Science in Global 21st Century

♪ [Opening music] ♪ ♪♪ ♪♪>>Keith Krumpe: Good evening
ladies and gentlemen. My name is Keith Krumpe, I’m
the dean of natural sciences and professor of chemistry
here at UNC Asheville. It is my pleasure to be the
first person up in front of you this evening to welcome
you to this event, to the S. Dexter Squibb
Lecture Series for 2010. Before I turn it over to my
former chemistry colleague, John Stevens- and I
being the former, he’s still in the chemistry
department- I wanna just let you know that it is really my honor
to be here to welcome you to this event to celebrate Dexter. I had the good fortune of being
the last person that Dexter hired in the chemistry
department at UNC Asheville. I try not to think
that I drove him off, but I had the wonderful
experience of working under him for two years as the chair, and
if I had known back then all the good things that I was going
to learn from you that I could apply as the former
chair of chemistry, and now in my job as dean, I
would have paid more attention. So, thank you very
much, Dexter, for that. So, it is my pleasure to
welcome you here this evening. I think you’re in
for a wonderful, wonderful experience
with tonight’s lecture, and I’d like now to turn
this over to Dr. John Stevens. Thank you very much. [applause]>>Dr. John Stevens: Good
evening. I’ve been asked to provide some comments about
Dexter Squibb. I’ve known Dexter professionally
for as long as anyone, I believe- 42 years. All those 42 years
have not been pretty. [laughter] I’ll let that
one sink in. As both Dexter and I
are both very intense, and we often did not agree. When I told Dexter I was going
to make some comments about him, he was a little fearful that
I was going to roast him. [laughter] I do have plenty of material.
But, if I do this, there will not be any time for our
speaker this evening. [laughter] Give everybody a chance
to roast him, I know. But let me tell you one story
about Dexter that does not get noted at these kind of events,
because we talk about his teaching, we talk about
his vision for the chemistry department. And when I arrived
here at UNCA, it was at that time Asheville-Biltmore College,
I was most impressed with Dexter and his commitment and love
he had for this institution. For example, he would not
miss a basketball game, either home or away. He
became a legend here at UNCA, Asheville-Biltmore College,
in terms of being at those basketball games. It had
nothing to do with chemistry, it had nothing to
do with teaching, but he was there as
part of this community. This is another story of his
personal and professional commitment; he’s had an impact
on the lives of our students. Dexter, appreciation
for all you have done. Next time I’m
gonna roast ya! [applause]>>Herman Holt: Good evening
everyone, I’m Herman Holt, chair of chemistry. I have the
honor of welcoming our speaker tonight, Dr. George Atkinson.
He’s currently at the University of Arizona, and does spend
some time- lots of time- in Washington D.C. He’s a very
different speaker this year in that Dr. Atkinson first met
Dexter Squibb at Florida Presbyterian College. Which
is now Eckerd College. At Florida Presbyterian College,
Dr. Squibb started a chemistry department there, and Dr.
Atkinson got his degree from Florida Presbyterian College.
And so, you could say without Dexter, there would be no
Dr. Atkinson. But I’m sure Dr. Atkinson would have
done fine, he chose Florida Presbyterian, over Harvard
and Stanford and other institutions. He found the
experience there to be great- small liberal arts institution.
Some of you can relate to that. He then went on to Indiana
University, got his Ph.D. and obtained a faculty position
at Syracuse University, then went to University of
Arizona. He started the Institute of Science Policy and
has worked with the government, Colin Powell, and worked
with Condoleezza Rice, as advisor to them- as
advisors to the secretary. So, I’m going to keep
it just that short. He’s won many degrees, he has an
honorary degree from now Eckerd College, and has won
many teaching awards. In 1992, I think it was, won the
“Best Teacher” at University of Arizona, or one of the “Best
Teachers” at University of Arizona. So I know we are in
great company here when we talk about teaching being a priority
here at this institution. Dr. Atkinson, welcome. It’s been
a pleasure having you around the department the last, I guess
it’s now 24 hours approximately, and look forward to the next
24 or so hours with you. So let’s welcome our honor-
our speaker- this year, Dr. Atkinson. [applause]>>George Atkinson: Thank you
very much, Herman, for those kind remarks. I perhaps
interpreted your comments on the next 24 hours being
that was what time I had, is that correct? [laughter]>>Holt: Sure.>>Atkinson: To say that it is a
pleasure to be here is truly an understatement. I feel that
I’ve been honored by being welcomed into the Dexter
Squibb fan club, family, for a short time and it is
indeed an honor to do so. It’s remarkable that all
these years have gone by. I did start in 1963, that’s an
ancient history for most of the younger people in this audience. But, the inspiration I received
as a freshman student- I think inspiration you could perhaps
translate into being terrified of not being able to do well
in chemistry- was softened immediately by the wonderful
way in which Dr. Squibb, Professor Squibb,
treated his students, and I among them. So I’m extremely grateful
for that and it has made big difference to me both
professionally and personally. So to be invited to come back on
this occasion is indeed a treat for me, so I appreciate it thank
you very much. But we should begin this conversation
with the hero of the hour. [laughter] That’s a picture taken from the
archives of Florida Presbyterian College. We did some searching
for it and they were quite pleased to find it. And I know
that, you know, one of the most remarkable things he
has changed one bit. [laughter] This is a picture of him at
work, and the person in this slide, the other person,
is not me, okay? Here he is working. Clearly, there is
an instructional moment here. I don’t know who this
is, do you, Dexter?>>Dexter Squibb: Grover Rann.>>Atkinson: Grover Rann, okay.
I wasn’t sure who it was. So, here we have an opportunity
to see him in the laboratory at work. These are the moments when
I think that students don’t particularly appreciate
the type of attention, because you’re under
pressure to perform. But years later you know how
important it was having been a professor for many years, to
take the time to be at the arm of a student like this. So, what
is it that I want to take some of your time with today?
I’d like to turn your attention to what I think is a major
problem to be faced. It’s an opportunity
as well as a problem. But it has to do with the
question of how the science in this country, and for that
matter the global community, is being used to address some
of the great issues of our time. The great issues of
our time, in many ways, can be identified with
how we approach problems. So some years ago I
asked myself the question, is there some characteristic of
Americans who have defined how we approach problems?
It was something that was perhaps not exactly
evident in other cultures. And having said that, is there a
way the American community over the last, say 50 years- because
really 50 years has been the time we’ve lead this parade in
technology- is there something we could look at in
terms of the model, and how we decide to do this? But obviously this
is the 21st century. So now we have to face the
realities of where we are, and so I’d like to speak briefly
with some data on the way in which the 21st century
has begun to evolve. I’d like to finally turn
attention to a project I launched a couple years ago
called The Institute on Science for Global Policy. It’s an
attempt to show you one way that this problem
may be solved. And then if you’re still here,
I’d like you to join me in looking at how people over the
last, well, several centuries have articulated the conundrum
of how you give scientific advice. Because really all these
subjects have to do with how scientists explain themselves. How do they translate their
successes in dark laboratories, in places where the specific
nature of their interests are so well performed, so detailed in
terms of their own challenges, how it’s translated to
the person in the street, the person who’s actually
paid for it in this country- the people who pay their taxes?
