is a very touchy subject. For a variety of reasons, people like to *think* that class doesn’t exist here in the States – that’s a very European thing. Maybe it is a residual from our European colonists, and we are definitely dealing with it. And this year’s Presidential Contest is really bringing it up more and more. I am linking to another Blog –Young Black Professional Guide that commented about this matter of “class privilege” looking the polarizing voting patterns of West Virginia and Kentucky voters. In short, there are many “white Americans” who are not experiencing what is/once thought of as white privilege. There is a growing class divide within white America.
There’s even a Middle Class Privilege Meme. Here’s how it works: List Privileges experienced by Middle Class people. Now, the complicated part for me is teasing out race/ethnic influences on SES class.

Here are my submissions:
1. My children’s teachers and the administrators treat me with respect and listen to what I have to say.
2. People accept what I have to say about important subjects (like politics, medicine, and commentary) and that I am an expert and any credentials I offer verbally without doubt or challenge.
3. When I visit “fine establishments” I know I will be treated with respect and responded to promptly.
4. When I interact with civil servants (police, court room officials, and city clerks) I know I will be taken seriously and not unduly harassed by them.
5. When my children “act out” in public, people don’t attribute it to my class.

I'll continue exploring class matters over the next few days.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Talking down to people

I’m no official student of sociology and class, but it is a topic of serious concern for me.

At the former jobhouse, I got a front-row seat to class-culture shock. In so many ways, the social dynamics of that job reminded me of the social dynamics at the urban high school I was assigned to. It reminded me of the Pedagogy of Poverty – post graduation style. I even thought my employees behaved very much like my high school students. Despite their ages, they behaved so much like teens, or rather immaturely or inappropriately in the given professional contexts. But as I was alerted to by a reader, perhaps my own “class prejudices” interfered with my ability to interact with them.. I accept this probability.

I was working with adults, grown people, many of them with children and real-life issues that rivaled my own. Some of them were older than me. My internal reaction to them was WTF?, but I made deliberate efforts interact with them as an adult to an adult. But I was tempted to publicly call them out and reprimand them, like I would a child. I felt uncomfortable telling adults to sit down, stop talking, quit cursing, and get back to work. I gave non-verbal cues and talked with them privately explaining why what they may have done is considered inappropriate and encouraged them not to do it again. Reprimands (of some sort) were in order, but I admit I was professionally naïve. But eventually, I got overwhelmed and disenchanted. I left. Not because they weren’t worth it, but because I learned that micro-managing people isn’t comfortable to me. I’d rather work with (teach, volunteer with, lead, or whatever) people who want to be there. And if you don’t want to be there, then please let me know how I can help you get to where you want to be. But I also left because I was disgusted my how others, even my superiors regarded my employees. They often referred to them as kids or children. They spoke down to them and didn’t take their social services needs seriously. They treated them like children.

Curious. In many urban school districts, teachers and administrators talk to students and parents similarly. In fact, that’s a common complaint among struggling people from lower SES, that civil servants or professional people treat them poorly – are condescending. I’ve observed that people from lower classes (or less educated people) are often regarded, treated, and talked to like they are simple children – no matter their age or title. Is that what it means to talk down to someone, because they are on a lower rung than you? Like a child, you would look down (literally) to speak to them. Has that become the figurative way we react to people from lower SES levels?
What’s up with that?

Monday, May 26, 2008

UNESCO - Human & Social Services

The Human and Social Sciences Division of UNESCO aims to advance knowledge, standards and intellectual cooperation in order to facilitate social transformations conducive to the universal values of justice, freedom and human dignity. They provide research, identify and analyze trends, propose paths of action that help reduce the gap between what is and what should be. The themes of this division is Ethics, Human Rights, Philosophy, Poverty Eradication, Social Transformations, and Physical Education & Sport. The PE and Sports theme interesting. I’ve thought of sport and exercise as a social and human service. And I don’t quite follow how this works. But promoting health, wellness, and fitness is always a good thing.

