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Snap Observations: Principled Uncertainty, A Glut of Engineers?, Science and the University

Science and the University bookThe scientific process often leaves us with uncertainty, but that does not undermine it. Andrew A. Rosenberg, former senior manager of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, laments that in a Nature editorial that, “emphasizing what we don’t know often drowns out what we do know” and that the solution, “is not to hide careful analyses of uncertainty, but to distinguish the almost certain from the less certain.” This may be the key to allowing cooler heads to prevail in the often polarized world of environmental regulation. This article is part of a series of essays on science and politics.

America has more than enough scientists and engineers, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. BusinessWeek writer Vivek Wadhwa points out that ACT and SAT scores have gone up over the past 20 years and between 1993 and 2001 65% of students who obtained a bachelor’s in engineering went on to pursue a masters degree or job in another field. Moreover, between 1985 and 2000, the U.S. produced 435,000 science and engineering degree-holders, but only added 150,000 jobs per year to the science and engineering workforce. His conclusion is that we do not need more science education, but that the government needs to generate demand for scientists and engineers by creating national programs to solve large scale problems like global warming and the spread of infectious diseases.

Inside Higher Ed features a Q and A with Paula E. Stephan and Ronald G. Ehrenberg, editors of a new book of essays on Science and the University. They discuss the change in America’s scientific goals from the 1950′s to today, balancing competition and collaboration with foreign scientists, and the proper approach scientists should take to the federal funding process.

“Demand-side” innovation theory seems to be the right regulatory approach for the EU, according to The European Policy Centre. An article on Science|Business Policy Bridge highlights some of the Centre’s recommendations, including, “creating the right market conditions in Europe for companies to innovate, academics to discover, and investors to take risks.” They claim that those conditions “don’t necessarily come from spending more money on research…Instead, it’s a question of freeing technology markets to work more efficiently.”

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