I think there are a few still, right? Who pay taxes? So let’s begin with the first
question. How is there- [indistinct] the question- is there an American way
of making decisions? Well, we can return to the early
days. And I returned first to the question of the
U.S. Constitution. And the Constitution in many
ways reflects this battle between reason and reflection
versus force and violence. So here is an anonymous, a
typically “Washington” term, Anti-Federalist paper in 1788. It basically says, “Almost all
governments that have been risen among mankind, have sprung
from force and violence. The records of history inform us
of none that been result of cool and dispassionate
reason and reflection.” It’s a fairly disappointing
conclusion. But fortunately Hamilton was around,
and he had a somewhat different point of view. “It seems to have been reserved
to the people of this country-” The United States, not obviously
quite the United States yet. “To decide the
important question, whether societies of men
are really capable or not of establishing good government
from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever
destined to depend on their political constitutions
on accident and force.” We sometimes forget in the 1780s
this was a pretty revolutionary idea. This was something that
mankind had not actually pursued. Well, let’s speed
forward to the 1940s. And we come to a man who really
had tremendous influence on American foreign policy, some of
you will know his name- George Kennan. He was a diplomat
at the state department, he served in the Soviet
Union at the time, and he wrote what was called
“The Long Memo,” which described his view of what was about to
happen at the end of the second World War. He was not
a very optimistic guy. But he basically defined how
American policy was set up to deal with the Soviet Union. And it was based on these few
principles- and I’m just quoting parts of it, there’s
lots of it left out here. “Attempting to relate moral
or ethical considerations to foreign policy involves
the behavior of governments, and not of individuals.” Today that would
not be very popular. “The function and commitments
and moral obligations of governments are not the same
as those of an individual. Government’s primary obligation
is to the interests of the national society it represents,
not to the moral impulse that elements of that
society may experience.” Getting depressed yet? “The interests of the national
society for which governments must be concerned itself are
basically those of its military security, the integrity
of its political life, and the well-being
of its people.” Now, if you take my word for
it George Kennan’s “Long Memo” basically set the tone
for the entire Cold War. And I think there’s much
evidence to say that was the case. Okay, so- now let’s jump
to a slightly unrelated subject. What was it about the American
system that relates to universities that implemented
these very different ideas? What was consideration
choice, common reflection, and so forth? Well let’s
look at universities. I would suggest to you that
successful characteristics of the U.S. system, in general, not
just here at the University of- UNCA, were the following
characteristics. First of all, there was a
consistent commitment to secondary higher education
and scientific research. In other words, U.S.
universities in general- not just U.S. research
universities- would not be what they are today if it wasn’t
for 50 years of federal support. NSF grants were mentioned
earlier today. Secondly, we fostered and opened
a welcoming environment for attracting students and
researchers from around the world. Think of all the students
you’ve come in contact with who were born in other countries,
not only came here to be educated, but just as
importantly, define their professional careers here-
stayed here to do wonderful things. Private sector converted
the scientific advances into world-class technologies that
promoted societal well-being and created new global economies-
the American Model. And, finally,
policy based often, but not always correctly, on
anticipatory views of emerging and “at-the-horizon”
science and technology. To me, that’s what characterized
the last 50 or 60 years. These are characteristics that
made the university system the envy of the world. How
did we implement it? I’ll take you through
two steps, one in 1945. “The U.S. government supports
basic research in universities, while industry pursues
applied research.” That’s where I grew up.
This is the famous Vannevar Bush Model,
1945, he wrote this paper. This led to the
establishment of NIH and NSF, and basically set the
paradigm for the ascendance of U.S. S&T. So
what do you do? Well, the government
supports that, applied research is
done in companies, development was done in
the commercial arena, and you produce the product.
But there were divisions. You didn’t have to justify
your research on making what, five million a year. Maybe
it’s five billion a year. However, in 1990s we have
another person show up- Gingrich, who had a
different point of view. With the collapse
of the Soviet Union, this model approach
is no long valid. “The competition is now less
military and largely economic. Science today is an
international enterprise. We must assume leadership role in
guiding international science policy.”
So, this is captured nicely in something called, it was
published some years ago, “Pasteur’s Quadrant
of Innovation.” And just look at
this very briefly, it says, “Do I consider, when
I’m about to do a research project, when I’m about to
take money from somebody and do something, do I consider
how it’s going to be used?” Well, basically the
Vannevar Model said no, but I do have to consider
whether it’s basic research. So we’re up in this quadrant.
As the 1990s appear, we’re way down here. You do research
because it would be profitable, it has a particular goal, it’s
driven by the outcome in the process. Okay, so, here’s my
conclusion from these models, real quickly. In the 19-
in the 21st century, many, I would sometimes, well, most,
of the significant geo-politic policy and security issues
facing the United States, and therefore globally, in this
21st century are connected with these remarkable, rapid
profound science and technology achievements. Climate
change, infectious diseases, energy, a long, long list. The urgency of addressing the
short-term security issues, though, the ones that dominate
the newspaper day in and day out, have got to be balanced
with the patience and foresight to look at the long term.
Where are the horizons? What are we putting
in policies today? Why are we supporting
universities in basic research, etc., etc.? And finally, and
this is perhaps one of our controversial things to say on
my part this evening, the resultant actionable decisions,
things the policy makers will actually do- not just get you
out of your office by talking about it- must be
incorporated into U.S. strategic security policy. HIV/AIDS was never supported,
in terms of research, by the United States in large
amounts until Secretary Powell declared it a national
security issue. Okay, well, how
are we gonna do it? Let’s take a look at some
famous- just a couple famous people- Arthur Clarke, people
surely know Arthur Clarke. Clarke is viewed as one of the
gurus of predicting technology, but he is quoted saying, “Those
who believe I am a predictor or prophet are incorrect, I’m
rather just an extrapolator.” I take what I know and
I go to the next step. And he has this
wonderful three rules. I think the professors in the
audience should not read this. “When a distinguished, but
elderly-” I don’t know what that word means- “scientist states
that something is possible, he or she is almost
certainly correct- or right. When he or she states that
something is impossible, can’t be done, he is
always likely wrong.” Now I’ll give you some examples
at the end of this famous ones. “The only way of discovering the
limits of possibilities is to venture a little way past
them into the impossible.” If it isn’t almost magic,
which is what he says finally, you’re not really
doing advanced research. Any sufficiently advanced
technology is indistinguishable from magic. And in all of your
fields in science you know this to be true. Whether it’s
not only your optics, it just looks like magic. Suddenly we understand
what it’s about. So, let’s also remember- before
I get to a few examples of what we’re facing, let’s remember
the issue of uncertainty. And this comes from Richard Feynman,
who was a remarkable individual. “A scientist is never certain.
All of our statements are approximate with the different
degrees of- with certainty. When a science
statement is made, the question is not
whether it is true or false, but rather how likely is
it to be true or false.” Most people outside science
don’t understand that at all. They want an answer of yes or
no. They’re not interested in your data, they don’t want
“maybe,” they want to know what’s going to happen. Now, it’s pretty straightforward
if you’re at the top, as I said earlier today,
of a 10 story building. You’re about to exit the window-
I can pretty well tell you with certainty what will happen next.
But if I launch a spacecraft to a distant planet there
is a degree of uncertainty. I may miss the planet, they
thing may stop working halfway there, lots of things can
happen. But I still need multiple billions of dollars
to do the experiment. And there are infinite
number of examples of it, but the degree of uncertainty is
not something that most people, outside the scientists,
have a good grasp of. And by the way, scientists
don’t usually tell them. Alright, most research grants
don’t begin with saying, “I’m not really sure what
I’m talking about here. I’m not really sure
it’s going to work. I’m not really sure that you
should give me the money.” [laughter] And so, the one other point
I would make here is the following- it’s something
I prefer to say myself. “Performing successful
scientific research always depends- often depends
on boundary conditions.” You know what parameters
you’re gonna choose not to vary- not to change. “In science policy, this is not
an option since no issues can be ignored. Human, meaning
governmental, behavior ensures that there are no safe
assumptions about the boundary conditions for policy.” We spend billions of dollars on
the Central Intelligence Agency to watch the Soviet Union.
Did they predict the collapse of the Soviet Union? No. They were among the most
surprised people in the world when it happened. There’s
always uncertainty in policy, and the person that tells you
there isn’t is not earning their salary. So you have to live with
uncertainty but you still must make the decision. Okay, so are
there lessons learned? Yes. I think one of the lessons is,
no matter what degree of science you are talking about, if
you want to get it accurately, you must not ignore
the political landscape. Policy is politics,
it is not science. And, are there political
scientists in the audience? Politics is not
political science. And, what the history
teaches us very quickly, global leadership in science
and technology is extremely transitory. Many of my students
who’ve come to my laboratory think we have been leading
technology in the United States for at least three centuries.