Though I don’t come right out and say it, the elimination of poverty is important to me. Related to this issue is the classism that piggy backs on poverty – the socio of socioeconomics. Though I have absolutely NO expertise in social services, I can be very opinionated about such matters. My life experiences have put me in the trenches, so to speak, of socioeconomics/class issues -- my experiences at “Fair Eastside High School”, volunteering at the Urban League, and my former job house (a social service agency). … reducing the gap between what is and what should be...that gap gets to me sometime. I get put off by systems that just don’t operate right. So, I find the mission of this division inspiring.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Africa Day - The Role of Math & Science in Promoting the Continent's Prosperity

The African Union celebrates May 25 as African Day. Since 1963, the Organization of African Union has celebrated African Unity and Cooperative Growth of countries. The AU aims to create an economically (and socially) stable continent from the wake of colonialism and natural resources mismanagement.
Computer Scientist and African Activist Philip Emeagwali ushered in this year's Africa Day an essay “Africa Must Produce or Perish”. The Continent deals with a host of issues. Science and Mathematics are the foundations of innovations in economic development and stability. But who is responsible for resolving these matters - the former colonists, NGOs like the Red Cross, well-intentioned nations like the US or the United Nations...or Africans?
Only Africans will solve Africa's problem. Mathematics & Science lead to peace and prosperity. How bold is that statement? TED and the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences are looking for the Next Einstein in Africa! The Next Einstein can be African!

Promoting quality education, especially science and math education, is the path to eradicating poverty and hunger and instability and inequality. Support the Next Einstein Program. Its goal is to open fifteen AIMS centers in the next three to five years. And it is possible. Five students study at AIMS for the cost of educating one student in the US or Europe. You can help by donating money to provide scholarships, building awareness and contributing materials, learning equipment/supplies, or expertise.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Education for All: a Global Initiative

UNESCO promotes quality inclusive education for all learners, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable through the Education Division. The Division is divided into themes such as early childhood education, primary education, secondary education - which includes techincal and science education, higher education, literacy, HIV/AIDS Education, and Teacher Education. throughout the world. The Organization addresses the education needs of street and working children, drug users, the disabled and other vulnerable groups through such initiatives as its Program for the Education of Children in Need - which is a collaboration with the Social & Human Science Division and the “Another way to learn” project.

This makes me wonder if of our children here in the States (the inner-city and rural areas) qualify for UNESCO's attention and funds. The state of this nation's public education system is shameful. Children from many Inner-city and rural communities are dealing with the same obstabcles - multi-generation poverty, street-living, a crime culture, working (or hustling to support a family), drug users and sellers issues, etc. are documented. These groups are just as vulnerable and theChildren just aren't getting educated. And having spent some time in an "Urban School District" I know that these kids are dealing with some overwhelming circumstances -- early parenthood, STD, just plain ignorant about what to do after high school, intense gang activity, and drug trafficking -- just to name a few. Something needs to change; something new and innovative is needed.

Check out more information about UNESCO's EDUCATION FOR ALL BY 2015: WILL WE MAKE IT? A mid-term assessment of where the world stands on its commitment to provide basic education for all children, youth and adults by 2015.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

International Day for Biological Diversity

The Natural Sciences Division of UNESCO have dcleared May 22 as International Day of Biodiversity. This year’s theme dedicated to “Biodiversity and Agriculture,” seeks to highlight the importance of sustainable agriculture not only to preserve biodiversity, but also to ensure that we will be able to feed the world, maintain agricultural livelihoods, and enhance human well being into the 21st century and beyond.

The Natural Sciences division implements major international programs around several major themes. These themes include Freshwater, marine, ecology, earth sciences and basic sciences, while at the same time promoting national and regional science and technology polices and capacity building in the sciences, engineering and renewable energy. The division focuses on solving problems and enabling people/institutions (from those regions where the problems exist) to solve these problems.

Emphasis is given to developing countries, in particular to Africa and to natural disaster prevention. Programs are designed to respond to the international goals and challenges of climate change, gender equality, the eradication of poverty and sustainable development, in particular in small island developing states.

