News Updates

Keeping Autonomous Weapons Ethical

9/20/18 – A group of experts meeting under the auspices of the United Nations recently examined how to control the use of lethal autonomous weapons, but reached no final conclusions. In Issues, an analyst who looked at artificial intelligence (AI) more broadly has proposed that at a minimum, the weapons must be subject to oversight by fast-acting AI systems—“AI Guardians”—that can ensure their safe and ethical operation. Similarly, fitting autonomous weapons with an “ethical governor” is explored here.

Helping Prisoners Kick Drug Addiction

9/19/18 – A growing number of states and counties are offering prisoners addicted to opioids more medical options to help them quit, improving their chances of recovery and reducing their likelihood of return. Rhode Island shows what might be achieved. In Issues, analysts have previously cited the importance of treating incarcerated addicts, as part of broader efforts to improve overall health care within correctional systems and ultimately benefit inmates’ home communities.

Industry Changing US Space Practices

8/28/18 – “Our commercial partners are challenging us to be more agile, think differently, buy smarter and develop more efficiently,” NASA’s administrator told the Washington Post, and many observers hope the agency’s evolution will spark the kind of innovation necessary to make spaceflight more routine. Seeing this trend developing, an analyst recently explained in Issues how more private companies, as well as more countries, were expanding their activities in space, and how this would require the US government to adapt its regulatory thinking to capitalize on increased collaboration.

Thinking Beyond NAFTA

8/27/18 – As the United States and Mexico moved closer to adopting final revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Trump suggested he was open to dumping Canada from the trilateral pact, according to a New York Times report. But this might miss a rich opportunity. In Issues a while back, a policy analyst who examined the benefits derived from NAFTA proposed that the three nations might gain even more by working together as an economic alliance to engage the global community on trade issues.

Behind the Lines of Disinformation Warfare

8/24/18 – Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts linked to Russia and Iran for malicious political behavior ahead of the upcoming US midterm elections. Microsoft has taken down six Russia-linked websites targeting the US Senate and several Washington think tanks that promote democracy or investigate Russian corruption. New evidence shows that prior to the US presidential election in 2016, Russian internet trolls hurled insults at both advocates and critics of vaccines solely to raise the national level of hostility. What’s going on? In Issues, a scholar recently examined how advanced information technologies are adding a new dimension to regional and global conflict, particularly the use of “weaponized narratives” to undermine an adversary’s institutions, identity, and civilization.

Public Growing Wary of Self-Driving Cars

8/23/18 – Fewer than half of people in the United States now believe that self-driving cars will make roadways safer—a drop from a clear majority only two years ago, seemingly influenced by recent high-profile accidents involving autonomous vehicles, says a new study by Cox Automotive. If companies ignore such worries and push this technology too fast, the public might come to “fixate on any technological failures to the detriment of the long-term viability of this movement to address unsafe driving,” an analyst cautions in Issues, adding that a “slow-but-sure strategy to commercialization makes the most sense for now.”

Advice for Living in a Warming World

8/21/18 – This summer’s scorching heat speaks to a clear climate trend, as 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001, yet the New York Times says the world remains largely unprepared for life at higher temperatures. Issues recently offered a blueprint for action, with a pair of forward-thinking analysts detailing specific steps—led by governments, but also involving businesses, universities, and communities—to prepare for and adapt to global warming. The authors also discussed their ideas at the launch event for the Summer Issues in Washington, DC.

Bamboo/Glass Ceiling Remains Strong

8/13/14 – Asian American women face a double bind in the workplace as they encounter negative stereotyping for both their ethnicity and gender, says an account from the Better Life Lab. In an early examination in Issues, two scholars presented national data showing this to be especially true for leadership positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the STEM fields—in industry and academia, adding that this “merits greater attention, more targeted programmatic efforts, and inclusion in the national discussion of the STEM workforce.”

The US/China Conundrum

8/11/18 – China is rapidly emerging as a technological powerhouse, at least in part because of its use of illicit political and business practices, the president of MIT says, calling for the United States to develop an aggressive and forward-looking action plan. In Issues, a longtime technology and policy hand recently proposed just such a strategy by which the United States can offset China’s unfair practices and, most importantly, promote and extend US leadership in science and innovation.


Help Wanted: Middle-Skill Workers

8/2/18 – The United States is expected to see ever more openings for middle-skill jobs—positions that require more than a high school diploma but typically not a bachelor’s degree—and a technology-and-policy group says new ways are needed to help workers gain skills and associated credentials that will open employment doors. In a deeper look, Issues recently explored the importance of these jobs; the skills they require, particularly in health care; and how expanded access to better data on labor markets can aid both workers and policy-makers looking for productive options.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Health Hazard?

7/27/18 – Gwyneth Paltrow, the actor turned head of a vast lifestyle-and-wellness enterprise called Goop, personifies the power of celebrities to influence everyday people’s health, often in ways that turn science on its head, says a long-form read in the New York Times Magazine. But rather than ignore potentially harmful pseudoscientific claims, two scientists who study such matters recently noted in Issues that “the rise in celebrity culture will doubtless create multiple and regular opportunities for scientists and clinicians to spread evidence-based and credible scientific ideas as part of an ongoing public discussion of science—if the scientific community is prepared and willing to engage.”

Raising the Bar for Legal Algorithms

7/26/18 – The legal system increasingly uses “risk assessment” algorithms in making decisions about bail, sentencing, and parole, but an official at a nonprofit legal association says these tools “are too rapidly acquiring an exalted place in human decision-making.” An independent research consultant earlier argued this case in Issues, and she proposed ways to improve their use, including making the nuts and bolts of the algorithms more transparent, subjecting them to independent audit, and using them only if they demonstrably serve to reduce pretrial incarcerations.


Self-Driving Vehicles for Your Shopping Trips

7/26/18 – Waymo, a company fast-forwarding the development of self-driving vehicles, just launched a trial program in the Phoenix area to team up with Walmart and four other firms to transport people between their homes and nearby stores, restaurants, and other retail destinations. As autonomous vehicles move into everyday life, some observers are calling for tighter government regulations. But a technology analyst recently said in Issues that any new rules should be flexible enough to encourage innovation while ensuring that the vehicles are safe and broadly accessible across society.

How Risky Was Flint’s Water?

7/24/18 – Ever since the water in Flint, Michigan, was found in 2014 to be contaminated with lead, a range of people have cited various statistics to show that children’s health might have been harmed. But two scientists now say that a comprehensive review of the data has “raised questions about how risks and statistics have been communicated,” adding that “the furor over this issue seems way out of proportion to the actual dangers.” From a broader perspective, a book titled Getting Risk Right: Understanding the Science of Elusive Health Risks, reviewed in Issues, explores the challenges of understanding and prioritizing risk and examines how the tools of risk assessment can help to protect public health without raising undue worries.

Researchers Take Stand Against AI Weapons

7/22/18 – At an international conference on artificial intelligence (AI), numerous researchers signed a pledge to “neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.” This accords with a recent examination in Issues of when and how AI writ large should be regulated, which found reason for limiting “the development of autonomous weapons that employ AI to decide when to fire, with how much force to apply, and on what targets,” but added that this would best be done as part of a broader public discussion of “the policy measures and cultural changes that will be needed to negotiate the coming transformation into an AI-rich world.”

Cautious OK for Genetically Modified Babies

7/21/18 – A leading bioethics advisory group in the United Kingdom says in a new report described here that genetically modifying human embryos, sperm, or eggs to influence the characteristics of a future person—a process known as heritable genome editing—could be morally permissible if it would provide meaningful benefit to the individual and would not be expected to increase discrimination or division in society. On a larger stage, an international summit recently examined the potential and challenges of human gene modification, and Issues summarized some of the presentations exploring the social, legal, ethical, and policy questions that are essential to understanding how to use or limit this new technology.

Improving Flood Insurance, or Not


7/20/18 – With the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on July 31, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) is fighting hard to prevent any reforms. Meanwhile, a group of state insurance commissioners has provided an update on what other members of Congress are doing. For help in deciding what to do, legislators might look to Issues, where a decision-sciences expert proposed that the program should base premiums on up-to-date assessments of the degree of flood hazard that homeowners face, and that it should incorporate incentives such as means-tested vouchers or low-interest loans to encourage homeowners of all income levels to undertake cost-effective protective measures.

Chinese Innovation on the Rise

7/15/18 – China joined the world’s top 20 most innovative economies and is aiming to move higher, while the United States fell out of the top 5, according to the recently released Global Innovation Index 2018, cosponsored by the United Nations. Although measuring an economy’s innovativeness is inherently difficult, and many experts would challenge the rankings in this study, no one doubts that China’s innovative capacity is on the rise. The United States should not take its strength relative to China for granted, a leading scholar and former government adviser says in Issues, and he proposed actions to both boost US innovation capability and respond to China’s technological ambitions.

Vaccination Vacillation

7/14/18 – California has become something of a test case for mandatory vaccination laws, as many parents in some communities are obtaining medical exemptions for their children. Convincing such parents to have their kids vaccinated will require more than pointing to scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, a philosopher and data analyst said recently said in Issues, because vaccines have become a proxy for a much deeper controversy about the nature of risk and the role of experts, and more work is needed to learn how to address the concerns of both medical experts and vaccine-hesitant parents.


Israelis Aiming for Moon

7/11/18 – A nonprofit group in Israel is leading a mission to softly land a spacecraft on the moon early next year, thereby becoming the first nongovernmental enterprise to do so. The group proposes to do this using an innovative two-months-long launch process that will be far cheaper than conventional methods. The effort illustrates in spades how space activities are becoming increasingly diverse, as an analyst recently explained in Issues, adding that the shift is requiring the United States to adjust its space programs and policies accordingly.


Labor Market Misunderstanding

7/9/18 – A new US jobs report declared that companies are finding it difficult to find qualified workers to fill open positions. But in Issues, a longtime workforce analyst recently looked behind the curtain, arguing that employers’ complaints about skill shortages mask a deeper struggle to extend their leverage in the labor market, and that “What everyone needs are opportunities to learn and to advance in accord with their wishes and motivations without sacrificing already meager paychecks.”



A Better Way to Fund Highways

7/9/18 – Seven states recently increased their fuel tax that funds highway construction and maintenance projects, while some California politicians are pushing to repeal a recent hike in the tax. But in Issues, an energy analyst has proposed a totally different route, charging motorists by the miles they travel, arguing that the new system would be better suited to the changing nature of automobiles and driving habits.

Flood Risks Rising with Climate Change

6/29/18 – Rising sea levels driven primarily by climate change put more than 300,000 homes in the contiguous United States at risk of chronic flooding within the next 30 years, the lifespan of a typical mortgage, according to a new study and an interactive map tool for viewing threat levels of particular communities. Some of the actions proposed to mitigate the risks align with recommendations recently advanced by a decision-sciences expert in Issues for making the soon-to-be-reauthorized National Flood Insurance Program more cost-effective, more equitable, and more appealing to property owners.

Preparing for the Next Pandemic


6/ 28/18 – Potent new diseases may be only an airplane-ride from becoming a pandemic, but a deep read in the Atlantic says the world is not prepared. In addition to posing immense medical needs, the next pandemic will raise unprecedented communications challenges in providing people with accurate and credible information—to offset an almost-certain deluge of erroneous blasts via social media—and in Issues a technology innovator has called for developing a volunteer corps of scientists and communicators to help handle the job.

Robot Sub Patrolling California Coast

6/25/18 – Roaming the waters off California, a 51-foot-long “unmanned undersea vehicle”—essentially a submarine that can operate for months at a time with little or no contact with human operators—is undergoing tests ahead of possible deployment by the US Navy. And it won’t be alone. Various types of drone seagoing vehicles are being groomed for both underwater and surface applications, an analyst said in Issues, though a variety of technical and policy questions must be resolved.


Coping with Robots

6/18/18 – Amid concerns about the impact of robots on the workplace, an economic analyst described in Issues his study of first principles: what skills do robots have or may soon acquire, and what jobs can robots with those skills perform. The conclusion: robots and advanced information technologies can likely handle 80% of current jobs. Emerging ideas on how society can respond range from big, such as a government-funded universal basic income, to small, such as employer-funded lifelong learning accounts that enable workers to take short paid leaves to gain new skills.

Flagship School Seeks Foreign Students

6/17/18 – The University of New Hampshire has become the first flagship state school in the United States to adopt an admissions test that may make it easier for students from China to enroll, bringing along the more than $45,000 they will pay for tuition and housing each year. But recruiting more higher-paying foreign students, along with a number of other actions that schools are taking to offset decreasing state aid, is shortsighted, two academic scholars say in Issues, and they propose alternative measures that would give universities some breathing room.