Maybe two millennia. Absolutely not true. Here we
have a case in the 19th century, on the the outset of the 20th
century, Europe was the dominant factor. We’ve only been leading
this parade from the 1945-50 period on, and today it’s
dominated by international collaboration. It is not
something about to happen, I’ll show you some
data to confirm it. In addition to all
these three things, the problems are extremely
complex and difficult. These are not the problems
we became accustomed to in laboratories, as students.
And, maybe the most distressing point in our conversation
at dinner about global technologies, is that you may
have scientific understanding developed globally, but the
technology- manufacturing jobs, things of that nature- are
developed with a global framework. If you can build
something in another country outside the United States
cheaper, you will do it. And we’ve proven
that infinite times. So, let’s consider- clearly my
capabilities of PowerPoint are somewhat waning here- let’s
consider three pieces of information to prove
this point quickly. Number one- I’d like to show
you just a little bit of data to confirm the fact that global
innovation systems are completely dominant today. Number two- One of the biggest
unstated problems we have is recognizing the impact
of global population. And number three- these S&T
advances have tremendous impact on societal and social mores.
It’s no longer something a chemist does in a laboratory
and nobody knows about it. It has tremendous impact
well outside the scientific community. Okay. Well, let’s begin with a
question of innovation. This is a plot- chemists
have to have data, sorry. This is a plot of country and
the Gross National Product in billions of dollars-
2004 U.S. dollars. Now I replotted this over here
so you could get a sense of the scale. This is the United
States. This is all of Europe. This is Japan. This then is
breaking Europe down. I think that’s Germany, United
Kingdom, Italy, and Spain. This is the rest of the world.
Any doubt who’s winning? Resources are clearly in the
hands of the United States. Number two- if you’re a
physicist- are there physicists in the audience?
Own up, okay? Okay. If you want to get tenure, I
presume here, as in most places in the United States you publish
in one of these two journals. So, as a standard against which
you measure the success of physics research. In 2080
the United States in purple produced about 70% of all
publications- 20-25 years later we’re producing about the same
amount, but it’s now one-third of the total. Two-thirds of the- those publications are coming
from other countries. So there’s not a question of
about to lose leadership, we’ve allowed the world appropriately to
take leadership. Is it important in terms of
where these are published? Well, as the United States
has known to be collaborative, remember I said we invited
the world in to help us. Well, today here this blue line
shows you the number of papers published in the United States,
a fraction of all of them, are coming from just
pure American researchers. Only American authors. This- I beg your pardon, this is
the U.S. cooperating with international people, I’m sorry,
these are the U.S. collaborators international. The red is the
pure American authors. Only American residents. And this is the
international community. And if you apply an average
and say what are the really important papers? The one
with all the citations? May or may not be true.
You’ll see it’s even worse. This thing is the American
community going down, this is the world. So today, 60%, approximately, of
the world’s population consider the best in the world are
coming from outside the US. How about the population issue? Year 2000, alright, so
we’re up in here somewhere. This grey area is the percentage
of the world population in undeveloped or
underdeveloped countries. This is the United
States and parts of Europe. The way in which we led
ourselves to the beginning of this parade, the way in which we
succeeded is back over here- this is a very
different community. How about the age- this
is a depressing slide, I apologize, Dexter, this is not
something I am very proud of but I felt obligated to show this.
This is the age distribution in developed countries.
Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan. Okay,
so, there’s this kind of curve here. This is
female and male. And you don’t have to look at
the details except when you look at developing countries. See
what the youth are a totally different distribution.
And does it matter? Does it matter how
much money you earn? Does it mean a
more pleasant life? Well, it certainly
means a longer life. This is the life expectancy
based on the per capita income. United States is
here, in the 80s. Japan, Germany, France, Italy,
Spain, Korea. As this curve comes down, there’s China,
it drops precipitously. So clearly it’s the obvious that
these do make big differences. Do they make differences
in culture? I would submit to you that they, the tenants,
the mores of science are exactly the mores that many people
profess they want to spread through the world.
And that is the ideas of a knowledge-based society. Science promotes
all of these things, and you’d really- I think you’d
list most of them if you were trying to promote a democratic
and open society. Access to information empowers the
citizen. Transparency through open publications. Promotes
meritocracy, the ideas through peer review. Supports
creativity, promotes mutual respect for diverse ideas. These are the
principles of science. And they certainly are the
ones that influence societies. And do they influence
even in times, very difficult times,
of social and unrest. These data were taken
2004 by the Pew foundation. They’re the height of
concern over terrorism. This column shows you whether
people in these parts of the world admired U.S.
science and technology. These- this column shows you
whether they admired ideas and customs spread from
the United States. These numbers are not passing. These numbers still
deserve some optimism. So even at a time when many
people felt very uncomfortable with politics and the
United States positions, science and technology was
admired. It was admired. Did it mean something
for universities? Yes, here are graduate
students entering school. I mentioned to you we had a
welcoming environment which is the primary goal of
some of our success, here were the drops
in ’03 and ’04- 45%, 28%, 24%. These are students not
coming. They came back, until finally you have some positive
numbers a couple years later. But remember, they were
very low to start with. So people voted with their feet,
they didn’t embrace the American model that built us
into this situation. The depression will
get better in a moment. Armed conflict and terrorism;
where do you find these? This happens to be from your
locally funded intelligence community. These are areas
in red where the highest probability of armed
conflict and terrorism. These are the poorest
of these countries. And how about disease?
Zoonotic diseases, the transmitting of diseases from an
animal to a human being which is the primary source of influenza
and all kinds of diseases. Same type of pattern. If you
were to compare this with the one a moment ago you would
see very similar patterns. Except it’s interesting,
notice up here? Europe is also heavily
involved with this. Every one of these pieces of
data I think support the fact that with the model we use to
get where we are is not the model that currently exists.
It’s just not the way it’s going to be. And here’s the one that
maybe should worry all of you. Or perhaps not. This is a piece
of data that was taken by NOAA of the Arctic ice sheet.
This white area is the Arctic ice sheet in 2007,
in September of 2007. Now you remember, the Arctic
ice is actually pure water, so when it enters the Gulf
Stream which is salt water, it changes the density. A
little bit of chemistry here. And what happens is the Gulf
Stream and warm water drops. So if you’re about to buy
property in Northern Britain, I’d be a little careful. Because the weather is
going to get a lot colder, and that’s only one of
the many issues here. The purple line is the normal
place that we’ve seen the edge of this ice sheet over a
period of at least 100 years. In one year, it went from this
size, to that size. I can’t tell you it was
due to something we did. I can tell you we should hope
it was due to something we did. Because if it wasn’t due
to us, it probably is beyond something
in control. So whatever we are doing
from a social point of view, whatever we are
doing in our policy, whatever we are making
decisions about in universities, the laws of chemistry, physics,
and biology are moving on. And that’s probably
the biggest message. Now, we tried to do
something about this. And I just want to spend a few
minutes before I finish with some degree of
optimism for you. A couple of years ago, I became
interested enough and I left government to try to
do something about it. I felt that publishing another
200 papers that no one read would not be particularly
useful anymore. So we launched this Institute
on Science for Global Policy. It is an attempt to fill
this gap between scientific understanding and
the policy community. There are hundreds of reports
written by the science community, hundreds. Very few
are ever read, and very few of those are ever read
by this community. So we are in the business
of try to fill this gap. And we do it with a
piece of common sense. What we try to do is assemble
an argument, a debate. What we try to do is take
scientifically credible options as defined by just
a few scientists. People we interviewed. We interviewed about 130
recently on infectious diseases. So the topic for two years
plus is infectious diseases. We assemble just a few
scientists and we ask them, “What do you think
the situation is? What should you do?