Celebrate Biological Diversity. Go Green!
UNESCO acts as an advocate for science, as a platform for sharing ideas and standard setting, and promotes dialogue between scientists and policy makers. It empowers and catalyses innovative initiatives in the field of international cooperation in science, in particular through networks and capacity building activities.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

World Cultural Diversity Day - May 21st

Today is World Cultural Diversity Day as declared by UNESCO - The United Nations Education, Social and Natural Science, Culture and Communication Organization. By celebrating the dialogue of cultures through words, sounds and images .

The Day aims provide world citizens with an opportunity to deepen understanding of the values of Cultural Diversity and to learn to "live together" better. This is why UNESCO appeals to the Member States as well as to all civil society to celebrate this World Day by involving as many actors and partners as possible.
We must now give greater recognition to culture as a contributor to truly sustainable development that respects people and environments, and serves the cause of dialogue and peace. In this way we shall be able to recover the sense of our joint commitment to promoting "the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind."

Koïchiro Matsuura - Director General - UNESCO
Keeping true to this blog's theme, I am including links to UNESCO's Education, Natural Sciences, and Social & Human Sciences pages. For the rest of the week, I will highlight more about UNESCO and thier important work in these disciplines.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Young Scientist Challenge - Apply now.

The National Governor’s Association (NGA) is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Discovery Education/ 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the premier national science competition for students in grades 5 through 8.
The Young Scientist Challenge is designed to encourage the exploration of science among America ’s youth and to promote the importance of science communication. In order to enter, students must be in grades 5 through 8 and must submit a video entry online between March 1 and June 15, 2008.
Official entry rules, deadlines, and prizes can be found at

I wish I had the opportunity to do stuff like that when I was a kid. I would have been Dr. Urban Scientist much, much sooner. Thanks Eddie Griffin for letting me know about this.

Pass the word on and let's get some of our kids in this program.
Good luck!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Going Public with the Scientific Process

The Scientific Process is the heart and soul of all science. The Scientific Method you learned in school is part of it, but not all of it. Science, like all human endeavors, is subject to human error, interpretation, value and judgement. Science is the process of creating, supplementing, and updating the world body of knowledge. The March 14, 2008 issue of Science magazine has a letter about the Scientific Process. I am posting the entire letter below. All emphases are mine.


The idea of using framing strategies to communicate science to the public has recently been taken up in scientific forums (1, 2), the mainstream media (3), and the blogosphere (4, 5). Most participants in the framing science debate limit their notion of scientific information to scientific facts. However, confining science messages to just the facts interferes with public understanding of science as a systematic, logical process of human inquiry and effaces the distinction between data and scientists' reasoning about data. To communicate successfully, we should focus on scientific process by emphasizing two important elements of scientific rationality: skepticism and dynamicism (6, 7).
Scientists deliberately integrate skepticism into their procedures by trying to refute their own hypotheses, retaining them only when confronted with compelling evidence sought through carefully controlled procedures. Scientists tend to shy away from revealing the intrinsic skepticism of science to the public, fearful that it will open the door to doubt about the validity of their conclusions. But communicating only the facts of science (framed or unframed) destabilizes public confidence in science. A fact doesn't allow science communicators to reveal, justify, and ultimately promote the skeptical reasoning process that helps make scientists more confident that their reasoning is correct.
Science is also dynamic; it is a cumulative enterprise that requires scientists to situate their instrumental activities and interpretations against the evidence that has come before and to alter them in light of new evidence. Insisting that new data be interpreted within the context of past and future data will ferret out and correct error over time, but it means that a fact cannot, by definition, be anything more than the (ephemeral and fallible) consensus of scientists at a given point in time. A "just the facts" strategy can and often does backfire, ultimately fueling public alienation from science. When scientists inform the public of "facts" (like the "fact" widely disseminated in the 1970s that all dietary fats are bad for us), and then that "fact" is refined or altered (now we're told olive oil is good for us), the public is justifiably confused. Studies suggest that the public tends to regard normal scientific refinement and self-correction as equivocation or incompetence (
8-10). Instead of sweeping uncertainty under the rug, science communicators should help the public understand the logical and systematic procedures by which scientists confront it.
The true majesty and promise of science lies in its systematic, logical, skeptical, and dynamic reasoning procedures. "Successful" science communication should not be regarded as any message that enlists public support for science. Rather, we should define "success" in scientific communication as achieving a public that celebrates scientific reasoning procedures.