Google Bans AI Development for Weapons

6/12/18 – The technology giant Google will not develop artificial intelligence (AI) for use in weapons or other applications “that cause or are likely to cause overall harm,” its chief executive has announced in setting forth a set of principles to guide the company’s work in the field. The move aligns with a recent exploration by two scholars in Issues of whether and how AI should be regulated. They suggested that banning “fully autonomous weapons that operate entirely independent of human input” makes sense, while also calling for an interlocking oversight system for making decisions about “many if not all so-called smart technologies.”



NASA Eyeing Privatization of Space Station

6/10/18 – More countries and private companies are pursuing activities in space, an analyst recently noted in Issues. But in actions that would seemingly push even this expanded envelope, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is considering “a range of options” to privatize the International Space Station, including having a global team of corporations take over operations and run it as a commercial space lab, or even splitting it into components, some of which could be “de-orbited,” to make private management easier.

Coal Comfort

6/5/18 – Coal is in the news for reasons seemingly at odds. In Issues recently, a longtime analyst showed that coal has declined as an energy source over the past century primarily because of technology innovation, social forces, and price decreases of other forms of energy. Yet the Trump administration has announced plans to stop the closure of struggling coal mines putatively to protect national security, while also cutting the tax that coal companies pay to help miners with the deadly disease black lung, even as new research reveals that more miners have the disease than previously thought.

Feds Seek to Block Immigrant Entrepreneurs

6/4/18 – Immigrants outpace US residents in forming new start-up companies, especially in technical fields, as observers have documented in Issues (here) and elsewhere (here). But in what some groups see as a shortsighted move (here and here), the Trump administration wants to end an Obama-era program that lets young foreign entrepreneurs remain in the United States for up to five years to manage start-ups they had created. More promising, some experts argue, would be to streamline the federal system for bringing in immigrants with technological and entrepreneurial prowess, and Issues has explored ways to make this happen.

A Conservative Shade of Green

6/1/18 – In a challenge to her political party, a young conservative says that addressing environmental challenges, including climate change, must become a priority. But, she adds, solutions will require “trusting businesses to do what is best for their bottom line and for the ecosystem without government intervention.” In this vein, a scholar of conservative thought has broadly examined in Issues why “conservatives are critical of policy-relevant science in climate and other domains,” and he said that if solutions are to be realized, “they must be compatible with individual liberty and democratic institutions, and cannot rely on coercive or unaccountable bureaucratic administration.”


Flashback: Remember the Draft

5/25/18 – Universal conscription—the draft—ended 45 years ago, and NPR is marking the milestone with a new series on the shift to an all-volunteer military. In Issues, two analysts have taken an even deeper look, concluding with a call for return of the draft. “Our thesis is simple,” they said. “We believe it is neither socially nor technically advisable to rely on a progressively smaller group of specialists, increasingly separate from the rest of society, to provide the collective defense, nor does having such a small elite control the tools of modern, automated, and computerized war comply with democratic principles.”


Let’s Call It Meat

5/24/18 – After examining progress in growing meat in the laboratory, two environmental scholars argued in Issues that it is time to “start thinking about how factory-grown meat might transform our food system, the environment, and even our culture.” Well, thinking has started—and is getting a bit contentious. Missouri may soon become the first state to legally define what “meat” is or is not, and proponents and critics are arguing over whether the legislation will protect food integrity and reduce consumer confusion or thwart an emerging industry that can provide healthier, more humane, and environmentally sustainable food products.


Vaccines Losing a Bit of Shine

5/23/18 – US residents are losing some confidence in the value and safety of vaccinations for measles and other diseases, according to a new survey, with 70% now saying vaccines are very important, down from 80% a decade ago. Why a decline? In Issues, a philosopher and data analyst recently noted that opinions about vaccines don’t depend solely on scientific evidence, but also reflect deepening social disagreements about the nature of risk and the role of experts.


Facing Reproducibility Fears

5/23/18 – Current fears of a “reproducibility crisis” in research are shortsighted, a quartet of scientists and philosophers say, because a key part of scientific inquiry is in fact the integration of conflicting observations and ideas into a coherent theory. But even as failures may lead to success, a longtime science reporter recently argued in Issues that an increasing amount of “poor-quality” biomedical science is amplifying reproducibility problems, and he offered suggestions for reducing built-in pressures on researchers that are having a corrosive effect on output from scientific labs.


Sorry, Bob, We Do Need a Weatherman

5/17/18 – With this year’s US hurricane season approaching and damage from last year’s storms still vivid, the nation has “not fixed the underlying major problem, which is an utterly nonresilient infrastructure that at the end of the day will determine how much suffering there is after a large storm,” says an expert on disaster preparedness. On this front, three researchers recently noted in Issues that social, ecological, technical, and institutional issues often seem to set up infrastructure for failure, and they proposed an integrated and systemic approach for building and maintaining systems that will be more resilient.


Is a College Degree Always a Good Idea?

5/17/18 – In arguing that college may no longer be worth it for many students, a Boston-based professor says many jobs don’t really require a college degree. So “why do employers demand a degree for jobs that don’t require them?” she asks. “Because they can.” In Issues, a longtime workforce scholar recently foreshadowed this assessment, and he proposed policy changes that would help provide everyone with “opportunities to learn and to advance in accord with their wishes and motivations without sacrificing already meager paychecks.”


Expanding Public Participation in Policy Making

5/15/18 – The Open Government Partnership, created to bring citizens and governments closer in policy-making, just released a new “toolkit” that details best practices and action plans proven to work in projects around the world and explains how other groups can use the lessons in pursing open government reforms. In Issues, a self-described “change maker and engineer” recently offered a view from the trenches at ways, including expanding public participation, to scale up policy innovations in federal government.


Trade Deal May Miss Opportunity

5/12/18 – Negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement have reportedly hit a snag that may make it impossible to reach agreement on a new deal by a fast-approaching deadline for gaining approval from the US Congress. But in a broader look behind the scenes, an economic analyst has argued in Issues that the three partners, who are already well served by the agreement, could gain even greater benefit by acting as a regional partnership to jointly engage the global community on a range of trade issues.


Fake News Hitting Mexico

5/11/18 – An Arizona-based scholar of emerging technologies recently described in Issues what he called weaponized narratives, or the use of communication tools and services to spread stories intended to undermine an adversary’s resiliency. Even as he saw the United States being particularly vulnerable, the threat has now reached into Mexico, with a variety of false messages flooding both mainstream and social media in advance of the country’s upcoming presidential election.

Puerto Rico’s Infrastructure Woes Continue

5/9/18 – Months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, some rural areas of the island still lack electricity, and even restored sections of the power grid face regular outages. Such disruptions of basic infrastructure by extreme weather events are likely to become more common with climate change, a trio of analysts recently noted in Issues, and they proposed some technological and policy innovations for designing, building, and maintaining energy and other critical infrastructure systems that will be more resilient to future challenges.

Caution Light Flashing for Self-Driving Cars

5/7/18 – Recent accidents involving self-driving cars have rekindled debate about regulating their use and prompted one state to require companies testing them to more fully report glitches that occur. In Issues, an analyst who focuses on governance of emerging technologies recently took a deep look at how self-driving cars may change the world in ways both anticipated and unexpected, and he proposed that any new rules should be flexible while ensuring that the vehicles are safe, broadly accessible, and avoid problematic unintended consequences.

Looking Behind Vow to End “War on Coal”

5/5/18 – The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency recently told a New York radio show that he planned to end what he called the Obama administration’s “war on coal,” declaring that the government should not use its regulatory power to pick “winners and losers” in the energy industry. But in Issues, the head a major consulting firm recently explained coal’s decline as an energy source over the past century, tracing it to technological and social changes rather than to political factors, let alone a presumptive war on coal.


US Leadership Needed on Pandemic Preparedness

4/30/18 – Entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates says the US government needs to develop an overarching strategy and new tools to prepare the nation and the world for the “significant probability of a large and lethal modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes.” One challenge will be counteracting the misinformed texts, tweets, e-mails, blogs, and videos that will run rampant, another technology innovator recently explained in Issues, calling for the creation of a volunteer corps of scientists and communicators who can quickly provide accurate, clear, and credible information to the public.


How Global Conservatives See Climate Change

4/25/18 – Around the globe—except in the United States—climate change is a nonpartisan issue even among conservatives, says a video report in the New York Times. And as Issues has presented, even as US political waters roil there are a number of ways to address climate change that could find political and public support across the ideological spectrum, including some specific ideas that reflect core conservative convictions.

Rocket Business Taking Off

4/24/18 – Not long ago in Issues, a space analyst described how private industry was moving increasingly into the space business, adding that the shift would require the US government to adjust its space programs and policies accordingly. Well, that trend is only gaining altitude, says a report in the Washington Post, as an expanding roster of companies are building rockets to carry satellites—and people—into orbit or beyond.



The Real Factors Driving Coal’s Decline

2/26/18 – Three signals recently sounded for the coal industry, according to an opinion article in the New York Times, with all of them suggesting that coal-fired power in the United States is in trouble and likely won’t be making a significant comeback. In Issues, an experienced environmental consultant has laid out a timeline of coal’s decline as an energy source over the past century, tracing it to technological and social changes rather than to what conservative critics have called a political “war on coal.”

Migratory Animals Face Increasing Perils

2/23/18 – Migratory herds of animals, the lifeblood of many landscapes in the western United States, face increasing perils, says a researcher who tracks them, but in a ray of hope, government and private groups have proposed a variety of creative ways to help these wanderers. In an earlier analysis in Issues, a specialist in the conservation of biodiversity took a global look at threats to animal migrations, calling for international action to sustain these inspiring natural wonders.


US Charges Russians with Political Interference

2/20/18 – In Issues recently, a scholar who studies the ethical and social dimensions of emerging technologies laid out the ways that nations and groups can use “weaponized narratives” to undermine the common values and beliefs of their adversaries. Now, the concept has struck home, with the US Justice Department indicting a group of Russian individuals and companies for conducting a long-running internet scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and details emerging about how the “troll factory” seamlessly insinuated its workers into the US political conversation.

New Way for the Highway

2/15/18 – President Trump just called for lawmakers to raise the federal fuel tax to help pay for the nation’s roads and bridges, but the proposal met fierce opposition and its fate remains uncertain. There may be a better mousetrap anyway. In Issues, an engineer who studies technological adaptation recently proposed shifting to a vehicle mileage tax, calling it a fair and adaptable way to fund highway needs in the face of coming dramatic changes in the vehicles that people drive and how they use them.

Infrastructure for All

2/14/18 – The Trump administration just announced its long-awaited infrastructure plan, which is light on federal spending and heavy on expected investments from the private sector. But in Issues, two scholars recently detailed how private investors in past efforts to deploy three major types of infrastructure—railroads, electricity, and the internet—initially targeted communities that were already well off. Matters were set aright only by “citizen activism that demanded fairer treatment for average Americans,” they said, adding a call for new policies that “recognize the public benefits of infrastructure and seek to level the playing field for underserved areas.”


Arrests of Immigrants Gaining Speed

2/13/18 – Arrests of immigrants in the United States surged by 40% during the past fiscal year, with the biggest jump occurring among immigrants who had committed no crime other than being in the country illegally. This marks one of many ways that government has defined millions of people as being “outside of civil society,” a leading sociologist recently noted in Issues, adding that “We need to think about whether that is something we want our laws to do…and whether there might be a better way of thinking about the human rights of people and the right to social inclusion.”

Nuclear Energy at Tipping Point

2/9/18 – The United States is at a “tipping point” with its fading nuclear power sector, a federal official told a US congressional committee, adding that its future will depend on developing advanced reactors that are cheaper to build and safer to operate. Issues has recently taken several deep dives into these waters, with experts offering an even fuller roadmap for how to revitalize nuclear energy and explaining why it would be a strategic mistake for the nation to abandon its leadership in this important technology market to international competitors who are actively pushing ahead.

HUD Says Storm Recovery Must Account for Rising Seas

2/8/18 – The US Department of Housing and Urban Development just announced that states receiving federal funding for recovery following last year’s three major hurricanes must take into account projected rises in sea level when building in flood-prone areas. The rule aligns with proposals offered recently in Issues as analysts detailed why the nation needs to rethink its infrastructure—the technical components as well as the varied systems for managing them—in the face of climate change and what actions will help ensure resilience.


Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Tesla!


