Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – November 25, 2014

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By: Cheryl Jacobs Smith, Ph.D

photo credit: jvoves via photopin cc

International Scientific Workforce

Updated: Science gets a nod in Obama’s immigration plans

The United States gladly welcomes foreign-trained scientists for temporary research positions, but when it comes to transitioning many of these well-trained foreign scientists to permanent positions, it is exceedingly difficult. To their chagrin many foreign-trained scientists have to leave the U.S. for more permanent positions due to the difficulty in obtaining longer-term work permits. President Barack Obama’s latest speech concerning immigration policy addressed some of these issues within the research community. His speech suggested new policy that would make it easier for foreign students studying at universities to gain temporary work permits and for Chinese and Indian researchers who already have U.S. work permits to change jobs and apply for permanent residency. The latest piece of policy provides a positive outlook for permanent job positions for those Chinese and Indian researchers who have spent countless hours in the research laboratory. However, there is still work to be done as President Obama did not state that he and his administration would increase the number of work permits for highly-skilled foreign researchers. This is indeed a problem for the high-tech industry when looking for new employees as they have complained about the chronic shortage of permits that would allow foreign highers. Additional work on this matter is the onus of the new Congress. (David Malakoff and Jim Austin, ScienceInsider)


The Environment

Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park

Although we experienced the ‘Polar Vortex’ of Winter 2014 and we may have even been buried in the latest winter storm, overall the climate change trend is towards a warmer, rather colder world. The rate of glacial melting has risen sharply since the 1980s. In the past, glaciers have come and gone, but it is more alarming given the location of these glaciers among a Rocky Mountain landscape surrounded by sprawling cities, farms, and industry. More importantly, these areas rely on more than 80% of the glacial water supply. So, what will be the result of this shrinking ice reservoir? Dr. Fagre, the resident expert on snowpacks, glaciers and climate change, says, “When that happens, this whole area will dry up a lot. A lot of these alpine gardens, so to speak, are sustained entirely by waterfalls and streams like this. And once this goes, then some of those plants will disappear.” Moisture loss from early snowmelt is worsening a record hydrological drought on the Colorado River, which supplies water to about 40 million people from the Rockies to California and Mexico; by 2050, scientists estimate, the Colorado’s flow could drop by 10 percent to 30 percent. This could lead to very passionate discussions over water rights as a growing population competes for a shrinking resource. As a nation, we are all starting to accept more and more the validity of climate change and that we are obligated to change our behavior to reduce the rate of climate change. As parts of the country will witness drought climates, other parts may be subjected to floods. Attention to water resource sharing activities and investigations into water relocation efforts may be a possible mechanism to maintain safe, water levels throughout the U.S. (Michael Wines, The New York Times)


Climate Change – Communication

How to Talk About Climate Change at Thanksgiving: Recipes for Good Conversations

Hopefully work is winding down and you are about to travel somewhere near or far to enjoy Thanksgiving. This holiday is unique in that the emphasis is focused on epicurean delicacies such as turkey, pumpkin pie, and mashed potatoes that draw people together in intimate scenarios. As a result, there is an overall increase in the possibility of a contentious conversation arising between individuals as they both serve up some succulent turkey with gravy. And given our current weather patterns, it will possibly be about climate change. This article outlines how to discuss climate change without sacrificing the delight of the meal and the company it keeps. The first course points out to ‘serve up questions, and not arguments’. There is so much misinformation surrounding climate change (the most popular being why is it much colder outside if the earth is warming up), it will be helpful to be able to discuss fact from fiction. The second course suggests identifying individuals that are important to the person’s values to address their concerns. For instance, if a person believes that addressing climate change will hurt the economy try to suggest an economist that has investigated that same issue. In course three, the discussion may have lead to a full-blown argument, but try to find similar solutions. Regardless if the person believes that climate change is a scientific conspiracy or not, we all want to save money on our energy costs. Try to find similar needs and desires surrounding overlapping similarities. But, do not give up discussing this important issue with family and friends. The goal is not to ‘win’ but to educate about the effects of climate change in a friendly, respectful, and calm manner. And also, to enjoy some pumpkin pie, friends, and football! So, have a happy time discussing very important issues, such as climate change, and have a happy Thanksgiving! (Aaron Huertas, The Equation blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists)


Have an interesting science policy link?  Share it in the comments!


Written by sciencepolicyforall

November 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm

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