Ruth Cronje
Scientific and Technical Writing Program
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Eau Claire, WI 54701, USA
M. C. Nisbet, C. Mooney, Science 316, 56 (2007).
M. C. Nisbet, D. Scheufele, The Scientist 38, 38 (2007).
M. C. Nisbet, C. Mooney, "Thanks for the facts. Now sell them." The Washington Post, 15 April 2007; Outlook section, p. B03.
AAAS News Blog, "Science has a 'serious marketing problem,' says Google founder Larry Page," 17 February 2007; available online at {}.
P. Z. Myers, "What if the right role for science is to shatter the frame?" Pharyngula, 7 April 2007;
J. Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society, T. McCarthy, transl. (Beacon Press, Boston, 1984).
H. I. Brown, Rationality (Routledge, New York, 1988).
B. Wynne, Environment 31, 10 (1989).
B. B. Johnson, P. Slovic, Risk Anal. 15, 485 (1995).
B. B. Johnson, Risk Anal. 28, 781 (2003).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Importance of Scientific Literacy

The 21st century is fast-paced and highly competitive. Each day, we make important decisions that will greatly impact our lives today and well into the future. Moreover, we are provided greater amounts of increasingly complex information that ever before. However, our society’s collective sense of science literacy is outdated; many people still think of science literacy as simply being informed about new advances, for example in medicine and technology. This definition of scientific literacy will not longer suffice in this new Information Age. As the media shares new information about scientific, medical, or ecological breakthroughs, we are expected to respond to this new information. What will we do with this information? How will our lives be affected by the decisions we make?

In this new century science literacy is the occupational capacity to apply information in an appropriate contest, to analyze information, to synthesize information from various sources or on various topics, and evaluate information to determine the best course of action. Essentially, being scientifically literate in the 21st century means understanding the nature of science as a process that helps us discriminate between what is real or likely and what is not. It is the comprehension of the nature of our minds, our bodies, and our environment. It is using that knowledge to make the best decisions possible for ourselves, our families, and our community – now and for future generations.

This type of literacy is valuable because it cultivates the intellectual development of the individual. Science the close observation and examination of the natural world, analyzing information and sources of information, interpreting events, and making decisions based on these observations or conclusions made by others. Quality science education equips students (of any age) with the tools to direct one’s own learning. The individual can make his or her own discoveries, create new knowledge, and apply information and resolve discrepancies on his or her own. By studying and doing science, an individual is transformed from a passive recipient of information to an active and discerning consumer of information. In other words, scientific literacy is valuable because it prepares and empowers us to become more actively engaged in the decisions we make in out lives.

However, I am surprised by the decisions some people make because they posses a depth of misunderstanding about scientifically related topics. For example, I have met many people, some with college educations, who have decided not to participate in research activities because they were certain the doctors or psychologists would deliberately harm them. I’ve known people who have refused to donate blood or become an organ donor because they honesty believed doing so would put them at risk. Moreover, I have heard people share explanations for natural phenomena, such as disease transmission and reproductive health, which were grossly inaccurate. And more recently, I have read people’s angry comments about waste treatment or genetically modified plants, that were completely void of any comprehension of the these technologies. Some of these misconceptions and misunderstandings are so strongly-held that most people do not abandon their own explanations even when they have the opportunity to discuss the matter with scientists, doctors, or other experts. These inaccurate explanations have been accepted as truths for so long and so deeply that a single brief conversation (or blog comment) is not enough for people to update their memory banks or even have them open up their minds to the possibility of alternative explanations.