What would you tell a science advisor, a
politician, a policy maker? What would you tell
them to do tomorrow?” Secondly, we bridge this gap
with a model that is actually so common sense you’ll be somewhat
amused that we think it’s worth talking about. And that is,
we use critical debate. Something scientists
do all the time. The countries involved,
seven of them, bring a policy community
of policy people. Assistant secretaries
of state, like myself, analysts, they choose,
they bring who they want. We assemble the scientists to
do something that most of the faculty members here
will be stunned by. We ask to reduce their
thinking to three pages. No more. Not a line more.
Three pages, what are the realities of what you should
do about infectious diseases? Or another series of
meetings, cyber security. Or in other meetings,
energy and so-forth. And so, those debates take
place in a not for attribution environment where you
cannot quote anybody, there is no opportunity to
do anything other than argue. We publish a summary of it,
but you cannot quote anybody. So policy-making can
actually say to you, as a scientist, I don’t
understand why you think climate change is important. I don’t think I understand why
you think animal diseases will transmit to humans. Why
is this so important? Each scientist gets 90 minutes
to debate their paper. Ninety minutes. That’s more
than I’ll take this evening, I promise. But they only
get five minutes to speak. The audience of policy makers
gets to debate them and question them for the remainder of
the 90 minutes. So there is absolutely no
reason that you shouldn’t be terrified of this if you
are a scientist. You are about to put
your opinion on paper, and you’re about to be
questioned about it by 65 of the most powerful,
hopefully powerful, policy people in
these countries. The guide is to help these
governments decide how they are going to invest their
financial and human resources. Human resources you can
read university resources. We must look anticipatory of
these strategic roadmaps because we are looking at the next
generation of science- it’s moving so quickly that if
you don’t prepare for that, you’re not going to have any
opportunity to either protect yourself from the consequences
or utilize it. And, the debates here
are focused on this question of what the policy
person will do. Not what the scientist
wants them to do, it’s what the policy
person will do. The scientist really
gets no vote. They get an opinion,
they get to argue, but they actually
make no decision. And, in your case here, of
this community and universities, we also include students-
graduate students and undergraduates who will
participate in this process. Because I am absolutely
concerned that you can’t wait until you’re as old as I was
to see how bad this problem is. I want to see people who are in
their 20s get a first hand look at this laboratory experience
to show how difficult it is to convince a person
who is not trained as a chemist what the problem
is. So that’s the issue. So. We do it, as I
mentioned, with the conferences. There are seven conferences
that I’ll show you in just a moment on
infectious diseases. These are the countries
involved at the moment. There is a network of
international universities who recommend graduate students
who spend six months with us, and there are groups of
undergraduate schools as well, foundations
and companies. The decision making process is
to be enhanced by this group of, in this case, six
conferences over two years. Next one will be in the
Washington area in October. The next one is in
Lake Como in Italy. Everybody know where
Lake Como is? Yeah. If you’d like to
sign up, let me know. Everybody wants to come. These are all invitation
only meetings, by the way. The next one’s in Japan, the next one’s on the west
coast of the United States, then back to Europe,
and so forth. And now let me- I’ve said this,
I don’t want to bore you with this too much, but let me now
summarize what my point was and then lead you to a
little more optimism. I contend with you
that real issue today is the missing
group of people. We have remarkable scientists,
engineers, in this community. Remarkable. It has been a
wonderful time to be a scientist in an
academic institution. The last 50 years has
been a golden time. We have politicians, many
of whom, you may not believe me, are really concerned
about doing something. Productive. They really need the advice
in a way that they can use it. They really need it. And here are those of
course who could care less, I must tell you. That doesn’t come as a
surprise to you, I’m sure. What we’re missing
is the middle group. The people who have a leg in
the credibility community of science, who can stand and say,
“I’ve thought this through, I represent a credible
option for you, and I can explain it to you.” I don’t have to- forgive
me- spend all your time trying to prove to
you I’m smart. You know I’m smart, alright? Why am I up here? But I’ve trained myself to try
to convey to you the essence of the problem which is important
to you, the policy person. That group is missing. I don’t know where
those people are. I’m concerned that
without them, we’re not going to be able
to make a direction. It will probably require
convincing the private sector, probably the foundations of this
community, which are marvelous. The individuals who
care about this issue, because government
is almost incapable, bureaucratically,
of supporting this. It’s just a tough sell. We’ve been successful at getting
governments around the world to support the institute-
that’s the good news. But I think in the long
run the scale of the problem requires people
with more vision. So. These are the goals. I think I mentioned
them to you earlier. So, let me now turn to
the end of my remarks. I found in Washington,
being a pretty naïve guy, that it was very important for
me to quote famous dead people. If you can find a dead person
who was famous enough to be recognized, who said what you
wanted to say, it’s okay. You can get away with it. And, the average lifetime of
the assistant secretary of state is
18 months. I got seven
years out of it. So, I recommend this
to students as well. Quote a dead person
occasionally. So let’s take a look
at a few dead people. Actually, I know that
Churchill said this because Claire Hall at Cambridge
has his papers. And when I was
there a few years ago, I asked them, “Did he
actually say this?” Because a lot of people
attribute things to people that didn’t
say it. But he said it. “What man desires is not
knowledge- this comes as a shocking moment to scientists-
they want certainty.” That’s actually probably true. However, Shaw, who didn’t
really respect many people said, “If all economists,
and I add scientists, were laid end to end, they
would not reach a conclusion.” [laughter] Somewhere between Churchill
and Shaw I got a problem. Alright? And it’s true, I mean,
in our heart of hearts, as scientists, I think
we know it’s true. Now, we’d argue a lot and
eventually we’d come to a consensus, but I don’t
think we’d actually agree. And then you have this
very profound statement I really like
this very much. It’s a play written in
1939 by Bertolt Brecht. This is a more serious
way of saying it. “The aim of science is not
to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a
limit on infinite error.” That’s what he has
Galileo say in this play. Anybody ever seen
this play performed? Yes? This is a gem, for me. This is something
that we should remember. Scientists are not there to
tell the Secretary of State, well you can tell him if he
steps out the ten story window he’ll regret it, at least for a
few seconds until it’s all over. But there are many
things, of course, that we deal with which we
cannot put in absolute terms. But the story goes on, the
conundrum of science for science in the 21st century is,
let’s look at John Kennedy. “There are costs and risks
to every course of action, but they are less than the
long-term costs and risks of comfortable inaction” and yet
I would submit to you in the politic body of the American
community for probably 30 years or more, maybe it
goes back 50 years. We have been much more
comfortable with inaction. And under the circumstances the
laws of chemistry and physics just haven’t paid
attention, right? And so things have marched on. But Mencken, again with a bit
of humor, but I love Mencken. “There is no idea so
stupid that you can’t find a professor who
will believe it.” Right? In our heart of hearts, we
probably know that he was being a bit facetious,
but a level of truth. And Russell, “The trouble with
the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent
are full of doubt.” And there’s truth in that. People who are experts know
there is always a level of uncertainty, but those who will
accept the opening sentence are pretty sure that
it’s gotta be correct. We are laboring under that
problem today. But it goes on. You can’t count on
scientists or the media always being
correct now. I’m not proposing that we got
it right. Alright? We have our problems.