2/7/18 – As a symbol of the private sector venturing into the space business, little might rise higher than Falcon Heavy, the giant rocket built and test-launched recently by SpaceX, a company owned by the entrepreneur Elon Musk, and carrying as payload a red electric sports car from another Musk company, Tesla. But this is just one example of an emerging trend. A space analyst recently noted in Issues that with more businesses—and more countries—expanding their activities, the United States, long the dominant player, will need to reshape its space agencies and policies beyond their conventional boundaries.


Mass Incarceration Exacts Major Health Toll

2/6/18 – Mass incarceration in the United States is a public health scourge that hits not only those locked up but also their family members and even the workers in detention settings, says a new review. In Issues, two correctional experts also recently examined the status of health care in prisons and jails, offering a set of policy recommendations that would benefit inmates, their home communities, and the nation at large.


Coping with Fake News During Health Emergencies

2/1/18 – As the flu continues to spread, false reports have also marched across the internet, including claims that a government doctor linked the epidemic to the flu vaccine itself. Indeed, an innovator in digital networks recently suggested in Issues that coping with major disease outbreaks will likely be complicated by misinformation magnified through the explosion of unfiltered channels of communication, and he called for assembling a global volunteer corps of scientists and communicators who can respond quickly and precisely to social and scientific challenges that arise during health emergencies.


Memo to Davos: Business Should Aim for a Better World

1/29/18 – Reflecting on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a New York Times columnist declared that the most interesting participants were the entrepreneurs striving to use technology and other tools of business to address social problems. In Issues, a leading social thinker recently offered an even broader perspective, suggesting that society most needs technologies that will help shift “the focus of our actions from seeking ever-greater wealth to investing more of our time and resources in social lives, public action, and spiritual and intellectual activities.”


AI to Create New “Alternative Data” Jobs for Humans

1/28/18 – In what he hoped would help drive an ongoing national analysis, an economic analyst examined in Issues the types of skills and jobs that are now or will soon become vulnerable to replacement by artificial intelligence and robotics, seeing possible problems for many current workers, but also potential for significant gains. In an expansion on this theme, Newsweek recently explored how the emerging “alternative data industry,” powered by AI systems able to connect many pieces of data into a holistic view, will likely create a variety of new jobs never before imagined.

Even as Congress Dithers, Immigration Can Be Improved

1/27/18 – A powerful Republican lawmaker is expected to introduce a bill in the US Senate that would more than double the number of temporary visas available to high-skilled workers from overseas, as other legislators call for reducing the number of visas offered. But even as arguments swirl, proposals are already available in Issues for practical ways to improve the immigration and visa systems to meet the nation’s scientific and engineering needs while protecting opportunities for US workers and students.

State Lessons on Reducing Incarceration

1/26/18 – More than two-thirds of states significantly reduced their prison populations between 2008 and 2016, and all but one of them saw a simultaneous drop in crime rates, according to an analysis of new federal statistics. As part of a series on mass incarceration in Issues, two officials at the Council of State Governments Justice Center described the experiences of four states, noting lessons that others might apply in reducing incarceration while ensuring public safety.

Twitter Users Reportedly Conned by Russia

1/22/18 – The social media giant Twitter just disclosed thousands of accounts associated with the Russian government and a Kremlin-linked troll farm that collectively posted more than a million misleading messages preceding the 2016 US elections, adding that “such activity represents a challenge to democratic societies everywhere.” In Issues, a scholar who studies the ethical and social dimensions of emerging technologies recently offered a detailed analysis of such “weaponized narratives,” including how they are used, what factors are catalyzing their spread, and how they might be resisted.

China: Emerging Scientific Superpower

1/20/18 – Voluminous data in two new federal reports suggest that China has become—or is on the verge of becoming—a scientific and technical superpower, says the economics columnist for the Washington Post. In Issues, a scholar at one of China’s leading universities recently provided something of an insider’s look at what may be fueling his country’s gains, and in particular how the scientific and technical background of many of its leaders plays a major role in their exercise of political power.

EV Credits Survive, but Much Work Remains


12/20/17 – Once tipped for elimination, federal income tax credits for buying electric vehicles (EVs) still remain under the newly adopted tax overhaul. But even if credits help put more EVs on the road, other policy and technology advances, described recently by an energy analyst in Issues, will be required to capitalize on their potential for offsetting the climate-changing effects of carbon emissions from the transport sector.

Cognitive Dissonance: Republican Views of Climate Change


12/19/17 – Among registered Republicans nationwide, only about half say that climate change is happening and fewer than a third say humans are responsible, yet a majority in every congressional district say they support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, according to a new study. In such context, a trio of analysts has presented in Issues a broad portfolio of technology options that could appeal to people of all political stripes, while a conservative scholar has explained what his camp would consider acceptable new climate policies and actions.

Possible Health Risks from Fracking


12/17/17 – Pregnant women living near an oil or natural gas “fracking” well were more likely to give birth to worryingly small babies than were women living farther away, says a new study described here. In Issues, a team of analysts earlier expressed concern that the public lacks credible information on potential public health and environmental effects of fracking, calling on states to require independent monitoring of air and water quality near all wells and to make the information available so local communities can better participate in managing risks.


California Considering Vehicle Mileage Tax


12/13/17 – California recently announced that it is studying ways to move from its conventional fuel tax that drivers pay at the pump to a system in which drivers will pay based on how many miles they drove since their last fill-up. This represents a type of vehicle mileage tax that an energy analyst recommended in Issues as a fair and adaptable way to fund highway needs as electric, shared, and autonomous vehicles become increasingly common.

Older Smokers Vaping to Kick Their Habit


12/9/17 – States and municipalities can significantly aid public heath by working around reluctant federal agencies to establish programs to help smokers reduce the harm they face from cigarettes by switching to e-cigarettes, or vaping, a health behavior expert recently suggested in Issues. In fact, the New York Times reports that more smokers now try to quit by using vaping rather than conventional nicotine-replacement methods, and the idea is even catching on among older smokers who have a greater need to quit but have often been resistant to other options.

Anti-immigrant Policies Could Boost Crime


12/6/17 – Recent years have seen a steady merging of efforts to deal with crime and immigration—dubbed by some scholars “crimmigration”—and in Issues a leading sociologist has examined the ill effects this has had on the nation. From another perspective, the police chief in Tucson, Arizona, recently wrote in the New York Times that the Trump administration’s “crackdown on immigrants is having a chilling effect on police-community relations” that threatens to “compromise public safety by reducing community confidence in law enforcement.”

Apprenticeships Have Room to Grow


12/4/17 – There is significant opportunity to expand apprenticeships in the United States, a new report finds, as the number of occupations commonly filled via apprenticeships could be nearly tripled and the number of job openings covered by this approach could be multiplied eightfold. Issues has also examined the potential of apprenticeships and ways to expand them to help students not bound for college gain skills that will enable them to enjoy satisfying and financially rewarding employment.

Robots Could Fill Third of US Jobs


12/2/17 – Over the next dozen or so years, automation will force roughly a third of workers in the United States to find other ways to make money, a new study reports. In an earlier take on the automated future, an economic analyst described in Issues the kinds of jobs that robots and information technology might fill over a similar period, concluding that the nation will need to make careful and immediate adjustments to cope with expected disruptions in labor markets.

UN Holds First Talks on Autonomous Weapons


11/27/17 – The United Nations recently held its first official discussions on how to prevent the use of fully autonomous lethal weapons that can identify and destroy targets without human control. But critics dinged the pace of progress, warning that a “killer robot” arms race is already under way. In Issues, two analysts have approached this matter from a broader perspective, looking at whether and how any devices that rely fundamentally on artificial intelligence should be regulated, and they cited AI-aided lethal weapons as the obvious and most critical place to begin.


Black Men Get Harsher Prison Sentences


11/25/17 – Black men are sentenced to far more time in prison than white men for committing similar crimes, says a new report from an independent agency of the US judicial branch, and racial disparities in sentencing appear to have increased over the past two decades. The findings seemingly align with observations that people of color are overrepresented in US prisons and jails, as a sociologist and a former judge recently explained in Issues, and that mass incarceration disproportionally hurts communities of color in a variety of ways.


Germany Boosting Solar but Still Digging Coal

11/19/17 – Despite its stated goal of dramatically reducing carbon emissions by aggressively pursing clean energy technologies and phasing out fossil fuels, Germany is still burning lots of an especially dirty form of coal and is likely to badly miss its upcoming emission-reduction targets. In Issues, a renewable energy expert who worked as a manager at a large German utility group recently took an in-depth look at the problems Germany has encountered in moving to a clean and affordable energy system and offered lessons that other nations can learn from its experiences.


Ask for a Window Seat


10/18/17 – As one of a number of companies looking to provide fast and affordable access to space, Boeing is developing a “spaceplane” called the Phantom Express to carry satellites routinely into orbit while operating much like its passenger jet cousins. Indeed, Issues recently examined the increasing role of private companies in space activities and how the US government will need to adjust its space programs and policies to capitalize on shifting opportunities.

Cloud Brightening and Moral Character


11/16/17 – One idea for cooling the atmosphere and curbing climate change is to “brighten” marine clouds by seeding them with saltwater, thereby increasing their ability to reflect solar rays. Indeed, federal policy-makers recently examined how government might play a role in advancing the research. And from another perspective, a professor working on this technology joined with two professors of ethics and religion to suggest in Issues that researchers of climate engineering should be chosen not only for their technical skills but also for their moral habits of character.


Geoengineering: Maybe, and Only as Part of a Larger Plan

11/14/17 – A congressional subcommittee recently held hearings on the potential of geoengineering to keep climate change in check. But two dozen prominent thinkers in the field cautioned in a letter to the lawmakers that though this approach may hold promise, “Any consideration of a federally funded and coordinated research program into geoengineering must be in the context of a strategic portfolio of responses to climate change, which leads with climate science, mitigation and adaptation.” Two of the letter’s signers have also argued this case here and here in Issues.

Climate Changing, Humans Responsible, Action Possible


11/7/17 – Contrary to statements by President Trump and many of his advisers, the global climate has warmed considerably over the past century and it is “extremely likely” than human activities are the “dominant cause,” according to a major new report. But even as wrangling continues, there are practical climate-related policy and technology options available, described in Issues here and here, that could appeal to government officials and private citizens all along the political spectrum.



Taxing Vehicle Miles: A Better Way to Fund Highways


11/2/17 – The Trump administration is reportedly considering raising federal motor fuel taxes, perhaps by seven cents per gallon, to pay for its infrastructure investment plan. But a sustainable-energy analyst recently argued in Issues that it would be better to institute a tax based on vehicle miles traveled, which would more accurately track with vehicle-caused road damage and offer a wider range of options for navigating the looming revolutions of electric, autonomous, and shared vehicles.

War of the Words

11/1/17 – The increasing span of social media is raising dramatically the ability of adversaries of the United States to spread “weaponized narratives” aimed at undermining public faith in the nation’s culture and institutions, a scholar who studies the ethical and social dimensions of emerging technologies recently observed in Issues. Now comes new data on just how big this has become, with Facebook telling Congress that Russia-linked divisive posts about the 2016 presidential election may have reached 126 million people and Twitter saying that Russia-generated tweets reached 288 million people.



Expanding Ocean Observations to Aid Climate Forecasting

10/31/17 – The US government should mount a comprehensive effort to study the ocean on a sustained basis over 10 years to gain information essential for monitoring and forecasting changes in Earth’s climate, says a new report from an influential science advisory group. In the same spirit, a policy analyst has argued in Issues for paying added attention to the ocean and its role in a variety of national concerns, recommending that the job be assigned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which would be greatly expanded using funds redirected from NASA.

Looking Beyond Leaner Bacon

10/30/17 – Scientists in China have now used the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas 9 to produce pigs that can better regulate their body temperatures by burning fat, resulting in leaner animals that can survive better in cold weather. But in a cautionary note, two researchers argued recently in Issues that society should not focus narrowly on the “pursuit of our scientific capacity to engineer animals for consumption,” but should also address the “ethical challenges of our relationships with animals,” recognizing that “far from being merely editable genetic material and edible flesh, they are also living individuals that merit our serious moral consideration.”


Canada Welcomes Skilled Immigrants


10/29/17 – In a bid to catalyze new high-tech companies, Canada is now marketing itself as more welcoming than the United States for skilled foreign workers looking to set up shop. Issues has examined this international action from various angles, exploring the outsized role of immigrants as entrepreneurs and inventors in the United States and detailing how the US government can reform its visa and immigration policies to capitalize on the talents of foreign scientists and engineers while remaining fair for native-born students and workers.