It is imperative that people have an accurate understanding f our bodies, our health, and our environment. Helping people engage in more meaningful discourse (in general and) about science-related topics is the first step to creating a more scientifically literate society. I think it is especially important to educate the most vulnerable citizens in our society, e.g. the poor, the undereducated, the marginalized and disenfranchised. A society’s most vulnerable citizenry are those who do not know how to critically evaluate the options or the validity of a source and are ignorant to the resources available to them. Individuals who are well-informed and discerning are less likely to be victims of social injustice or environmental racism. Being better educated makes us better advocates. When we become advocate or activist-citizens we hold our elected officials and service providers and each other accountable.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Comprehending science and the rest of the world

Ever so often I am reminded of how insularized I am as a Scientist. It's not until I hear or read people's responses to events that I come to appreciate how overwhelmingly uniformed many people are. I find myself fighting the urge to remark - "You are one dumb ass. You didn't know that's how it worked?"

And no, they obviously didn't, so why be mean. I readjust my face, but my thoughts still linger on. As noted by many, and I last read on Black Snob's page, Black people don't hold the market on anti-illectualism, it is a pandemic problem. But I am especially pained when I hear or read about people just going on and on about a topic and they have no real information to offer. And I see people just ranting and chanting on in support. Are people that attuned to sensationalism? I keep waiting for them to say something substantial or make a point or offer some evidence. I'm thinking "yeah, and..." But most every one else is caught up, carrying the banner, and cheering in thunderous applause.

Then, I am reminded of how important FRAMING is to science -- or any topic for that matter. Do we only respond when something shocks us, or disgusts us or frightens us? And the answer I'm arriving at is Yes. Most people are just waiting for someone, some authority, some preacher or activist - a charismatic soapboxer I call them - to tell them that something is a problem and that they ought to be disgusted and even scripts them on how to respond. For example, a posting on WOAD where the author had to tell people that they don't need her approval to tell them something is disgusting and illegal and to report it to the proper authorities.
I blame it on Tavis and investigative news reporters. They've done all of the research and work and now they package it up for us with an emotional spin "Oh Black Folk, you gonna get mad when I tell you this." Right there, they've set us up to expect to hear something disappointing; we're riled up.
What about balance or encouraging people to make up their own minds - to be discerning? So what happens when we are just given the information, evidence, balanced interpretations, and contexts? Do we engage in thoughtful discourse then? No, most people still walk away only remembering and quoting that which supported their original positions.

I find myself frustrated, because a meaningful dialogue still hasn't occurred. There hasn't been a vetting - of the source or the information. And then I'm back to where I started...I'm not like everyone else, at least not when it comes to certain information. Am I better-read or more exposed to things compared to the general public? Yes, I am, particularly about topics that relate to science or research or the environment. That's because I'm immersed in the information. I know about many advances in life sciences 1-5 years before the general public. That's because I go to conferences and I know scientists. I get the scoop before things go to press; sometimes I get the scoop before the entire experiment is complete. Plus, I've read ALOT of papers and textbooks, so I'm aware of all of the nuances and exceptions. So it's easier for someone like me to not respond so eagerly to dramatic information. It's likely old news for me. But on the flip side I'll admit that I'm a buffoon about economics and markets. I mean I can add and subtract. I watch or listen to the general news...But read the Wall Street Journal or watch the Bloomberg Report. What are those damned letters racing across the screen at different speeds? I digress.

The rest of this week's posts will explore the the importance and challenges of sharing science with the general public.
Stay tuned.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Weekly Science Update - Breakthroughs in Evolution

I like how the New York Times, the LA Times and USA Today, and even Yahoo! News each has a science section and it includes stories about ecology, nature, health, medicine, even science-society intersections. Why haven’t Black Media outlets done the same? Well, until it happens, I’ll continue posting important and interesting information about science and research. Think of it as supplemental News. The weekly science update labels are a quick way to see what’s new in Science and Research. And if you don’t listen to NPR Science Friday -- you may be even further behind than I think -- here is your Crib Sheet for Cocktail party talk this weekend. Both are rather quick reads. So scan through them quickly impress everyone with your knowledge of evolutionary theory over drinks. This week’s theme – EVOLUTION.