And there are lots of examples. In 1903, Michelson,
the interferometer guy, “The most important fundamental
laws and facts of physical science have all
been discovered.” People remember when Einstein
published his first papers? The great 1905. So for two years, this
guy was right. “Physics as we know it
will be over in six months.” My physics colleagues
I presume will agree this has not happened,
right? This, remember, is a better two
decades after Einstein’s papers. “I do not have the smallest
molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than
ballooning” Lord Rayleigh is a
pretty important guy. There’s no Dexter Squibbs up her
so you’re okay. Purcell. “All this stuff about traveling
around the universe in space suits belongs back
where it came from, on the cereal box.” 1952, President Eisenhower
committed ourselves earlier on than John Kennedy to
a space program for intelligence reasons, or
security reasons. Not very well known. “If there’s a
formula for penicillin, I’ll give up chemistry
and grow mushrooms.” People, I’m sure scientists,
know Cornforth’s name. You certainly know
Dorothy Hodgkin’s name. If I displayed my ignorance
of organic chemistry it’d be a terrible
moment in my life. But I have a lot
of ignorance of it. And finally Shaw again, “The newspaper, meaning media,
are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between
a bicycle accident and the collapse
of civilization.” So let me finish with a couple
of other media. Just a couple. To remind you of what the theme
was this evening and keep you from being delayed much
more. These two guys are [indistinct] you notice the
legs are crossed here. “All I’m saying is now
is the time to develop technology to deflect
an asteroid.” Alright? Obviously advice
beyond their days. “Okay, like you know something
the internet doesn’t know?” I find this a particularly
poignant moment. The internet seems to have
completely wiped out any knowledge I have, ’cause people
tell me instantly they know something and they have no
idea where it came from. And finally this
one is another one. “Oh, on the internet, nobody
really knows you’re a dog.” [laughter] So, we now face the 21st century
with a sobering set of choices. The humor hopefully has
relieved some of your tension, but I gotta tell you I think
these are serious matters that require the attention of
universities, public [indistinct] in citizens,
the government for sure. Today governments are the
primary unit responsible for figuring out how to incorporate
science and technology. We may not like that, but
they have the resources, they have the decision making
process, if NSF come out tomorrow and say, “No longer
can we fly an airplane, we’re gonna go ballooning,” there’ll
be grants, proposals submitted the next day. So that’s a
serious matter. We have no choice, I
think, with moving through the governmental
process. That’s important to us. We’ve got to figure
out how to do it better. And so I leave you with one
more slide to remind with what, in my opinion is the
essence of this. And I return to Bertolt
Brecht. You know, we’re not in the business of saying
there’s no risk. At least I’m not. There’s always risk,
absolutely always. There’s always uncertainty.
It’s what level of risk can you tolerate to make a
decision? And as we hesitate, we certainly allow the
situation to come back. And then my favorite of
all quotes is this one, “Most of us are more
responsible for what we decide not to do than
for what we do.” This is Voltaire. And so putting it
in a modern context, the question is in my
mind no longer a question of is there
a problem. The question is what degree are
we being able to deal with the issues of the
errors of co-omission. The decision not made or
postponed is a decision. Period. You can’t get away from it. And Voltaire understood it a
long time ago, we need to remind
ourselves of it. But to try to make sure you
don’t think too badly of me, let me quote Marty Rees, whose
was the Astronomer Royale when he said this, he’s now the
head of the Royal Society. And he said quoting
Woody Allen, “Eternity, and perhaps this
presentation, is very very long, especially towards
the end of eternity.” I can’t say enough about
admiring what Dexter Squibb has accomplished
in his career. I’m reminded of a
little experience when I went to Arizona
about pioneers. Anybody who starts
one program one place, Dexter, is certainly a pioneer. To do it three times
successfully is a very remarkable person.
But I remember what they told me about the second part
about being a pioneer. Remembering this
comes from Arizona. They said, all these changes
you want to make as department head, you’re
going to be a pioneer. You know what happens to
pioneers in Arizona? They wind up with arrows in their
back face down in the ground. [laughter] I think you’re to be
congratulated not that you have no arrows, that I can see. You’re not in any
prone position. Rather what you have is a
community of scholars who have an enormous respect
for your achievement, your colleagues, your students,
the friends of this community, I think by their expression
of faith in what you did and appreciation for your
achievement, you were a successful pioneer.
So I have a new definition of a successful pioneer, I’d say
that’s Dexter Squibb. Thank you. [applause]>>Holt: Before we
get started with questions, I’d like to present to
Dr. Atkinson a plaque, “The S. Dexter Squibb Lecture
Series in Chemistry 2010. George Atkinson,
University of Arizona, Science in Global Policy.” Thank you very much for coming,
and for you we have this. Your name will go on another
plaque of ours that will remain permanently in Zeis
Hall. Thank you.>>Atkinson: Thank
you so much. Thank you. [applause]>>Holt: I’d like to
thank everyone. Brenda Henderson stand up.
Stretch your legs! Thank you Brenda. [applause] She helps to dot
our i’s and cross our t’s. John, Keith, thank you very much
for speaking this morning- this afternoon- this evening. Where are we today? Thank you all for coming. And we’re gonna
take some questions. On the right side we got Dr.
Wasileski, who has a microphone. As the sign says, if
you’re gonna ask a question, please
use a microphone. So we’re gonna open the
floor up for questions. As we go up to Dr.
Heard here for a question, tomorrow at 2:45
in Zeis Hall 104, he will- Dr. Atkinson will
talk about non-linear science.>>George Heard: Since you’re
tracking down possible misnomers in chemistry- I’m trying to
track this one down as well, as well as a few other people. Apparently [indistinct] said at
the World’s Fair in St. Louis, “Atoms died with Dalton.” And a few people are
trying to track down if he actually said that or not. But okay- so you picked
up on some really, really
interesting things. And one that I think is going
to be really important going forward is condensing our
thoughts. And science is still sort of
stuck in the lengthy prose phase, but I think things are
very slowly turning around. The American Chemical Society
has the “Science Ambassadors” idea, Sigma Xi has the
mini-conference idea. Do you think that’s the
way things are going; that we’re going to have
to shrink our thoughts and certainly get rid of
the verbosity of science?>>Atkinson: Well, by the time
this is over you’ll throw me out, believe me. The
problem, I think, is in many ways more severe. And I’m
not a Cassandra. I’m not trying to tell you
the sky has already fallen. But I think it would not
be very prudent of us to realize the seriousness
of the issue. Those are wonderful programs.
I congratulate them on doing it. But in the meantime, I showed
you the ice sheet problem. That happened in one year. So it seems to me we are
facing a number of pieces of information that tell us we
need to move more judiciously, more quickly- prudently-
but more quickly. And so I would suspect that the
policymakers in Washington and London and Tokyo and
Beijing do not know about any of those activities. We have
to certainly engage the public, no doubt about it. But I
think it’s too late to wait for the public to rise up and
drive this process. I think the scientific community
has a responsibility of going more directly to those who do
control this decision-making process. Now it’s
a tough road. It is not easy. It is never going to be easy. But you have to generate a
certain level of credibility with people and then become
involved in helping a longer term process evolve as
these problems come up. Now had we had this policy- I
showed you Gingrich’s point of view and I showed you
Bush’s point of view- Both were basically incorrect
when you think about it. It was wonderful the NSF
got created and so forth. But it was a linear model
and it didn’t last for as long as we’d like it to. So I think we have to
restructure how we do this and it’s not, in my opinion, going
to go through the organizations of the American Chemical
Society, which I’m working on a project for, or
AAAS or even the Academy. Beautiful reports, there
are hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous reports, beautifully
written. I helped pay for some. They’re late, they’re
long, and nobody reads them. Okay? So don’t tell the Academy. I think, yes, condensing
our thoughts is correct. But can we count, for
example, on the fact that climate change
will slow down? No, no problem, we’ll
put that one aside. Are we worried about
infectious diseases? Well, we should be. Are we worried about- Well,
it goes down a very long list. So it’s time to get moving. It is time to get over
the Washington disease of describing
the problem. It is a disease. How many things
do you go to and everybody tells you there’s a problem? How many meetings do
you go to and they say, “I think you should do this?”