Counting What Matters in Science


10/19/17 – The reward system in biomedical research can lead scientists to overlook potential biases—often unconscious—and fool themselves into believing a study’s splashy but flawed findings, a longtime science reporter recently argued in Issues, adding that such distorted studies “pervade the biomedical literature” and contribute to what’s become known as the “reproducibility crisis.” Extending this analysis, a scholar who works at the intersection of machine learning and computational linguistics says the best way around the reproducibility problem to scrap the current focus on the statistical significance of individual studies and instead pursue science in a way that “explicitly recognizes its communal and interconnected nature.”


NAFTA Works, but Can Work Even Better

10/17/17 – Two former high-ranking officials in the United States and Mexico recently argued for keeping—and strengthening—the North American Free Trade Agreement, which may be edging toward collapse, saying it has boosted the US economy and transformed the three-nation region into a global powerhouse. A trade policy expert made this case earlier in Issues, while proposing some updates to make NAFTA work even better as the partners engage world markets.


Misguided Arguments about Carbon and Climate


10/14/17 – As part of its drive to overturn the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency recently released significantly lower estimates of the so-called social cost of carbon dioxide, a measure widely used to weigh the value of actions aimed at stopping climate change. Arguments about the numbers ensued. But in Issues, analysts have identified a more fundamental problem—the social cost of carbon dioxide is the wrong guide to follow—and they proposed an alternative method that better reflects what is known about long-term effects of climate change and how these effects should be valued by today’s decision-makers.

Study Finds Vaping Safer Than Cigarettes

10/12/17 – If every cigarette smoker switched to using e-cigarettes, the result would be “tremendous health benefits” and a “significant gain in years of life,” according to a new study said to be the first to examine the health outcomes of such a switch. The findings align with an idea proposed in Issues that states should “move immediately and decisively beyond the serious limitations of federal tobacco law” and launch programs to test vaping and other tobacco alternatives as ways to reduce overall smoking rates.


Old MacDonald Had a Factory


10/11/17 – Raising livestock in large numbers for food is an ethical failing and environmental disaster, a columnist recently argued in the Guardian, a British newspaper, adding that the solution will come “only with the advent of cheap artificial meat.” With such a day in mind, two Arizona-based analysts have said in Issues that society should start thinking about “adaptive and responsible policy and institutional responses to the unpredictable and far-reaching social consequences of a transition to the production and consumption of factory-grown meat.”




What’s Driving Measles Outbreaks?


10/9/17 – The steady increase in measles outbreaks in the United States is most likely due to people who choose not to vaccinate their children, a major new government study has found. But increasing vaccination rates will not be achieved “simply by pointing to the scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective,” a philosopher of science said recently in Issues, explaining that “science” must often compete with deeper political and philosophical matters, such as varying perceptions of risk and the role of expertise in a democracy.


Fighting Troublesome Algae Blooms


10/8/17 – A thick bloom of algae now covers a huge area of western Lake Erie, nourished by nutrients running off of agricultural and urban lands, and such algal explosions are projected to become increasingly common in waterways across much of the United States. In Issues, three researchers have presented a range of options for restricting nutrient runoff, not only to protect the environment but to help rein in climate change.

US Automakers Plan Electric Future


10/3/17 – General Motors “believes in an all-electric future,” an official said in announcing plans to greatly expand its lineup of electric vehicles, and Ford said it plans to do likewise. But to fully capitalize on the potential of electric vehicles for reducing climate-altering carbon emissions from the transport sector, an analyst recently explained in Issues, new investments are needed in large-scale electricity storage and new public policies are needed to encourage recharging when renewable energy sources are providing the power.

Addressing Core Questions of Criminal Justice and Race


10/2/17 – The controversy that erupted when many professional football players protested during the national anthem is misguided, an opinion writer says in the New York Times, adding that “we need a public argument clearly tethered to the two big policy questions raised by police misconduct and the broader crime and incarceration debate.” Addressing these questions, he says, “could point to a stable policy consensus around race and criminal justice, in a way that our present ‘Make America Great Again’ versus ‘You’re All White Supremacists’ culture war does not.” Well, Issues has provided a start, offering a series of articles by criminal justice experts that examine ways to reduce incarceration rates while protecting public safety, help current prisoners re-enter society, and ease the particularly damaging effects of incarceration on communities of color.



Aussies Launching Official Space Agency


9/27/17 – Though Australia has been active in space for decades, and was among the first countries to launch a satellite, it has never had a national space agency—until now. In announcing the new agency, an official said it would help the nation keep up with the “global space industry” that is “growing rapidly.” In Issues, an analyst recently surveyed the worldwide expansion of space activities by governments and private companies, adding a caution that the United States will need to adjust its policies to changing conditions.


Congress Probing Hostile Social Media Posts

9/26/17 – Congress is investigating Russia’s alleged use of social media to influence the 2016 US presidential campaign, and Facebook has handed over more than 3,000 ads believed to have played a role. Attacks on the United States using such “weaponized narratives” are likely to expand, a researcher who studies emerging technologies recently explained in Issues, as adversaries experiment with new ways to undermine the nation’s beliefs and values.


Gene Editing Entering New Stage

9/20/17 – Two new scientific achievements illustrate the wide-ranging potential of the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9: the first-ever manipulation of a key gene in human embryos that yielded fundamental insight into how single cells transform into complex babies, and the laboratory creation of colorful butterfly wings that may offer clues in evolutionary biology. The advances also suggest the array of social concerns accompanying the new technology, as covered recently by Issues in a series of articles.

Arguing for Fuel Economy Standards


9/19/17 – Three environmental groups are now suing the US government for delaying higher fines for automakers whose new vehicles don’t meet fuel economy standards. The delay seemingly aligns with federal plans to consider lowering the standards for the 2021-2025 model years. But two leaders of a major energy study maintain in Issues that fuel economy standards, combined with carefully crafted fuel taxes, represent the nation’s most practical bet for cutting energy use and funding infrastructure in the transportation sector.

An Engineered Chestnut Tree


9/17/17 – In a report on efforts in Maine to grow a classically hybridized and healthy strain of the blight-devastated American chestnut tree, a Portland-based newspaper also examines the prospects of genetically modified versions that carry a useful gene taken from wheat. In Issues, a philosopher considers the genetically modified candidates from her camp, concluding that public debates about their value will likely turn on both metaphysical and practical considerations.


Seizing the “Teachable Moment” of Flooding

9/12/17 – As Texas and the Southeast still reel from hurricane waters, the primary focus remains on meeting residents’ immediate needs. But from a broader perspective, an environmentalist has explained in Issues his hope that flood events can serve as a “teachable moment” that spurs people and governments in coastal communities to fundamentally rethink how they make local land-use decisions in the face of predicted rising sea levels. And at the website The Conversation, two experienced analysts offer a set of practical rules for designing infrastructure to better cope with extreme weather events.


Chinese Surge in Artificial Intelligence


9/8/17 – A major US investment bank reported recently that China will soon catch up with the United States in developing and applying artificial intelligence to drive economic progress. In Issues, a scholar at a leading Chinese university has suggested that his country’s recent and continuing progress in various areas of science and technology is linked strongly to the support of large numbers of government officials at all levels who have some form of technical education.

Taxing Robots


9/5/17 – A city official in San Francisco has called for a tax on robots that automate jobs and put people out of work, saying that “it’s important to think now about how people will earn a living as more U.S. jobs are lost to automation.” In Issues, an economic analyst surveyed the kinds of jobs that robots and information technology might fill over the next two decades, but noted that with careful planning humans can find ways of interacting with their automated creations to the benefit of workers and society alike.

Follow Nature’s Lessons on Floods


9/5/17 – As floodwaters still plague Houston after Hurricane Harvey, two water-resource specialists say that a report on the Great Flood of 1993 in the upper Midwest showed policy makers how to mitigate or prevent severe flooding, but the advice went largely unheeded. In Issues, another pair of experts commenting five years after that report pointed out a host of actions still needed—many of them missing even today—and stressed that the key would be adopting a more informed kind of flood management that involves working with the forces of nature instead of simply trying to eliminate them.

Paroling Some Violent Offenders Makes Sense


9/3/17 – To meaningfully reduce the number of people incarcerated in the United States, more attention should be paid to paroling inmates convicted of violent crimes “who may have been dangerous in the past” but “are no longer a threat to public safety,” a criminal justice scholar argues in the Atlantic. Two expert analysts recently made a similar case in Issues as part of their analysis of mass incarceration and what states have learned about reforming the correctional and judicial systems.


Red Alert: Weaponized Narratives


9/1/17 – Recent conflicts in the United States stirred by extreme right-wing protestors have been featured on social media recently as a Russia-based network cranked out alarmism and disinformation, according to a group that monitors such messages. In Issues, a scholar of emerging technologies says use of “weaponized narratives” is increasingly common, providing an ideal asymmetric strategy for adversaries to attack US beliefs and values that support the nation’s culture and resiliency.


President Seems Willing to Ax NAFTA


8/25/17 – Even as negotiators have barely started talking about the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Trump declared at a recent rally in Arizona that he doubted the United States can reach a deal with Mexico and Canada. But in Issues, an expert on international economics has argued that NAFTA has been a boon for US industry, and by making some proposed improvements and expansions, the three partners can even increase their competitiveness in world markets.

Manufactured Meat Beefing Up


8/24/17 – Two leading entrepreneurs are among investors backing a California-based start-up company that plans to make and sell meat on an industrial scale from self-producing animal cells, eliminating the need to raise and slaughter livestock or poultry. Looking toward such commercialization, two specialists in sustainable engineering explored in Issues how factory-grown meat “might transform our food system, the environment, and even our culture.”

Call for Action on Controlling AI Weapons


8/22/17 – In a recent examination in Issues of whether artificial intelligence should be regulated, a technologist and a social scientist argued that the case for regulation is clear in one specific area: the development of autonomous weapons that employ AI to decide when to fire, how much force to apply, and on what targets. Now, leaders of AI companies worldwide have sent an open letter to the United Nations urging quick action “to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”




Public Wants Say on Gene Editing in Humans

8/20/17 – To ensure that efforts to edit human genes progress in a safe and ethical manner, the public should be included in discussions about how—and whether—to proceed, an international panel of leaders in the field recently stated in Issues. Indeed, a new national US survey found that a majority of the people who responded think the public should be consulted before genome editing is used in humans.


Fixing a Flaw in Criminal Justice

8/15/17 – Roughly a dozen states are modifying their use of a legal process that sends juveniles charged with crimes directly into the adult justice system where rehabilitation may not be of highest priority. As a leading expert explains in Issues, accumulating scientific evidence is revealing that young people may be prone to making risky decisions because their brains are not fully developed and that this condition could well correct itself with time.


E-cigarettes Win a Round


8/12/17 – The Food and Drug Administration has delayed regulations that would have nearly halted sales of electronic cigarettes and at the same time signaled a willingness to allow the devices to be marketed as smoking-cessation aids. The shift would leave room for a proposal offered recently in Issues by a community health specialist to conduct a series of policy experiments to assess the full health effects and possible benefits of e-cigarettes and other alternative products to identify the best ways to reduce the harm caused by conventional smoking.



First Use of CRISPR on Human Embryos


8/10/17 – Scientists for the first time have successfully altered a specific gene in human embryos to remove a mutation known to cause a disease, in this case a common and potentially deadly heart condition. If the embryos were allowed to develop into babies, they would not only be disease-free but would not later transmit the mutation to descendants. Such work raises social, legal, ethical, and policy questions that were analyzed in a series of articles in Issues.

The Value of Immigrant Talent


8/8/17 – The Trump administration’s recent proposal to halve the number of legal immigrants into the United States is exactly backward, says the head of a major education organization, calling instead for expansion of opportunities available to skilled foreign workers and promising students. Along these lines, a policy analyst has proposed in Issues comprehensive reforms of the federal visa and immigration systems for scientists and engineers that will meet the nation’s scientific, educational, and economic needs while being fair to US workers and students.



Improve, Don’t Cut, the Chemical Safety Board

8/3/17 – The Chemical Safety Board, which investigates chemical industry accidents and makes safety recommendations, is slated for elimination, but a labor activist argues against the move, citing the good it has done in his community. Even a former board member who resigned because of its bureaucratic fumblings gave it a nod recently in Issues, though emphasizing that the board will need to adopt a set of reforms centered primarily on making it more open and accountable to the public.

Paying to Protect the Environment May Work–or Not

8/1/17 – A research team has demonstrated what reportedly may be an effective way to slow tree-cutting in the tropical forests of western Uganda and thereby protect endangered chimpanzees living there: pay local landowners small sums not to chop down their trees. Indeed, the concept of paying for ecosystem services is gaining attention. But an economist and former federal environmental official recently cautioned in Issues that relying on economic justifications for conservation could backfire and undermine other compelling arguments for protecting nature.

