Quote of the Day

Modern Science … has attempted by measuring and rechecking to admit as little warp as possible, but still some warp must be there.  And in many fields young, inquisitive men [and women] are seeing new worlds.  And from their seeing will emerge not only new patterns but new ethics, disciplines, and manners.  The upheaval of the present world may stimulate restive minds to new speculations and evaluations.  The new eyes will see, will break off new facets of reality.

–John Steinbeck in his foreword to Pacific Tides, 1939

Jane Goodall on Capitol Hill; Geospatial Science Gets a Plug

…from InfoZine

The renowned primatologist spoke on Capitol Hill Tuesday about her efforts and hopes for the world. “Conservation, Health and Development: Connecting Science and Practice,” focused on the work of the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation and the role science plays in achieving the institute’s goals.

Lilian Pintea, director of conservation science for the Jane Goodall Institute, encouraged greater use of geospatial science, which he called “a perfect fit to our problems.”

Pintea said satellite imagery over many years and other geospatial techniques can be used for conservation. “What satellite imagery helps us to do is go back in time and monitor what happened and what’s happening to the chimpanzee habitat all over Africa,” he said. “We can use the imagery now to look where we have forest loss … and where we have success.”.”

President Obama Restores Scientific Integrity in Federal Policy Making

Pasted below is the complete text of the memorandum President Obama signed yesterday, which restores scientific integrity in Federal policy making:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 9, 2009

March 9, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT: Scientific Integrity

Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.

The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public. To the extent permitted by law, there should be transparency in the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking. The selection of scientists and technology professionals for positions in the executive branch should be based on their scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity.

By this memorandum, I assign to the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (Director) the responsibility for ensuring the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes. The Director shall confer, as appropriate, with the heads of executive departments and agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget and offices and agencies within the Executive Office of the President (collectively, the “agencies”), and recommend a plan to achieve that goal throughout the executive branch.

Specifically, I direct the following:

1. Within 120 days from the date of this memorandum, the Director shall develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch, based on the following principles:

(a) The selection and retention of candidates for science and technology positions in the executive branch should be based on the candidate’s knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity;

(b) Each agency should have appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency;

(c) When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, the information should be subject to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where appropriate, and each agency should appropriately and accurately reflect that information in complying with and applying relevant statutory standards;

(d) Except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure under procedures established in accordance with statute, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Memorandum, each agency should make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied on in policy decisions;

(e) Each agency should have in place procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised; and

(f) Each agency should adopt such additional procedures, including any appropriate whistleblower protections, as are necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific and technological information and processes on which the agency relies in its decisionmaking or otherwise uses or prepares.

2. Each agency shall make available any and all information deemed by the Director to be necessary to inform the Director in making recommendations to the President as requested by this memorandum. Each agency shall coordinate with the Director in the development of any interim procedures deemed necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific decisionmaking pending the Director’s recommendations called for by this memorandum.

3. (a) Executive departments and agencies shall carry out the provisions of this memorandum to the extent permitted by law and consistent with their statutory and regulatory authorities and their enforcement mechanisms.

(b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

4. The Director is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

Service Learning in the Secondary Math and Science Classroom with GIS and Remote Sensing

Dr. Brooks C. Pearson, Department of Geography, College of Liberal Arts, University of Central Arkansas has received $68,569 from the Arkansas Department of Education with funds from the U.S. Department of Education for the project “Service Learning in the Secondary Math and Science Classroom with Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing”. The project trains secondary math and science teachers throughout the state to use GIS and remote sensing concepts in their classrooms and to learn geospatial technologies to enhance student achievement in math and science.

Quote of the Day: Amorphousness is the Greatest Strength of Geography

“The end of geography at Harvard was typical of what happened to the field: university officials shut down its geography department in 1948, as CUNY geographer Neil Smith tells it, after being flummoxed by their ‘inability to extract a clear definition of the subject, to grasp the substance of geography, or to determine its boundaries with other disciplines.’ The academic brass ‘saw the field as hopelessly amorphous.’ But this ‘hopeless amorphousness’ is, in fact, the discipline’s greatest strength.”

–Trevor Paglen, artist, writer, and experimental geographer

USGS Mid-Continent Geographic Science Center Gets New Director

“Lawrence R. Handley has been named Director of the U.S. Geological Survey Mid-Continent Geographic Science Center based in Rolla.  Handley, a geographer who has been a wetland and spatial analysis scientist for nearly 25 years, will direct geographic science programs and projects at the USGS Center. He will oversee 28 employees working on projects that employ remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and earth monitoring techniques.”

More:  USGS gets new official

Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change with GIS

On page 4 of the new report Restructuring Federal Climate Research to Meet the Challenges of Climate Change from the National Academies Press, one of the committee’s top six priority actions for restructured climate change research is to…

“Develop the science base and infrastructure to support a new generation of coupled Earth system models to improve attribution and prediction of high impact regional weather and climate, to initialize seasonal to decadal climate forecasting, and to provide predictions of impacts affecting adaptive capacities and vulnerabilities of environmental and human systems.

“Further climate change is inevitable, even if humans significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore essential not only to have the capacity to explain what is happening to climate and why (attribution), but also to improve predictions of weather and climate variability at the spatial and temporal scales appropriate to assess the impacts of climate change. Both will require improved infrastructure and techniques in modeling the coupled human-land-ocean-atmosphere system, supported by sustained climate observations. The latter are necessary to further develop and constrain the models and to start model predictions from the most accurate observed state possible (initialization). Tools are also needed to translate the data and model output into information more usable by stakeholders. Improved predictions of regional climate will also require more unified modeling frameworks that provide for the hierarchical treatment of climate and forecast phenomena across a wide range of space and time scales, and for the routine production of decadal regional climate predictions at scales down to a few kilometers. New computing configurations will be needed to deal with the computational and data storage demands arising from decadal simulations at high resolution with high output frequency.”

The potential role of GIS as a base platform for helping to meet this goal cannot be understated. GIS will be invaluable as a foundation for data management (both of inputs and outputs associated with coupled Earth system models); performing analysis, spatial modeling, and geospatial statistics across multiple models; visualization and presentation of data and results; and dissemination of data and results to a wider audience.

The key to developing a true understanding of our complex and dynamic earth is creating a framework to take many different pieces of past and future data from a variety of sources and merge them together in a single system. GIS is a sophisticated technology tool already in widespread use by planners, engineers, and scientists to display and analyze all forms of location-referenced data about the health, status, and history of our planet. GIS provides a framework for analyzing and managing anthropogenic earth issues by allowing users to inventory and display large, complex spatial data sets. They can also analyze the potential interplay between various factors, getting us closer to a true understanding of how our dynamic earth systems may change in the coming decades and centuries. A GIS framework also lets us design and test various alternatives, helping us make the most educated and informed decision about the best possible future.