Very few.>>[Audience member]:
George asking a- is it on? A next colleague. This is at an international
level of discussion you’re having with these
different countries. And it takes people of
experience to get to that. Not only in the sciences
but also the politics.>>Atkinson: Yes.>>[Audience member]: There’s a
role for students you described. People on the political side
don’t have the science but the interaction with the students
in the local communities. The issue is the same
at the community levels, too.>>Atkinson: Yes.>>[Audience member]: So
would you comment on the role of getting people involved in
this kind of a process at two different levels before you
get to the international one?>>Atkinson: Well, I agree, Ray. Ray taught me everything I
actually know about physical chemistry and he did it in
one year while we were still in school together.
Ray is exactly right. This is a multi-dimensional
problem. And I’m not for a moment
suggesting that our institute will handle the entire
problem. But I think there are ways of spinning off the
basic principle. First of all, I encourage
after two plus years, three years plus, that
people have embraced the idea that there
should be a debate. The elements I
described to you are correct. Very short papers, real debate. Don’t worry about the
newspapers, they’re not there. However, there’s no less of an
urgency of getting the local communities engaged
into the same debate. What I’d like to see happen in
my best of my interpretations, is that the model
is accepted at the local level,
transformed as needed. But the idea remains
more or less consistent. The canonical
idea is “debate it.” Do it without the press there. Those in the fourth estate can
criticize me but for a while you need some degree of
comfort saying things you don’t want to see in the
paper. Now, sunshine rules and all that- I’m in trouble. But
there are ways of modifying in a way that can be
appropriate. And I leave it to
better minds than mine. But you’ve got to get started. It’s time to stop
saying we’ve got a problem, and it’s time to say this is not
only a matter of the educational interests of the
academic community, and I’ll be harsh on
the academic community, most of academics have
turned into lobbyists. Why do we show up in Washington? We lobby for the NSF budget. We lobby for the NIH budget. We lobby for the
Department of Energy. We lobby for our
favorite energy projects; solar energy versus
nuclear energy and so-forth. The power people
don’t understand. And I guarantee you
they don’t understand the efficiency of a
photovoltaic cell. What they understand is that
you’re asking them to make a decision to put resources here
versus resources someplace else. That will be driven
by public opinion, I agree. So yes, absolutely. There’s
every reason to get moving. And so I’ve only total
respect for every community that begins the
process. I’m saying it’s time, it’s past time, to get moving.
It is just not going to be feasible to attack
these problems. The last thing I’d say, Ray,
is I’m worried- very concerned- over the scale of these
problems. So again, to be controversial, water is a huge
issue in the African continent. It’ll probably be a problem
here before too long, too. But the African continent is a
crisis. We have many well-intentioned, skilled people
who go to Africa as a team. Engineers Without Borders is
a very good group of people. They go and they dig a
well. They dig five wells. A year or two later they go
back and the wells don’t work, because the people
don’t have the wherewithal, the training, to maintain
them. Oh and by the way, the village that didn’t get
the well doesn’t like it. ‘Cause now they’re
economically disadvantaged. Alright? It seems unfair, but this
wonderfully generous act is not scaled to
the problem. It just- it makes us feel
better, we go home, but the problem perpetuates itself. So
I think that the local efforts are critical, but they’re not
really the main subject anymore. The main subject is how do you
mobilize major units of society called governments
to move forward? They have the
resources, I assume. And they have the
will-power to do something. But without that type of
scale, I’m afraid we don’t get to the right issue.
That’s a concern, maybe I’m wrong. That would be
my answer to your question. You’re very generous
to be here so late.>>Krumpe: I want to
thank you for your talk. I want to say- and taking
time to talk with me this afternoon- or morning. I’m losing track of time like
Herman said. I love the talk and agree with everything
that you said tonight. As a product of an institution
very similar to UNC Asheville, very similar to Eckerd college,
as a chemistry professor at that type of institution, I believe
that institutions like UNC Asheville, like Eckerd college
have a key role to play in solving this scientific
communication problem. You used as an example, both in
your slides and in some of your answers, the idea
of global warming. And, you know, not only- you
know, when I watch the political commentary and listen to the
political commentary, the debate now of the
general public and the media has moved beyond, “Well is it
anthropogenic or not?” to “Is it happening or not?”
Alright? And I put a lot of that,
personally, I put a lot of that blame on the scientific
community as we talked earlier today about. And our failure to
look beyond our experiments, beyond our laboratories, beyond
the details and the papers. So my question is, as somebody
who has spent a significant amount of your professional
career, in Washington D.C. dealing with politicians,
how do people like me, as the dean of natural
sciences, the associate provost who’s over here,
Herman, who is the chair. How do we convince politicians
that liberal arts colleges, whether they’re public or
whether they’re private, have a significant role to
play in helping solving the communication problem that you
have so clearly articulated?>>Atkinson: Well, if I had a
really good answer to that, Kevin, I’d probably
be in better shape. But I’m gonna give
you pieces of it, but I apologize for not having
a comprehensive answer for you. First of all, people do pay
attention to their communities. Let me use the worst of all
examples- political elections. They certainly do pay attention
to what this community thinks when the guy is running
for office- the person is
running for office. So, there is a role that can
be played. And I’m not suggesting at any level there
should be total consensus. I’m not arguing about any-
I never mentioned whether I felt it was true,
false, or whatever. I just showed you
some data, okay? So, whatever your
conclusions are, there should be a conversation
which focuses on the degree of consensus and the
degree of uncertainty. Those are the two things. Now, I once was attending a
dinner in Washington a few months ago, very
articulated individual, very famous, talked
about how literally 97, 98% he was sure that
climate change was occurring. And it was anthropogenic. At the end of the conversation
we were having dinner, a very distinguished lady who
was running a major corporation sat next to me,
and she said, “Gee, it’s really good to know that
it hasn’t been settled yet.” That is a point where
you have to engage, you have to go back and say, wait a minute,
97% is pretty good. If I can get that in the
next lottery, I’ll be okay. So, there is a role to play,
I think it’s an engagement, and I think universities can
do this in a number of ways. I would suggest this as we
talked about this morning. Symposia. Run by the university. It still remains one of the
most respected parts of society. The most egalitarian,
respected community of scholars, it’s called a university.
Have the debate, ya know? Assemble the people. Bring them
here, invite them to come. If you get five, great. Maybe next time
you’ll get ten, maybe you’ll get fifty, maybe
you’ll get five hundred. But you gotta have
the conversation. And I think universities
have an obligation to give back to the community
in that sense. And specifically to be highly
critical of my profession. Sorry, Dexter, this is
something you led me into. We have done a poor
job of this. Very poor job. We seem to be willing to
convince ourselves and our colleagues in the field of
something, argue it out. But we’re very nervous
about stepping out and arguing in
public. Well, time’s up. In my opinion, this is a role-
as I’ve said before that missing that missing group of
people in the middle. I’m not saying I’m
right, wrong, I haven’t told you how
I actually feel. I just- you gotta
have the conversation. And universities
have an obligation. Most universities in this
country established- the land-grant university
established in 1863 by a guy named Abraham Lincoln. Land-grant universities had
three criteria. Research, teaching,
and public service. In those days it was
largely for farming communities. Agricultural exchange,
okay, very important, critical. Today, I’d say you could
redefine it. It’s to have a venue, a forum, an arena, in
which you have the debate. May not win, may not
like the debate, you may not like the people who
come. You gotta have the debate. So universities
have a way and responsibility to give back to the
community which gave you whatever public funds they
gave you. I know it’s shrinking,
but whatever they gave you. You have an obligation to go
back into the arena and provide venues for
that conversation. And I guarantee you there are
moments when I’ve been in public when you don’t like to
hear what is being said. It makes you cringe.