Maximizing Climate Benefits of Electric Vehicles


7/21/17 – In the next decade or so, electric vehicles (EVs) will become cheaper than conventional fossil-fueled cars and will outsell them even without government subsidies, says a New York Times editorial. But an analyst recently argued in Issues that simply getting more EVs on the road will not be enough to offset the climate-changing effects of carbon emissions from the transport sector. Electricity grids also must incorporate greater levels of clean renewable energy, and electricity providers must incentivize public recharging of EVs when renewable energy generation is at its peak.


CRISPR Enlists in War on Cancer


7/14/17 – In what may be “the beginning of something big,” a scientific advisory panel for the US Food and Drug Administration has recommended approval of a new type of therapy that genetically alters a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. The therapy draws fundamentally on a revolutionary technique, called CRISPR/Cas9, for editing genes precisely and with relative ease. As CRISPR/Cas9 was emerging from the laboratory, Issues published a series of articles based on an international summit that reviewed the technology’s backstory and examined the social, legal, ethical, and policy questions essential to understanding how (or whether) to move it into broader use.

Tax Help for Boosting Productivity


7/13/17 – When and if Congress finally acts on its pledge to overhaul the federal tax code, a key step should be to expand the corporate tax credit for research and development, a nonpartisan think tank says in a new report, calling it a proven way to boost industry productivity and raise workers’ incomes. In a broader look in Issues, an experienced economic analyst similarly pointed to the need for technology-focused growth policies and proposed a four-part national investment strategy designed to yield steady productivity gains and create high-paying, high-skill jobs.


Space Revolution Gaining Speed

With an expanding roster of companies sending fleets of low-cost satellites into orbit, “You’ll have the space economy integrating with the terrestrial economy like it never did before,” a venture capitalist invested in the movement says in an expansive article, complete with a map of global launch facilities, in Bloomberg Businessweek. In Issues, a space analyst offered an early look at this unfolding revolution and detailed how the United States can reshape its space agencies and policies to capitalize on changing global trends.


Nudging States to Cut Prison Populations


7/5/17 – Two lawmakers recently introduced a bill in the US Senate authorizing the federal government to offer financial grants to states to encourage them to cut their prison populations. Toward this aim, state policy makers could draw on a decade’s worth of lessons, detailed in Issues, about what works for reducing incarceration levels while also protecting public safety, holding offenders accountable, and controlling corrections costs.

Are Bats the Viral Villains?

7/3/17 – A new study suggests that bats are especially likely to harbor viruses dangerous to humans, though the researchers caution that more needs to be learned and that there’s no reason to fear or fight these important flying mammals. In Issues, a long-time authority on bats recently presented his case on why bats have mistakenly been singled out as potential spreaders of viral diseases and how this caused problems for bats and humans alike.




Jails Good Places to Help Opioid Addicts


6/27/17 – With many states facing an epidemic of opiate addiction accompanied by more people locked up for drug offenses, jails provide a natural place to provide treatment—maybe even “the best place to initiate addict recovery”—says an opinion article in the New York Times. In Issues, two medical and judicial experts have also cited the importance of treating incarcerated drug addicts, as part of a larger recommended effort to improve overall health care within correctional systems.



Finns Show the Way on Nuclear Waste Storage


6/26/17 – Plans for building the nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, fell apart a decade ago because, in part, federal officials didn’t do enough to win support from state and local residents, analysts have said in Issues. Heeding this lesson, Finland is now well along in building what will be the world’s first long-term nuclear waste repository, with one official recounting that community involvement was key and that “very soon we learned that we had to be very open.”


Keeping Former Inmates on the Right Track


6/24/17 – Unwinding mass incarceration will require more effort to help the large number of people already in the criminal justice system successfully reenter society, two experts on criminal justice recently said in Issues, adding recommendations for action. Two new reports from key organizations now take up the case, as summarized here, highlighting how state and local governments have changed their approach to reentry in recent years and offering lessons from states that have significantly reduced recidivism.


The President’s New Apprentices


6/22/17 – “I love the name apprentice,” President Trump just said in announcing that the nation needs a stronger system of apprenticeships to match workers with open jobs, adding that his administration plans to get companies and schools to pair up and pay the cost of such arrangements. Issues also has a history with apprenticeships, examining (here and here) how they and other forms of technical training—often with government input and support—can effectively prepare young people for jobs that industry needs today and into the future.


Attracting Investors to Energy-Thrifty Buildings


5/25/17 – Buildings account for roughly three-quarters of all electricity used in the United States, but this tab can be cut at least in half using technologies that can be developed over the next few decades, given the right incentives for research and invention, an analyst has argued in Issues. And the World Resources Institute recently extended the case, detailing a range of policy options that could help attract private investment to energy-efficient buildings.


Kiwi Rocket Made with 3-D Printer


5/23/17 – A US-based company with Kiwi roots is set to enter the commercial space market with the launch from New Zealand of its new type of rocket—powered by electricity, made of light-weight carbon fibers, and produced using a 3-D printer—that will specialize in carrying small satellites into orbit. This reflects the changing nature of the space industry, described recently in Issues by an analyst who also noted that participation by more countries and private companies is pressing the US government to reshape its space agencies and policies to reflect global trends.


States Easing Up on Locking Up

5/21/17 – Even as the US Attorney General is instructing federal prosecutors to treat drug crimes more harshly, lawmakers in a growing number of states are taking a different approach by locking up fewer people. Their actions, which reflect the latest evidence on how to reduce mass incarceration while protecting the public, as described recently in Issues, include reducing penalties for drug possession and other low-level crimes, allowing judges to sentence people to probation or drug treatment instead of prison, and reducing some mandatory minimum sentences.

NAFTA: Update with Care

5/19/17 – The Trump administration has notified Congress that it will soon begin renegotiating with Mexico and Canada the North American Free Trade Agreement. As a guide, the editorial board of the business news website Bloomberg cautions that the aim should be to carefully update the agreement because it has brought a range of benefits to US consumers and companies, as a trade policy expert has detailed in Issues, and with a bit of tweaking could even expand opportunities for mutually beneficial trade.

To Power Electric Cars, Look Skyward


5/18/17 – Tesla has begun taking orders for a new type of solar roof that not only can power homes but also feed a companion battery for recharging electric vehicles at night, though some market challenges remain. As an energy analyst recently explained in Issues, new ways to “synchronize battery recharging with clean power” will be among innovations needed to make electric vehicles more widely practical and capitalize on their potential for taming climate change.

Ignoring Experts, Sessions Wants to Get Tough on Drug Crime


5/10/17 – The US Attorney General reportedly plans to toughen guidance on prosecuting drug crimes, rolling back Obama-era policies that gave federal prosecutors discretion in filing criminal charges to earlier times when prosecutors were often ordered to press the most serious charges possible. This shift would arguably stand against the best scientific evidence, as described in Issues by judicial experts who examined why and how to reduce incarceration rates, especially as they hit hardest within communities of color.



Sunscreen for Earth


5/10/17 – In what may be the first major test of engineering the Earth to mitigate the effects of climate change, scientists are planning to use a balloon-borne probe to inject water vapor into the stratosphere to deflect away some of the sun’s warming rays. A co-leader of the project recently examined in Issues why such geoengineering experiments are becoming increasingly important and how they should be conducted to maximize scientific rewards and minimize social risks.

Nuclear Waste Storage: Yucca Mountain Revisited



5/9/17 – Congress recently took a preliminary step toward reviving the long-delayed plan to store the nation’s nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and President Trump has added funds for the project in his proposed budget, though controversy remains. Shortly after the plan had been put on hold, a trio of analysts laid out in Issues the case for developing the storage site and argued that its delay “lacks scientific justification and could hamper the nation’s effort to use nuclear energy to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”


The Technologist’s Apprentice


5/7/17 – Amid concerns about misuse of visas granted to foreign skilled workers, the federal government should develop new policies that encourage companies to train more US students and workers for technology occupations, a former labor policy adviser says, adding that apprenticeships offer a proven way to reach this aim. In Issues, an education expert has also examined the power of apprenticeships to effectively prepare young people, including those not interested in college, for jobs that are interesting, pay well, and likely to be secure.



Bringing Brain Science to Court


4/21/17 -San Francisco now uses an unusual approach in handling young adults charged with breaking the law, hearing their cases in a special court that the New York Times calls “a hybrid of the adult and juvenile justice systems tailored to the biology and circumstances of offenders 18 to 24.” This approach aligns with the latest scientific evidence on how the brain continues to develop well into early adulthood, with accompanying increases in “psychosocial maturity,” as explained in Issues by a leader in neuroscience whose work influenced the city’s adoption of its innovative court.


A Possible Key to China’s Rise as a Tech Innovator


4/19/17 – In Issues recently, a scholar at a major university in China described how his nation had tailored itself into a technocracy and sketched some possible benefits. One possible outcome is China’s emergence as a source of new commercial technology, as evidenced by a new study (summarized here) finding that China recently surpassed the United States as the biggest spender in translating new knowledge from basic and applied research into commercial products and manufacturing processes.



Preparing for Pandemics


4/13/17 – The potential threat raised by the current outbreak of bird flu in China provides sharp reminder that the United States remains inadequately prepared to fight communicable diseases that break borders and spread globally. And the recent explosion of unfiltered channels of communication complicates matters, a US inventor and entrepreneur has explained in Issues, going on to call for creation of a global volunteer corps of scientists and communicators who can respond quickly and precisely to the myriad social and scientific challenges that arise during pandemics.


Give Bats a Break


4/12/17 – CNN recently highlighted a team of researchers studying a cave-full of bats because, the story asserted, “Each bat has the potential to carry…some of the planet’s deadliest, but least understood, viruses…that could come to humans.” But a leading bat expert explains in Issues that focusing on potential diseases from bats is unlikely to contribute substantially to human health and may actually threaten the future of these flying mammals that are vital to the environment and the public’s general welfare.


Effective Fisheries Management under Attack


4/11/17 – A fisheries management tool called “catch shares,” described and recommended by a trio of ocean analysts in Issues nearly a decade ago, has gained advocates and opponents alike as it has been applied in various US waters and elsewhere. Now, a new study summarized here provides what the researchers call the “first systematic evidence” that the approach works, just as pressures are increasing within the federal government and some states to revise or reject the use of catch shares.



Framing a Geoengineering Research Plan

4/7/17 – As the Earth continues to warm in response to human activities, the prospects of using engineering techniques to control climate change are gaining attention, the New York Times reports, noting that an important step is to invest more in research. In Issues, a pioneer in geoengineering has laid out the framework for a comprehensive US research plan, saying it should be part of a coherent climate policy agenda that includes vigorous support for climate science, increases efforts to cut emissions, helps the most vulnerable populations to adapt, develops negative emission technologies, and renews a commitment to growing international governance on climate matters.


Innovation Key to Nuclear Power Future


4/5/17 – To hold or even expand its place in the US energy system, the nuclear energy industry needs a new operational model characterized by innovative reactor and plant designs, revitalized business models, and smaller entrepreneurial start-ups, says a new report from the Breakthrough Institute. It aligns with recommendations presented in Issues by a leading nuclear researcher who laid out a road map for innovation to reach the next generation of affordable and safe nuclear energy technologies.

Needed: Foreign Skilled Workers–and Visa Reform

4/4/17 – The United States doesn’t have enough home-grown workers with the training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that many employers need, according to a new study by a coalition of mayors and business leaders. But there is also concern that the federal government’s visa program for bringing in highly skilled temporary workers from abroad needs to be updated and reformed. In Issues, a scholar who focuses on science, technology, and immigration policy has offered a detailed plan to do just that.


Affirming the NAFTA Partnership


4/3/17 – President Trump may be backing off his campaign vow to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement and reportedly may keep major parts in place in any renegotiated deal. This shift would align at least a bit better with observations offered in Issues by a policy analyst who detailed the economic gains that NAFTA has created for the United States and suggested that the three agreement partners would benefit even more by working together as an alliance to engage the global community on trade issues.


Trump v. Reagan: Who Proposed Largest Cuts in Research Spending?

4/3/17 – Donald Trump, like Ronald Reagan, has proposed large reductions in federal research spending. According to Matthew Hourihan of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one major difference is that Trump is more eager to cut support for basic research.

Robots Cut Jobs and Wages for Many Workers


4/3/17 – Based on an analysis of the capabilities that robots and information technology have or might acquire over the next few decades, an economic analyst recently predicted in Issues that strains on the US workforce will likely be great, requiring major adjustments for workers and the nation alike. Now, a new study adds details of how robots have cut into employment and pay for workers, especially in manufacturing and among those in routine assembly and related occupations on the lower rungs of the pay scale.


