Scientists Hopeful About Policy Challenges Ahead
Prominent Experts Address Variety of Concerns for 25th Anniversary of 'Issues'
July 2, 2009
What can be achieved policy-wise on a range of challenging science and technology issues over the next five years?
Surprisingly, quite a lot, say 15 prominent scientists writing in a special 25th anniversary edition of Issues in Science and Technology.
The cover article is by President Barack Obama, who writes that science is more essential for U.S. prosperity, security, health, and quality of life than it has ever been before. The president's remarks were taken from an address he made to the National Academy of Sciences on April 28.
Topics addressed by contributing scientists include energy, personalized health care, electronic health records, cloud computing and sustainability.
Among the articles in the special anniversary edition are the following:
- Vaclav Smil on the need for radical departures in U.S. energy policy. The University of Manitoba professor writes that the dream of a near-term transformation in the energy system is illusory. Indeed, because of the massive size and inertial nature of the U.S. energy infrastructure, change will occur only over decades. The next five years should be long enough to build a broad consensus on the need for embarking on the protracted process of phasing out fossil fuels. But the farsighted long-range energy policy needed must replace the standard call for a combination of increased energy production and improved efficiency with a new quest for gradually declining levels of per-capita energy use.
- Carl Safina on moving to a new era of fisheries management. The prominent marine scientist and author writes that the federal government’s management continues to be primitive, simplistic and ineffectual. The result: Fish stocks are severely depleted and continue to decline. But with a new emphasis on restoration, Safina is optimistic that many fish stocks could recover in a decade or so. Regulatory and management agencies must move from basing their actions on “How much can we take?” to “How much must we leave?”
- Don Detmer on electronic health records (EHRs); their time has come. After almost two decades of advocacy, the health care system is finally poised to take full advantage of information technology to improve quality and efficiency. Although EHRs are a critical element of an emerging national health information infrastructure, the University of Virginia professor writes, their successful implementation is not without challenges. Yet they will be critical in helping to foster change at the most basic level in how health professionals do their work, while also empowering the public and patients to take a more active role in protecting their health.
- Martin Wachs on the developing big gap in transportation funding. Taxes on motor fuels are no longer adequate to pay for the upkeep and expansion of the nation’s road system, writes the Rand Corp. transportation expert. Lack of funding could put in jeopardy already authorized road projects. It is time for Congress to switch to a system of direct user fees based on miles driven to support transportation activities.
Issues in Science and Technology is the award-winning journal of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the University of Texas at Dallas.
The summer 2009 Issues in Science and Technology includes the transcript of an address by President Obama to the National Academy of Sciences on April 28.