But that’s okay. Remember the constitution
is based on the principle of deliberate debate. So, I probably have
convinced you I can become evangelical
about this. I apologize. [laughter]>>[Audience Member]: I guess my
question is relatively easy, but I agree with the problem
of misinformation and misnomers. How does your organization
or yourself deal with the problem of just
general apathy? I mean, I can speak
for my generation, I know for probably the
generation following, that we just don’t
care as much anymore. You know, about these
global problems and we’re not as willing to get involved
and do things about it. So, how do you
address that problem?>>Atkinson: We actually
have not encountered that. We have never been turned
down by a scientist interview. We’ve never been turned down on
an invitation to participate. Governments pay for this, it’s a
sincere form of participation. Your generation actually has
been incredibly enthusiastic. And, I hope the ones you
know who are not will think about
it another time. This sounds like a parent
talking to a child, but you guys are
gonna do this, not me. I’m not gonna be around for
the conclusion of this story. What I think is very
important is you get a sense of what your opinion
is, ya know. If you have a strong
opinion based on misinformation, now
that’s a big problem. And one of the things that I’ve
often gotten in trouble for, I mentioned it a couple of times
today so this is being recorded, I’ll probably get in
trouble again for it, is the government it follows
the acronym DUI, too often. DUI, we know stands
in general for “driving under the influence.” I renamed it, it’s “decisions
unencumbered by information.” Not opinions, information. So if you make decisions based
on your generation or anybody else’s, in a community in which
the information is all wrong, well, at least you made
a decision. Alright, hopefully you get
the right information and I’m suggesting universities are the
place to find the information. So, I wouldn’t look at the
internet. Okay? In my opinion. So I hope you’ll encourage
your generation to do it. We have had large numbers of
very talented students who participate with us already. We have 26 universities around
the world who are eager to participate in that program of
graduate students. And there’s an
undergraduate role that I could describe another time.>>[Audience member]: I’m gonna
follow on Muhammad’s question. I think that the U.S. House and
Senate has five, maybe ten years to act on
global climate change. And if they don’t, then we’re
going to face a very uncertain future, and one in which
life as we know it on this planet could change. Because the world
system is so massive, that if you want to change
what is going to happen in 2050, you’ve gotta do something
now to affect that change. We’re a society of immediacy. I want to be able to text,
I want to be able to email. I want to be able
to call right now. And the U.S. house has elections
in two months and they want- all they’re concerned about
is, “Will I get reelected?” They aren’t concerned about
2050. And the senate, which is supposed to have
a longer term view, okay. So theirs is five years
instead of forty years, and so I’m really very
pessimistic about the U.S. House and Senate doing anything
that’s going to make an impact on global climate
in 2050. So how can IGSP- your->>Atkinson: ISGP, yeah.>>[Audience member]: ISGP,
science and policy institute- how can that engage folks
from the House and the Senate? Looking at the academies, and
different departments of energy or so forth- that’s useful, but
you got to change the opinion of people in the
House and the Senate.>>Atkinson: Yeah, well,
there are limits to my wisdom. And you’ve
certainly chosen an area. I can’t convince you that you
will have that type of impact in a short period of time. But
wait a minute, maybe you will. I sure as hell know, bluntly,
you’re not gonna have anything if you don’t engage
in the conversation. So we’re gonna assemble about
65 policy people in October, in just outside Washington.
There’s 65 people who are willing to pay their
way to Washington. From Italy, and
Japan and even from D.C. to come and spend the time
with us, so that’s a start. And I think that is the
point. You must get started. The NSFs of the world,
the NIHs and so forth, the Department of
Defense supporting, into homeland security-
these have been heroes to support the program. So
they’re taking a chance. I’ve mentioned NSF but
there’s no NSF money in it. So, yes, there is a
risk, there is a gamble, there’s no guarantees
in this process. Now about this House
and Senate business, okay? The House and Senate
issue, I would agree, is a major challenge for how
this society is structured. One could ask the
question, “Is this the right structure that’s gonna
be able to do anything?” Different story,
different conversation. But I think that there is an
opportunity to take advantage of those who are in the House and
Senate who have a serious degree of responsibility for their
tasks. There are people there who are very serious about
their responsibility. Now, they are the people
you clearly want to target. There are a lot of other people
who don’t fit that description. But you got to start. Or I can retire and perhaps
join Dexter and go to the Caribbean on a vacation
or something. I mean those are choices, too. I don’t believe
that you should be quite that pessimistic. I think there are
good stewards of responsibility in the legislature and they
have an interest in doing this. We have members of the
congress attending these meetings. Members of the British
Parliament. One member of the Diet in Japan may or
may not be able to make it. But sooner or later if the
reputation of the institute’s work continues to grow, it
will be a place where you’re irritated with me for
not getting invited. Right now it’s a little
irritation. I want it to be a lot of irritation.
Understand, there are limitations,
no guarantees. But I would say it’s
still worth the gamble. Somebody had a
question here. John?>>Stevens: I think too much of
the debate and the discussion and the dialogue with the
various parties is focused too much on the problem, as
opposed to the solution. I think we need to integrate
more into these various dialogues and solutions. And I’m finding that, and
this is just subjective looking, but in terms of we as a
scientific community we are moving more over on the solution
side as we were 10 years ago when we were
indicating the problems.>>Atkinson: Yes.>>Stevens: But I think we
need to ramp it up even more, and that’s where we feel more
comfortable about- that’s more positive approach, and it also
opens the dialogue where you automatically close the dialogue
when you are problem versus problem, or whether
you have a problem.>>Atkinson: Right. I couldn’t
agree more with you. You can’t come to the institute
meeting unless you have a solution. No scientist is
invited unless their paper, which usually goes through three
or four levels of review- it is very difficult to get scientists
to write three pages that make any sense in terms of solutions. We just finished this last
week. I couldn’t agree more. You don’t get to come
unless you have a solution, and the debate is
about the solution. You have to say to me, John,
“I think you should do this.” Okay? I then you have to stand up
for 40-90 minutes and defend it. We once had a meeting that’s
actually probably important to this community- why was
undergraduate and graduate education in science technology
a national security problem? I convened this in Washington
several years ago with the Department of Defense.
And so we had- Joe Stieglitz came and a lot of famous people.
I opened the meeting by saying we are going to be talking
today- there are two meetings. The first one is about the
problem. I think this is a problem of the national
intellectual security of this country. Let’s call it
the intellectual security, okay? We have boundary
security, and so on. This is the intellectual
security. But the second meeting you can’t come to unless
you bring me a solution. No one gets invited to speak
unless you send me a solution. We held that out in Virginia-
enormously successful meeting. But it was only solutions. You
get one meeting to talk about the problem, everybody
was nodding their head, yeah, that’s a big problem.>>Stevens: And there’s a new
popular science magazine called “Solutions” that was launched
earlier this year that I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of.>>Atkinson: I like that. So, now we just have to be sure
the guys listen to understand. One other quick point. I’ve never seen an an analysis
for energy needs that doesn’t include a massive amount
of nuclear power plants. It doesn’t matter if
it’s from the CIA, or the British,
it doesn’t matter. When North Sea oil gives
out, the British will depend on Russian gas for seventy some
odd percent of their energy. From that point on, the
discussion was only about how to build more nuclear
plants in Britain. A few years ago I went to
Ukraine and I went to Chernobyl. I spent a long
visit in Chernobyl. Anybody who doesn’t believe in
the problems of nuclear energy problems, go to Chernobyl.
You can’t get there very
easily, it’s 100 kilometer path, you can’t live there
at all. It’s really quite remarkable. But you
have a choice. If you go to your home, and turn
on the switch for your light bulb and you get a
busy signal- you know? I grew up when you pick up the
telephone and somebody was on the line. Oh, I’ll call back
in a few minutes. Right? There was only so much capacity.
Think of that for electricity. For how you can
computer up- oh sorry, no, electricity- sorry you
have to wait for half an hour. If you want that, there is
one choice, and probably, unfortunately, where we are,
they are going to build a lot of nuclear plants to get to the
point where you can have solar energy or wind or other things
take over, and you have to invest in those, no
problem with that. So, have you seen many nuclear
plants built recently? The licensing process
is nine years. They are trying to reduce
it to a couple years, but you know, this
problem isn’t going away. So there’s a solution.