Platypus Genome Decoded Yes, this is a big deal. Okay not the “how does this apply to me” kind of way. But it’s a big deal to evolutionary and conservation geneticists/biologists. Yes, the freaky looking platypus’ genome has been figured out. And yes, it confirms what every elementary kid thought when they first are introduced to this animal - Platypus DNA is a combination of reptiles, birds and mammals; but in the most evolutionarily delicious way. Check out the story.

Ancient "Nutcracker Man" Challenges Ideas on Evolution of Human Diet Short and sweet – Anthropologists examined the tooth wear and food residuals of early hominid teeth. Usually dental paleontologist use ancient teeth to hypothesize what animals could eat. Because of this hominid’s tooth, cheek, and skull structure, plus the tell-tale wear on the teeth, they surmised that these early humans were well-suited for eating nuts and fruits with hard shells. But thanks to better digital and electronic imaging technology that can take a closer look at the teeth and determine what they actually ate (or more likely to have actually eaten). Neat, huh?

Oh, and don’t forget my prior posting on Human origins in Africa are derived from 2 lines.

Knock ‘em out.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

American Institute of Biological Sciences Announces Awards for Diversity Initiatives

AIBS honors diversity in the biological sciences with two Diversity Scholar Awards and one Diversity Leadership Award. The American Institute of Biological Sciences is committed to increasing the participation in biology of individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. Each year through the Diversity Scholars and Diversity Leadership Awards, AIBS recognizes the academic achievements of individuals from underrepresented groups as well as programs dedicated to broadening participation in the biological sciences.

AIBS President Rita Colwell and Executive Director Richard O'Grady praised the Ecological Society of America's program, Strategies for Ecology Education, Development and Sustainability (SEEDS), for its "creativity, commitment, and effectiveness in promoting diversity in biology."
With the goal of diversifying and advancing the profession of ecology,the SEEDS program provides a full spectrum of mentoring and learning opportunities to underrepresented undergraduate students. These include SEEDS ecology clubs and chapters, research fellowships, group field trips, and travel to the ESA Annual Meeting where students are assigned a mentor for the duration of the meeting. SEEDS directly serves over 200 students and its chapters serve nearly 2,000 students. These students credit the program with enabling them to pursue a career in ecological science and to forge lasting relationships with both peers and mentors that help support their academic pursuits.
In 1992, underrepresented minorities represented 5.7 percent of the Society's membership. In 2006, that number had grown to 11 percent. The number of American Indian/Alaska Native members more than doubled and that of African American members nearly tripled. The Society has made a long-term commitment to continue the mentoring opportunities for students and members alike, particularly those organized and supported at the Society's annual meetings. ESA's SEEDS program will be recognized during the 2008 Annual AIBS meeting on May 12, in Arlington, Virginia. Melissa Armstrong, ESA Diversity Programs Manager, who has worked with SEEDS since 1999, will accept the award on the Society's behalf. The Ecological Society of America is the world's largest professional organization of ecologists, representing 10,000 scientists in the United States and around the globe. Since its founding in 1915, ESA has promoted the responsible application of ecological principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress. ESA publishes four journals and convenes an annual scientific conference.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Free Signed Book Contest

This is something that tends to do very well among most blog readers, especially among AfroSphere bloggers and readers - Free Book Contest.

Carl Zimmer is a popular science writer who writes for the New York Times and several magazines.
His recent book Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life is now on sale but he's actually giving away a signed copy of his book. I'd like for one of my readers to get a shot at winning this book. All you have to do is visit his blog and ask a question about E. coli - the subject of the book.

Editorial Reviews of the book From Publishers Weekly
When most readers hear the words E. coli, they think tainted hamburger or toxic spinach. Noted science writer Zimmer says there are in fact many different strains of E. coli, some coexisting quite happily with us in our digestive tracts. These rod-shaped bacteria were among the first organisms to have their genome mapped, and today they are the toolbox of the genetic engineering industry and even of high school scientists. Zimmer explains that by scrutinizing the bacteria's genome, scientists have discovered that genes can jump from one species to another and how virus DNA has become tightly intertwined with the genes of living creatures all the way up the tree of life to humans. Studying starving E. coli has taught us about how our own cells age. Advocates of intelligent design often produce the E. coli flagellum as Exhibit A, but the author shows how new research has shed light on the possible evolutionary arc of the flagellum. Zimmer devotes a chapter to the ethical debates surrounding genetic engineering. Written in elegant, even poetic prose, Zimmer's well-crafted exploration should be required reading for all well-educated readers.
(May 6) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"Written in elegant, even poetic prose, Zimmer's well-crafted exploration should be required reading for all well-educated readers."--Publishers Weekly