Yellen Knows: Boosting R&D Key to Better Economy


3/15/17 – In the midst of debate leading up to the Federal Reserve’s latest decision to raise interest rates, the central bank’s chair observed that changing fiscal policies alone will not generate technological breakthroughs “that would boost real GDP growth over the longer run or address the root causes of income inequality.” A long-time economic analyst recently argued this case in Issues, calling for a national research and development investment capable of spurring productivity growth and creating high-paying, high-skill jobs.


In Defense of NOAA


3/13/17 – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seems marked for drastic funding reductions under the new Trump administration, to the chagrin of critics who say this would undercut important areas of science for little reward. Indeed, the government should strengthen the agency by reformulating it into a new department focused directly on ocean research, a policy analyst has argued in Issues, saying the move would help in expanding knowledge about this vital realm and addressing climate change and a range of other national concerns.


Helping Workers in an Automated World


3/12/17 – Automation, driven by advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, is changing the face of jobs across the United States, as detailed in Issues by an economic analyst who added that the nation will have to find ways to adjust accordingly. Now experts from an array of fields have provided in the New York Times a menu of what policymakers might do to help workers succeed.


Navy Enlisting Robots for Sea Action


3/11/17 – The US Navy has bold ambitions for sea-based robots that can carry out a range of missions, a security analyst has explained in Issues, adding that a key will be developing practical systems quickly and gaining experience using them. A recent online report points to progress along several lines, including field evaluations of a swarm of drone vessels designed to detect enemy ships, perform surveillance missions, or even launch attacks.



Visa Reform Still Needed–and Possible


3/7/17 – Controversy over the system by which the United States brings in highly skilled foreign guest workers is still roiling political waters. In the midst of the turmoil, a set of proposals for reforming the federal visa and immigration systems for scientists and engineers is already on hand in Issues, tailored to meet the nation’s scientific, educational, and economic needs and be fair to US workers and students.


Road Map for Road Building


3/6/17 – The new secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, recently pledged to look at alternative financing mechanisms beyond federal funding to pay for infrastructure improvements, including highway construction. Should she take this route, a long-time transportation analyst has already provided in Issues some options that he says capitalize on technology to collect fees directly, efficiently, and more fairly from road users.


US and Mexico: Stronger Together


2/28/17 – With President Donald Trump declaring his intention to renegotiate with Mexico the North American Free Trade Agreement, it may be worth revisiting an Issues article in which an experienced policy analyst laid out the benefits that NAFTA has brought to the United States. And a panel of international political, business, and academic leaders recently supported this case, adding that taking too hard a line at the bargaining table could well work against US interests.



Hazards of Science Reporting


2/16/17 – At a recent news conference, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and others once again expressed concern that childhood vaccines may actually make some kids sick or cause autism—and that journalists and the government have been colluding to cover up the truth about vaccine safety. In Issues, a journalist who has covered such claims recounts what can happen when you report evidence of science distortion that upsets activists, noting that “with respect to some topics, the more you report facts, the less they seem to matter.”


India Sets Satellite Launch Record

2/15/17 – India just set a world record (here and here) by placing 104 satellites into orbit using a single rocket, with the payload including 101 “nanosatellites” built by companies and universities in six other countries. The achievement reflects the emerging pattern in the global space enterprise, described recently in Issues, as a growing roster of nongovernment groups from more and more countries reach into space using ever-smaller satellites to perform an expanding array of jobs.


China Luring Chip Makers


2/14/17 – Turning a pragmatic face to the world, China is pressing a major initiative to attract semiconductor manufacturers and research facilities—and the plan seems to be working. In a more philosophical look at such matters, a scholar at a leading Chinese university recently examined in Issues his nation’s emergence as a technocracy “run by people who are in power because of their technical expertise.”



Making Wise Infrastructure Investments

2/10/17 – President Donald Trump’s advisory team recently released a preliminary list of projects that might be funded as part of a promised plan to revitalize roads, bridges, ports, and various other components of the nation’s infrastructure. In Issues, two scholars who have studied the history of infrastructure development have proposed a set of principles for success, arguing that efforts should facilitate citizen input, define success in publicly accountable ways beyond cost and schedule, and monitor providers to ensure that they deliver services in an equitable manner.


Productivity of Immigrant Innovators


2/9/17 – Among engineering and technology companies started in the United States between 1995 and 2005, a quarter were headed by immigrants, and immigrants founded roughly a third of firms in the semiconductor sector, according to a survey led by a technology entrepreneur and described in Issues. Now underscoring immigrants’ innovative impact, new research reveals that industries and regions with more foreign-born inventors produce more patents and that this bump spurs economic growth.




Conservative Call for Climate Action


2/9/17 – A group of conservative policy and business leaders has released what it calls a “pro-growth, pro-competitiveness and pro-working class” action plan for addressing human-caused climate change (here and here). The plan reflects some of the concerns expressed in Issues by a conservative scholar who argued that all climate policies “must be compatible with individual liberty and democratic institutions,” but it also presses beyond what some conservative stalwarts might favor.

Immigration of Scientists and Engineers


2/8/17 – Arguments are heating up over the need for, or proper balance of, visas for US-bound immigrants, including those with high-level technical skills. President Donald Trump reportedly is planning drastic cuts, whereas many corporate leaders argue otherwise. In a pragmatic earlier look this situation, a leading policy analyst proposed in Issues a comprehensive plan to reform the immigration system in a way that meets US needs for scientists and engineers while remaining fair for native-born students and workers.

Building Paths to Middle-Skill Jobs


2/3/17 – Students in the United States are offered few routes to middle-skill careers built around jobs that require some education beyond high school but typically not a bachelor’s degree. Issues has examined this gap in a series of articles on the importance and scope of such jobs; the skills and training they require, with particular focus on the rapidly expanding health care fields; and the need for better information to help workers, employers, educators, and government policy makers capitalize on emerging opportunities.


White House Seeking Advice on Manufacturing


2/3/17 – The White House recently announced the launch of a Manufacturing Jobs Initiative (here and here) to bring together business and labor leaders to offer insights into revitalizing the US manufacturing sector. Issues has already been on the job, detailing how to boost manufacturing strength by improving the nation’s innovation system and by expanding efforts to make small- and medium-sized firms more competitive.



India May See Major Solar Energy Boost


2/1/17 – India may be thinking more ambitiously than ever about solar energy, according to an account from the Worldwatch Institute, with proposed measures including rapid expansion of small-scale photovoltaic panels and solar lighting systems. But even as the promise is bright, an analyst who spent a year exploring firsthand India’s solar energy ecosystem has detailed in Issues an array of policy and financial steps that will be required for success.



The Science of Communicating Science


1/31/17 – In today’s complex world, communicating science-related information to the public is more important than ever—and also more complicated. In Issues, an experienced communication hand has proposed ways to improve the process. Now a science establishment heavyweight has, well, weighed in with a new report (here and here) that examines what research says about the needs and challenges of communicating science and recommends evidence-based ways to do so more effectively.



Criminalizing Immigration

1/28/17 – As part of two new executive orders issued by President Donald Trump, immigration agents will now have wider latitude to enforce federal laws and are being encouraged to deport broad swaths of unauthorized immigrants, regardless of whether they have been charged with a crime. This reflects what a prominent sociologist recently described in Issues as an emerging national pattern of commingling efforts to deal with crime and immigration, adding that the shift “does not reflect our basic values.”




Robots May Save Global Economy


12/6/16 – The labor pool worldwide might not be growing fast enough to support society’s needs, and the answer, according to an investment manager who has analyzed the technological and demographic forces driving global change, could well be…robots. Robots and artificial intelligence will likely reduce or eliminate some types of jobs, as an economic analyst has explained in Issues, but with careful preparation beginning now, humans can find ways of interacting with their automated creations to the benefit of workers and society alike.


Substance Misuse Deemed Public Health Crisis


11/30/16 – The US surgeon general recently declared substance misuse a public health crisis that “must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion.” This new approach, commented The Atlantic, could “profoundly impact the criminal-justice system, where addicts often end up.” As part of a series of articles on mass incarceration in the United States, Issues has also examined the impact of drug policies, noting, among other things, that intensified enforcement of drug laws has “contributed not only to overall high rates of incarceration, but also especially to extraordinary rates of incarceration of African Americans and Hispanics, who now comprise more than half of our prisoners.”




Venture Capitalists Pursuing Fusion


12/1/16 – Long a holy grail in energy research, nuclear fusion is getting a boost from the sharp-penciled world of venture capital, according to a Bloomberg online report. One of those investors has also described in Issues his reasons for supporting a private company pursuing fusion, noting that “sometimes an opportunity presents itself that, if it works, can change the future forever and for everyone.”


Avocado v. Monarch


11/26/16 – On lands adjoining Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, where the long-distance fliers nest as they await their next migration northward, a push to plant income-generating avocado orchards in place of native oak and fir trees is endangering the butterflies’ survival. Indeed, as a wildlife researcher has explained in Issues, habitat loss threatens a number of animal species that regularly migrate long distances as part of their natural cycles.


Space to Get More Crowded




11/23/16 – The private company SpaceX has announced plans to put 4,425 new satellites into space—more than tripling the current satellite population—with the aim of providing super-fast Internet coverage worldwide. This expansion is in keeping with projections detailed in a recent review of global space activities, described by its lead analyst in Issues, who concluded that the US government will need to adjust its policies to reflect expanded participation and new lines of innovation across the space environment.




What Are We Vaping for?


11/21/16 – Mounting evidence suggests that “vaping” with electronic cigarettes is far less dangerous than smoking and may also help current smokers quit, the New York Times reports, yet more states are passing laws that prohibit or discourage their use. Instead, a community health specialist has argued in Issues that states should conduct a series of policy experiments focused on e-cigarettes and other alternatives to conventional tobacco smoking to identify the best ways to combat this major public health threat.



What’s Ahead for Medical Research?


11/17/16 – As political winds are changing, many observers are asking what will happen in the world of medical research, as evidenced by a recent meeting of representatives from an array of health communities (described here with videos of the discussions here). In Issues, a longtime health policy analyst has offered what may be some especially timely suggestions for how the federal government’s primary health research agency, the National Institutes of Health, can operate most effectively, including by linking the discovery and dissemination of knowledge with sharper attention on the role of research in boosting economic growth.


Building Ladders for Social Mobility


10/31/16 – All children should have a good—and equitable—chance on the economic ladder, social thinker Isabel Sawhill and colleagues have written in Issues, describing a variety of promising interventions to give disadvantaged kids a leg up at various stages of life, from before birth through entry into adulthood. In a new report, she and another colleague amplify these ideas in “an agenda for reducing poverty and improving opportunity,” aimed at providing lower-income children with a fair chance to succeed in the classroom, the workplace, and the home.



Thinking Smaller in Space


10/28/16 – The White House has announced a new federal initiative to promote public-private partnerships to develop and deploy small satellites not only to aid in space research but also to help shorten the cycle of technological innovation, according to a policy brief from the American Institute of Physics. This effort reflects trends in how government and industry are working in space, as described recently in Issues, bringing a shift toward more global participation, increased collaboration, and adaptive regulatory thinking.



Rebooting Manufacturing


10/21/16 – Manufacturing’s recent anemic output growth in the United States is largely the result of globalization, and new government policies are needed to address problems, a senior employment research economist recently said here and here. In Issues, a leading observer of innovation policy has also examined what really ails manufacturing and laid out a blueprint for reinvigorating this critical sector.



Global Reach of Robots


10/19/16 – Artificial intelligence and robotics hold potential for disrupting the workplace in the United States, as an economic analyst explained in Issues. And these technologies are also flourishing elsewhere in the world, with industries in other regions making even greater use of robots, and with China expected to show especially rapid growth in the deployment of industrial robots as well as the pursuit of advanced research in artificial intelligence.



Carbon Tax on Washington State Ballot

10/18/16 – Setting a tax on carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion is considered by many experts, including two economic analysts writing in Issues, as a promising way to help control human-caused climate change, but US policy makers have resisted. Now, a proposal is on the ballot in Washington state to institute a carbon tax, which would become the first of its kind in the United States, but it is being hotly debated, with even some environmental groups registering opposition.



Drug Enforcement’s Unintended Effects


10/13/16 – Criminalizing drug possession has caused “dramatic and unnecessary harms” in many African American communities, two major human and civil rights organizations concluded in a new report described here that called for changes in how governments deal with drug enforcement. In a related look at the effects of mass incarceration on communities of color, a legal scholar and a judge have argued in Issues that there may well be a tipping point at which rigorous crime policies and practices can do more harm than good.