You should be debating that solution in my opinion.
You guys are incredibly patient. I don’t know I deserve any
of this attention whatsoever.>>Holt: A couple more
questions, here. David, then Ken.>>[Audience member]: I was
just going to say that you were talking about the
nuclear power thing, I remembered recently debating
a friend of mine about that who retired from the government and
he was really touting it and I said well, you still have the
waste disposal problem- only witness Yucca Mountain, but
you were talking about the indecisiveness- I think people
need to be more forthcoming and explain things and
what we get is, like with the global warming
thing and the politics, and I said well the
evidence is there, if you are willing to really
look at it and consider it, but that’s the problem. People need to be more
decisive and forthright. There was something else
you were talking about. Well anyway, that’s what I
wanted to say pretty much in response to your comments.>>Atkinson: There is a
presidential commission looking
at Yucca mountain as we speak, they
are meeting actually next week.>>[Audience member]: It may
not be geologically stable. See what the problem is
they’ve gotten in to me, is they’ve gotten away from the
science and they’ve gotten into these other things.>>Atkinson: Oh, oh, oh,
you didn’t get the lesson. This is a political process.>>[Audience member]: Oh,
I realize that, I know. I’m just saying that.>>Atkinson: Well
I have a solution.>>[Audience member]: Right.
Well that’s what I was going to say next was that I usually,
for example, when I do work for people I try to
come up with solutions.>>Atkinson: I admire that. There are a lot of
mountains around Asheville. Yucca mountain is one
mountain out in Nevada. Would you like to offer a couple
of mountains here to store this stuff? I’m being a real
irritant to you I’m sure. The point is, you have
to make a decision. Because one day, you
will turn on the switch and you won’t get a light.>>[Audience member]:
I think there’s too much debate and
not enough action.>>Atkinson: And a reasonable
thoughtful way of managing the risk. I understand
the point, I agree.>>[Audience member]: This is
more [indistinct] question. How to the debates
go that you have? Are they critical debates where
you have the 65 policy members- because it just seems to me that
you’re not actually addressing the issue of communication even
if you are boiling them down to the three pages, because
then you just have three very condensed pages of a
lot of words that no one may not
understand.>>Atkinson: Oh,
no, no, no, no. Come and work with us and
I’ll show you have this works, but let me describe
it very briefly. We go to the scientists; we
say please send us three pages. We get something that is
not acceptable. Okay? I mean literally,
is not acceptable. There is jargon in
it and so forth. We go through four reviews
of that paper trying to say, what does this acronym mean?
What does this term mean? What does the word “this” mean?
We try very hard to work with them in a very constructive way,
in ways that they’ll accept; it’s their paper. But to try
to focus it on specificity. So we work hard at that. That’s
part of our responsibility as an institute. So that when
the person reads the paper, they’ll have some degree of
an answer to your question. Now we may not be
totally successful. But now I want to
put you in the middle. This is a circle of policy guys,
65 outside. I put the scientist in the middle, all eight
of them. One time. I say to Professor
Squibb, it’s your turn, we are going to
discuss your paper, we have five minutes set
aside for you to summarize, I have an extremely
expensive egg timer. Five minutes it goes off.
Mid-sentence you stop. And we turn it over
to the audience. So the person has provided a
set of specific recommendations, and surveillance on infectious
diseases will not work. If the guy from China got off
the plane in New York rather than in Toronto with SARS, we’d
be talking with fewer people in the audience. Most
epidemiologists say that. So I want to reassure that
it’s really quite exciting. People don’t talk to each other
after a day or so. Yes, sir?>>[Audience Member]:
My question refers back to public opinion
and whatnot. As mentioned earlier the
immediacy of something- if you say turn on the TV and there was
something about climate change and you see drastic pictures and
some numbers- that’s all well and good, you turn it off
and you go outside and it’s a beautiful sunny day outside-
that sort of loses its impact. How do we as a scientist impress
upon the public community that there is something needs to be
done for either this or as you say infectious diseases
like you just said, the SARS example- if that
happens up in Canada, it’s not happening next
door to our neighbors, we’re not really, it’s not
in the forefront of our mind, it’s in the back. How do we really address this
issue at the public level?>>Atkinson: You don’t
have any Canadian friends?>>[Audience Member]: One.>>Atkinson: One, okay. [laughter]>>Atkinson: Well,
it’s a fine question. And again, I want
to be concise. In each of the questions, you
could ask this about dozens and dozens of scientific issues. You walk outside and there’s a
lot of snow on the ground last year and you wonder,
people use global warming. I think global climate change is
a little more accurate version of this. Clearly, a scientist,
a climatologist particularly, much better than I can, can
explain why the local events will be changing. If you’re in
the mountains, it’s going to be different than in the Sonoran
Desert where I live and so forth. So there are logical
discussions that people want to listen to as to why its going
to move up and down and so forth. It isn’t as if the tundra
in Northern Canada is suddenly going to become covered
with fields of grain. But, there are serious issues. And I think many scientists are
extremely well prepared to talk about for example, the
question on the oceans, the salinity of the oceans.
The acidity of the oceans. The effect on the
seafood and so forth. You have to go
through that process, but it takes time and it
takes confidence and it takes articulation. If you send
somebody in who can’t articulate it, it’s a disaster. So you
have to choose carefully. The professors are very good
at this. Students are very good at it. Great skills.
You gotta start the process. Alright? I think the
question of, for example, infectious diseases, it is a
remarkably easy argument to make. You only have to
look back to 1918, 1919. Alright? Somewhere between,
I don’t know, 20 million and 100 million people died. That’s
a fairly big impression. In Philadelphia they
had no body bags enough, they stacked bodies on
the street. Okay? Read about it. The great influenza, the
well-known documentation.>>[Audience member]
[indistinct]>>Atkinson: And so, these are
stories that clearly identify the scale of the problem. Dengue fever has now
appeared in the United States. I’m going to scare
the hell out of you. Dengue fever has appeared
in the United States. It’s a serious disease. I’ll give you one last one
and then I promise to finish. If you go to a
cocktail conversation, a pleasant dinner conversation
among your colleagues- I went to one in North Carolina
about two months ago. Very nice opportunity to
speak at the university, I won’t tell you where, it
was a wonderful evening. Thirty faculty members there. We were talking about the
subject of vaccination. Novartis just held a meeting in
Sienna I attended just before this dinner in which we
discussed the problem of how to get confidence in the
public of taking vaccines. Ninety million doses of H1N1
vaccine were never taken in the United States. You could go down to
your local drug store; it was free basically. Why did 90 some odd
million people not take it? Well, they just thought it
was going to be a problem. And I can guarantee you almost
without exception in that crowd of 30 people, someone will say,
“I’m worried about vaccines because of autism is a
possible consequence.” Now, I am profoundly
concerned about autism. Profoundly. But the guy who did
this study that was publicized so widely, who was found to
falsify the data, he’s been disbarred. Thirty some odd
studies never repeated the result. Okay? It’s rational to
say this is probably not the problem we think it is. It’s
something else, but it’s a tragedy and it should be
addressed, no doubt about it.>>[Audience member]: It
could be radiation [indistinct].>>Atkinson: But the fact of the
matter is if you don’t vaccinate the population against some of
these childhood diseases you’re gonna- there’ll
consequences for that. And so why do the
people not take them? Well because there’s an example
of a very popularized piece of information that
looks, at least, like it’s incorrect. Alright? So there’s a debate that
you can have with people. Some will not believe you, but
you gotta have the debate, so.>>Holt: Thank you very
much. Appreciate it.>>Atkinson: Thank
you. Thank you. [applause]>>Holt: Additional questions
can be held down here as you are exiting. Thank
you all for coming. Dexter, Joann- appreciate you
being here. Lavan, Kevin- it’s a pleasure seeing you guys again. So enjoy the rest
of your evening. ♪ [Closing music] ♪ ♪♪

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