Good luck.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Government Funded Research on African-American Children - Math & Science Scores improve

The Good News: The Achievement Gap in Math and Science is closing between both African-American and Hispanic students and white students in elementary school math, and between African-American and white students in elementary and middle-school science.

This is Government funded/sponsored research and it is your tax money at work (US citizens). In light of the dialogue concerning the sewer study in black neighborhoods, I realize there is a huge misunderstanding about government funding research. I hope to set the record straight. Most of our nation's (and most other nations, too) science, technological, and engineering innovations are funded with public money. The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control, and even the Smithsonian Institute are all major funders of STEM research. Private foundations also leverage funds to researchers.

Though each organization has its own forms to fill out and hoops to jump through, all pretty much have the same process.

1. Organizations ANNOUNCE the availability of funds for research. The Agency announces funds are available and each major program (discipline related) get so much of the pie. Not every program gets the same amount of money (that's a completely different topic to tackle). Let's take the field of Engineering for example - program divisions would be Materials Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Air and Transportation Engineering, and so on.

2. Researchers (most often from colleges or universities) survey their portfolio of research and see if they are doing something that might fit the bill. Researchers are often college professors (faculty) who have earned doctorate degrees in their field of study. Researchers train graduate students (those pursuing master's and doctorate degrees), so they can apply for and use this money, too. Sometimes, there are special funds set aside ONLY for students, faculty cannot apply.

3. Researchers write a proposal for the money (a grant) that outlines what type of research they are doing (or will do) and how they will use that money. Grant writing is a long and grueling process - sometimes. Essentially, you are writing a research proposal to be evaluated by the most critical and qualified people in your field. There is way too much money on the line to just give it to someone who has a neat idea, but doesn't have the ability, capability or proven track record to get things done.

4. In exchange for the money the researchers must adhere to all legal boundaries (state, federal, and professional) as well as ethical boundaries. These are also considered in the grant proposal. Any red flags and a researcher has to re-do the whole proposal or sometimes is disqualified from funding for that round. Researchers are also expected to disseminate results - not only to other professionals in his/her field, but to the public as well. Why? Because the public paid for it. Also, this new information is knowledge designed to enhance/enrich our lives. Others (practitioners, students, and other researchers) can use this information to make decisions about policy, their lives, business, pursue future research, etc.

The story above is such as example. And can't you just imagine the many applications of this finding and the study itself informing struggling school districts? So, to clarify, government sponsored funding is typically how most research is funded AND it isn't designed to take advantage of any group of citizen. It is a very critical process and though the jargon can be overwhelming to non-scientist/engineering, it is open and subject ot public scrutiny.

Stay informed.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hillary on O'Rielly last night.

Ohmigosh! Can you believe that interview?

Why I am I up in arms? The first question, out of the gate by Bill is "Rev. Wright can you believe this guy" (open enough question, good bait).
Hillary's response "Well, we're gonna let the voters decide."

VOTERS DECIDE!! VOTERS DECIDE?? Decide what? To vote for Jeremiah Wright or not? He's not running for ANY office and he doesn't represent or is apart of Obama's Campaign. Okay, it is on, now. She has officially made it clear that voters and perhaps Superdelegates should weigh Wright and his statements as they consider a vote for her or Obama. This isn't about Jeremiah Wright (that's right Michelle, get those reporters back on the real topic).

How ludicrous. I can retort with ' Hey Bill Clinton, the lech, can you believe him? And his wife stands idly by?' Hey, let's let the voters decide?

Stick to the issues. Who's the better candidate? Who speaks to those policy matters that most impact your life?