Cooperation Key to Reaching Mars


10/12/16 – “Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already well on our way,” President Obama said in an essay on CNN’s website, in tandem with a joint blog post by senior White House and NASA officials. Indeed, collaborative work on space activities is becoming increasingly common across a range of industries and in a growing number of nations, an analyst said recently in Issues, calling on the United States to reshape its space policies to reflect and capitalize on these changing conditions.


Natural Disasters: Be Prepared


10/10/16 – With Hurricane Matthew leaving behind damages estimated to be nearing $6 billion, a vast swath of the Southeast likely faces massive rebuilding, if past experience is the guide. In Issues, a strategic planner who helped develop a “decision tool” to aid recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy has proposed what he considers a better approach, centered on shifting the nation’s current tendency to react to natural disasters and instead to prepare for them.



Yeast Yields a Nobel Prize


10/7/16 – A Japanese biologist has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for a series of “brilliant experiments” using yeast that revealed for the first time a key mechanism in cells that plays an important role in cancer, diabetes, and numerous other devastating diseases. Indeed, yeast has an illustrious history in research, as a scientist-writer team has detailed in Issues, but funding woes may hinder turning lessons learned from these tiny organisms into practice.


Three-parent Baby Raises International Ethics Concern


10/4/16 – With revolutionary developments in reproductive technologies occurring in many nations, a researcher and a writer joined in Issues to examine the accompanying global bioethical debates. Concerns recently kicked into higher gear with the birth of a “three-parent” baby, born to a couple from Jordan who traveled to Mexico for treatment using a controversial new fertilization technique developed by a US scientist and applied with his help in this case without regulatory approval by any government.


Mixed Winds Buffeting Manufacturing


10/3/16 – In an examination of jobs losses in the United States, a New York Times article says that 13% can be explained by changing trade practices, with the rest being casualties of automation or tweaks to factory operations that have enabled more production with less labor. In Issues, a leading scholar who examines innovation policy has offered a deeper look at the loss of manufacturing jobs and laid out policy options for reversing this trend that is damaging the nation’s economy, democracy, and social ideals.


Welcome to New Space


10/1/16 – A massive change is occurring in the space industry—a move from “Old Space” to “New Space”—as out-of-the-box thinking increasingly pushes against heritage and convention, an Australian space innovator reports in The Conversation. In Issues, an observer of the scene has detailed this “major transformation” as more countries and private companies expand their activities in space, calling on the United States to reshape its space agencies and policies to meet changing global trends.


Savings Workers from Robots


9/30/16 – Based on an analysis of how artificial intelligence and robotics are transforming the workplace, an economist has argued in Issues that society must begin paying more attention to potential disruptive changes over the next few decades. The chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers foresees a period of transition that will hit low-skilled workers especially hard, but adds that overhauling government policies that shape labor markets can not only offset problems but actually increase employment and reduce economic inequality.


Time to Restructure Energy R&D


9/23/16 – Human-caused climate change is real, and solving it will require massively increasing government support for research and development aimed at “breakthrough technologies cheap enough to outcompete fossil fuels,” says the leader of a Danish think tank. In Issues, a longtime energy analyst has also called for more energy innovation, but rather than simply increasing funding, the United States should restructure its energy technology program to capitalize on the strengths of both the government and the marketplace.



Finding Work for Former Prisoners


9/22/16 – Unwinding mass incarceration in the United States will require helping the large number of people already in the criminal justice system successfully reenter society, two authorities on prison reform have said in Issues. Reflecting this idea, the federal government is planning to award $5 million in new grants to fund job centers based at community correctional facilities and linked to local workforce systems, as part of a broader initiative aimed at reducing recidivism.


The Potential of Green Finance


9/21/16 – In one corporate quest to develop a new type of fusion reactor, venture capitalists are playing a key role, described in Issues by a financial backer involved. In the New York Times, Henry M. Paulson Jr., a former Treasury secretary and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, expands on the wider need for private “green finance” to drive investments in clean technologies and sustainable development.

Science Looks at Communicating Science


9/20/16 – In a recent survey, 270 scientists identified “the biggest problems facing science.” Of the seven major items named, number 6 was that “science is poorly communicated to the public.” In Issues, several articles (here and here) have examined this concern from various perspectives and offered possible solutions, with the most recent focusing on how celebrities influence public perceptions, especially regarding health and nutrition.




Scientists Seek Action on Climate Change


9/20/16 – Three hundred and seventy five leading scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates, have published an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change, warning especially about potential dangers from political resistance to action. Issues has examined some of the political divides and laid out a clean-energy blueprint that may help to bridge the gaps.



Canada Imposes Carbon Taxes

9/19/16 – Taxing carbon released from burning fossil fuels could be a key part of a comprehensive effort to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to human-caused climate change, two economists have argued in Issues. Although policy makers in the United States have largely resisted this option, Canada’s federal government will soon begin imposing carbon taxes on any province that has not already put its own price on carbon through taxes or cap-and-trade programs.




Progress for Marine Sanctuaries


9/16/16 – An idea explored years ago in Issues—establishing marine protected areas to help protect ocean biodiversity—has resurfaced on several fronts. On September 15, President Obama designated the first fully protected area in the Atlantic Ocean, designating nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of Massachusetts as a marine national monument. And just a few days earlier, an international conservation group proposed an even loftier vision, calling on world leaders to set aside one-third of all oceans as marine reserves.



Human Gene Editing Research Could Begin Soon


7/5/16 – Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have gained approval from a federal ethics panel to use, for the first time ever, the gene-editing tool called CRISPR to alter the immune systems of cancer patients to aid in their treatment. If the Food and Drug Administration grants its approval, research can begin. Issues recently took an extensive look at this revolutionary new technology (check here for an overview), centered around the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, which offered an overview of the science explained by the leading researchers in the world, but devoted most of its attention to the social, legal, ethical, and policy questions that are essential to understanding how to use or limit the technology.



A New Type of Mileage Program


6/28/16 – A group of states along the East Coast wants to explore ways to overhaul how the nation pays for its decaying roads, proposing pilot programs in four states to figure out how they might charge motorists a fee for the miles they travel. A noted transportation analyst writing in Issues has been among numerous experts supporting the adoption of such user fees to replace the federal motor fuel tax for funding surface transportation projects.


Prison Reform Taking Root


6/25/16 – The largest county in Mississippi has agreed to a first-of-its-kind settlement with the federal government to reduce mass incarceration by offering alternatives to jail, providing re-entry services for inmates leaving incarceration, and sentencing fewer people to jail for failure to pay court-ordered fines and fees, among other actions. The agreement reflects recent discussions in Issues on how to apply lessons from the latest research to reduce mass incarceration, help the large number of people already in the criminal justice system successfully reenter society, and alleviate the unique effects of mass incarceration on communities of color.


Targeting Technology for Good


6/23/16 – Spurred by a technology proposal gone controversial, a media scholar at MIT examined in the Atlantic the challenge of ensuring that technology “address social problems in ways that make the world better, not worse.” In Issues, a longtime observer of the interplay between technology and society sharpens this aim, suggesting that the real goal of technology should be to enable people to invest more time and resources in their social lives, public action, and spiritual and intellectual activities—what he calls “communitarian pursuits.”



Seeking Environmental Accord


6/15/16 – When facing environmental challenges, success will come best by talking persuasively, not confrontationally, a well-known author who specializes in human and animal behavior recently suggested in the New York Times. One success he cited, the use of “catch shares” to protect fisheries, was explored early on in Issues (here and here). On another still-contentious matter, climate change, “it may be time for big, bold, even alarmingly bipartisan thoughts,” he said. And here, too, Issues has examined ways (here and here) to build policy bridges.


Reducing Mass Incarceration Safely


6/10/16 – Roughly 2.3 million people are locked up in prisons and jails in the United States today, a 500% increase over the past 40 years. In Issues, analysts have identified ways to shrink the incarcerated population while still protecting the public. Reinforcing the safety factor, a new study finds that reducing the number of people behind bars often goes hand in hand with reductions in crime rates, and not, as some critics worry, to increased crime.


Progress, but Not Success, on High School Graduation


6/9/16 – The on-time graduation rate for public high schools in the United States has reached an all-time high, according to the latest federal data reported in Education Week. But progress has been far from uniform, and critical gaps remain. In Issues, two analysts have previously presented a slate of carrot-and-stick actions that policymakers and educators can take to help students reach this increasingly critical milestone.


Teen Obesity Rates Still Rising


6/8/16 – More teens are obese than ever before in the United States, and obesity rates among younger children also remain troublingly high, according to the latest federal data described here. A decade ago in Issues, several of the authors of a landmark report on childhood obesity presented a comprehensive set of recommendations that still hold promise for combatting this epidemic and its accompanying higher risks for serious disease.



I’ll Have the Lab Burger, Rare


6/7/16 – Several companies are getting closer in the quest to move “cultured meat” from the laboratory to the marketplace, responding to practical and ethical forces, as reported here and here. In anticipation of such a shift, two specialists in sustainable engineering have said in Issues that society should “start thinking about how factory-grown meat might transform our food system, the environment, and even our culture.”



Sharing Robot Rewards


6/6/16 – Advances in robotics and information technology will transform the workplace over the next several decades, and it seems unlikely that the labor market can change as quickly as the technology is advancing, an economic analyst has projected in Issues. Seeing similar trends, another economist recently suggested that society should worry less about the potential displacement of human labor by robots than about how to share fairly across society the prosperity that the robots produce, and he proposed several policy options to reach that end.


Emerging Help for Nuclear Power


6/6/16 – As global agreements are putting pressure on the United States to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases, some state and federal officials are looking for ways to help nuclear power plants, especially older ones, remain operating in the face of financial pressures. In Issues, a nuclear energy stalwart has offered a set of proposals for stimulating development of advanced technologies that may ensure the industry’s survival and even expansion.


Minorities Still Lag in STEM


6/1/16 – Little if any progress is being made in engaging underrepresented minority groups, including African Americans and Hispanics, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in the United States, according to a recent report. In Issues, two analysts have previously noted this gap, pointing out contributing structural barriers in education and proposing steps that policymakers and educators can take to widen participation in these STEM fields.



States Lead in Reducing Mass Incarceration


5/31/16 – Efforts by some states to reduce their incarceration rates reveal lessons that may help policymakers in other state and federal jurisdicitons reach this aim, analysts who have studied justice reform said in Issues. Indeed, a new report described in a New York Times editorial shows that states, which house nine in 10 inmates nationwide, are leading the way in sentencing and corrections innovation.



Leniency for the Adolescent Brain


5/30/16 – The science of adolescent brain development is making its way into the national conversation, an early researcher in the field said in Issues. This is reflected in the recent ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court that juveniles who commit even the most serious crimes cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole, with the justices noting that young brains are still developing and it’s not possible for judges to work out at the time of sentencing which offenders are likely or unlikely to reform.



Destigmatizing Former Prisoners


5/10/16 – As part of a series of articles in Issues on the problems of and solutions to mass incarceration in the United States, one pair of authors proposed an array of ways to help the large number of people already in the criminal justice system successfully reenter society. In a new approach described here and here, one federal initiative is working to change the vocabulary used when speaking about people who have served time, avoiding stigmatizing labels such as “felon” or “convict” in favor of recognizing them as human beings and fellow citizens worthy of being back in society.


Helping Science Speak Clearly


5/2/16 – A recent weather forecast for the Great Plains prompted widespread public fears of huge tornados—that never occurred. According to the Washington Post, the problem was not the basics of the forecast, but the way it was communicated, without proper balance between uncertainty and risk. This points to a key challenge identified by an experienced communications scholar in Issues: the need for science to find optimal ways to communicate what it knows, how it knows it, and the uncertainties surrounding its findings.


How Safe Are E-cigarettes?


5/1/16 – With the use of electronic cigarettes increasing, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce plans to regulate them just like traditional tobacco products, including setting firm age limits for purchase. But not everyone agrees with this hardline approach. In Issues, a community health specialist said it would now be better to initiate a series of policy experiments to asses the full health effects of various alternative products, as well as their value in reducing harm among users, which could help identify the best ways to combat a major public health scourge.


Japanese Hunt Whales for “Research”


4/26/16 – Japan has launched a fleet of ships to harvest up to 51 minke whales off the country’s northeastern coast, following an earlier harvest of 333 minke whales off Antarctica, and the hunts are reigniting concerns that current whaling regulations are failing. In Issues, two environmental scientists from Arizona State University have proposed a new approach to managing whaling that combines economic pragmatism and ethical principles to allow for a limited harvest while better protecting whales.


Mass Incarceration Doesn’t Pay


4/21/16 – Two leading economists with often-differing views jointly argue in the New York Times that mass incarceration in the United States fails financially as well as socially, calling on Congress to rationalize criminal justice policies and reform sentencing for individuals who pose the least risk. As part of a broader exploration in Issues of mass incarceration, two analysts who focus on criminal justice have proposed a variety of science-based recommendations for reducing the number of people locked up in prisons and jails while also protecting public safety.




Small Step Holds Big Space Promise


4/19/16 – To make journeys into deep space more practical, the trick will be developing radically new propulsion systems, an analyst has argued in Issues. In this spirit, an initiative called Breakthrough Starshot has announced that it will pony up $100 million to build a laser propulsion system to boost hordes of tiny space probes to our stellar neighbor Alpha Centauri, with hope that success will set the stage for sending larger spacecraft on interstellar journeys in the future.



Beasts of the Urban Wild


4/18/16 – As part of an emerging debate on conservation science, described in Issues, one side holds that the spread of human-dominated environments will endanger biological biodiversity, while the other side foresees creative bursts of expanding diversity. In what may provide at least a small base for measurement, a museum in Los Angeles is massing a citizen army to inventory all of the county’s wildlife, becoming what organizers say will be the world’s biggest study of urban biodiversity.



New Face of Sea Power


4/16/16 – In a harbor in Portland, Oregon, U.S. defense officials recently christened for testing a robotic drone ship designed to hunt for submarines or other nautical threats while on long-lasting and far-ranging missions with minimal human help. Sea Hunter exemplifies what an analyst in Issues has predicted will be a new generation of remotely controlled marine vessels that will help the nation steadfastly protect itself and fight possible future wars. Adding to interest in such vessels is Russia’s ramped-up expansion of its submarine fleet.



So Many Fish in the Sea


4/14/16 – Faced with evidence that stocks of many commercially important fish were in sharp decline, several authors in Issues have offered (here and here) a variety of policy remedies in recent years, including allotting “catch shares” and establishing “no take” zones. Now comes news that the policies are largely working, with stocks in various fishing waters making remarkable recoveries even as some catches are increasing.


Apprentices on the Rise


4/4/16 – Apprenticeships, often overlooked in favor of college as a career route, can effectively prepare young people for a variety of good jobs, an expert on education and the workplace has spelled out in Issues. In a sign that this lesson is taking hold, USA Today recently reported on the growing success of apprenticeship programs and their participants across the country, with one health industry official declaring that “We see this as a way to build a sustainable workforce.”


Big Growth in Small Jails


4/2/26 – As part of a series of articles in Issues on incarceration in the United States, two experts in criminology described evidence-based lessons that may help federal and state policymakers and other stakeholders reduce the number of people locked up. Now in an emerging concern, a recent report and additional analysis described in The Atlantic spotlight the unprecedented growth in the number of prisoners held in jails in thousands of the nation’s smallest counties.





Business Boost for Monarchs


3/30/16 – Animal migrations are among the world’s most inspiring natural phenomena, but a researcher who studies them has noted in Issues that many peripatetic species are increasingly threatened. Monarch butterflies facing lost habitats along their flight paths offer a case in point, and plans are now taking wing to use market forces to promote rest stops with to-go dining to speed them on their journeys.

Rejuvenating Nuclear Energy


3/27/16 – The nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants is aging, and dozens of them face closure over the next two decades as their operating licenses expire, threatening to leave a gap in meeting continuing electricity needs, according to the New York Times. But in Issues, a longtime nuclear researcher says a variety of timely forces are inspiring a renewed push, and he offers a roadmap for innovation to reach the next generation of affordable and safe nuclear energy technologies.


New Look at Living with Robots


3/4/16 – Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics may significantly reshape jobs in the United States over coming decades, an economic analyst has projected in Issues, and various other technologists and economists agree. So what then? Suggestions are emerging to provide all adults with a “universal basic income” to cover basic living expenses, with proponents saying this will reduce opposition to new workplace technology, prove cost effective, and free people for various fruitful pursuits.


Views on a Warming World


2/29/16 – Sea levels on Earth are rising several times faster than they have in the past 2,800 years and are accelerating because of human-driven global warming, according to new studies reported by the Associated Press. Issues has explored some practical steps for mitigation. And on a more personal note, a longtime observer of climate science and the accompanying policy debates has described how his thinking has evolved, leading him to conclude that “We need edge pushers and group huggers, faith and science, and—more than anything—dialogue and effort to find room for agreement even when there are substantial differences.”


Good News on Teen Brains


2/26/16 – Because their brains have not fully matured, teenagers are more likely than adults to engage in a variety of risky behaviors, as neurologist Laurence Steinberg explained in Issues. But his latest study may offer a silver lining: Teens, he says, “may motivate each other to explore their environment in a way they might not do if they were being more cautious. Sometimes that leads to harmful consequences, but sometimes it leads to learning new things that are good.”



Education outside the Schoolhouse Walls


2/17/16 – A variety of factors outside of schools may hinder the educational progress of many students, and public policies have not adequately addressed the problem, according to an article in Issues. But some schools are now finding ways to help their students’ lives outside of the classroom, says a report in the Atlantic, by working with partners in the rest of society—businesses, nonprofit groups, foundations, public libraries, parent groups—that have an interest in a strengthened system of education.



Legal Challenges to Temporary Visas


1/29/16 – In a legal first, two employees laid off from their technical jobs have filed class-action federal lawsuits against their Florida-based employer and a pair of global consulting companies, alleging that the firms collaborated intentionally to use temporary visas to bring in foreign workers to replace U.S. citizens. In Issues, an experienced analyst has taken an even broader look at problems within the government’s visa and immigration systems for scientific and technical workers, offering a comprehensive set of reforms.


Prison Doors Edge Open


1/29/16 – The Supreme Court has now granted a new chance at release for inmates serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for murders they committed in their youth. The decision aligns with scientific evidence presented in Issues and elsewhere that young brains are not neurologically mature, which might lead some adolescents to take actions that their “older brains” will ultimately know are unacceptable personally and socially.



Pushing for Advanced Nuclear Reactors


1/28/16 – The federal government recently took several steps, reported here and here, to capitalize on public-private partnerships in developing advanced nuclear energy reactors. They reflect actions presented in Issues by a long-time researcher as part of a broad roadmap of how the nation can recapture its nuclear mojo and help shape the next generation of nuclear energy technologies.


Winning Support for NIH


1/27/16 – Congress recently gave a $2 billion raise to the National Institutes of Health, with no small help from a Republican congressman who worked to convince his conservative colleagues that embracing medical research was a fiscally responsible thing to do. On a similar note, a policy analyst has argued in Issues that the agency can work most effectively and maintain broadest support by linking the creation and dissemination of knowledge with the power of research in boosting economic growth.


Would You Share Personal Data?



1/14/16 – Building a case based on using his smartphone as a fitness coach, this researcher examined in Issues when and how he would be most likely to trust such devices with personal data. In an extension of such exploration, the Pew Research Center recently asked more than a thousand people how they viewed the choice between privacy and data disclosure across a range of now-familiar scenarios, and the phrase that best captured their views was, “It depends.”




High-Level Controversy over Fracking


1/14/16 – The scientific advisory panel for the Environmental Protection Agency is questioning the draft of a major agency study concluding that hydraulic fracking used in the oil and gas industry is not systemically harming the nation’s drinking water supplies, citing “data limitations” and the “adequacy of support for several major findings,” among other problems. On a related track, a team of analysts has argued in Issues that the public and elected officials have also lacked access to reliable and detailed information on fracking risks, hindering sound decisions about safe use of the technology.



Conservative Shift on Climate


1/12/16 – An up-and-coming policy analyst cited by the independent Truman National Security Project has argued that “It’s impossible to solve the climate crisis without winning conservatives to the cause,” adding that “There’s evidence that conservative views on climate are evolving.” In Issues, an observer of the scene has laid out what conservatives would consider acceptable new climate policies and actions, while an energy analyst has proposed ways to combine strategies drawn from across the political spectrum.




Driving Force for Electric Vehicles


1/12/16 – In examining whether government support for electric vehicles—or EVs—has been worthwhile, one observer recently suggested that “The knowledge we’re accumulating while taking today’s EV baby steps will pay off in future technological leaps and bounds, which will finally lead to a mass-market EV that outcompetes and replaces gas-powered cars.” In Issues, a team of analysts has also argued that the record of EVs to date and their promise down the road warrant continued support until at least 2017, when the next review of federal auto policies is due.



Mass Incarceration Slowing, but Slowly


1/11/16 – A Stanford University mental health policy expert has noted new evidence from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics that mass incarceration is unwinding in the United States. But recent articles in Issues point out that more needs to be done, highlighting ways to reduce the number of people sentenced to prison or jail and to help current inmates prepare for their return to society.



Predators in the City


12/23/15 – Increasing numbers of wild animals, including various major predators, are making themselves at home in urban areas across the United States and worldwide, says an opinion article in the New York Times. Such intermingling is helping to fuel a debate in conservation science, reported in Issues, about whether human activity should be viewed as simply part of nature or as a critical threat from which nature must be protected.


Fuel Tax Alternatives Motor On


12/20/15 – Although many experts, including a leading transportation analyst writing in Issues, have recommended adopting user fees to replace the federal motor fuel tax for funding surface transportation projects, Congress took a different route in passing the latest highway bill. But the light hasn’t turned completely red, as the bill authorizes $95 million for states to develop and test alternatives to the fuel tax—the first-ever legislative monetary nod to such options.




Challenges Facing Prison Reform


12/18/15 – As part of comprehensive efforts to reduce problems linked to mass incarceration in the United States, steps will be needed both to reduce the number of people sentenced to prison or jail and to better prepare current inmates for eventual return to society, according to a series of articles in Issues. But several recent news reports highlight challenges in political and legal quarters to achieving these aims.



Setting Sights on Oceans


12/17/15 – The Earth’s oceans help drive climate and weather, shape planetary chemistry, and regulate global temperature, yet they were left off the formal agenda at the latest international climate conference, says a renowned oceanographer and explorer. In Issues, a long-time observer of science and society has also cited an even broader need to pay more attention to the oceans and their various functions, calling for the U.S. government to create a dedicated agency “to bolster ocean research and exploration the way that President Kennedy and NASA once led space research and ‘captured’ the Moon.”


New Push in Criminal Justice


11/23/15 – The governor of Connecticut has proposed extending protections of the juvenile justice system to some slightly older offenders as well, arguing that this would divert them from an adult criminal justice system that may only make them more likely to re-offend. Several articles in Issues may offer varied lines of support, reviewing scientific evidence on adolescent brain development and on the expansion and effects of mass incarceration.



Lessons on Incarceration


11/21/15 – As part of a series on incarceration in the United States, Issues recently examined evidence-based ways to reduce the number of people imprisoned and to prepare inmates to reenter society. Within this context, the Urban Institute has published an online tool “designed to highlight the unique drivers of the federal prison population and the types of policy changes that will be necessary to reduce [that] population.” And on a more personal level, this video lets former felons tell how one city program is helping them to find productive jobs and protect their health.



Economics as Climate Aid


11/19/15 – Political leaders in the United States and Europe seem to differ about whether any agreement resulting from the upcoming United Nations meeting on climate change would be legally binding or simply a statement of what participating countries think they can do. To avoid such international wrangling and other problems, a leading economist has proposed in Issues that smaller groups of countries might jointly adopt binding economic measures aimed at limiting emissions of atmosphere-warming carbon gases from within their regions and beyond.



Changing Climate Winds


11/19/15 – One science watcher is seeing “fantastic news” in how some Republicans are viewing climate challenges, with separate groups of federal legislators declaring intentions to “protect our environment and climate while also bolstering clean energy innovation” and to be “good stewards of our environment…and base our policy decisions in science.” In Issues, a scholar of conservative policy has looked at areas where action on climate measures might win favor, while an energy analyst has proposed combining climate policies drawn from across the political spectrum.



Facing and Fixing Visa Flaws

11/18/15 – Global outsourcing companies are increasingly gaming the U.S. visa system so they can use their own foreign employees to take over technical work for U.S. businesses, often forcing domestic workers out of their jobs, says a report in the New York Times. In Issues, a leading policy analyst has examined the nation’s visa and immigration programs for scientists and engineers on a broad scale and proposed comprehensive improvements, including cutting visas to firms that pull skilled jobs offshore.

You and Your App-etite


11/16/15 – In a rumination on his personal relationship with his smartphone, a researcher who uses the device as a fitness coach observed in Issues that, among other things, people will be most likely to trust their devices with personal data if they are given clear, transparent choices about how the data will and will not be used. Now, a massive new study seconds this notion, while also providing a trove of other information on how people use the myriad “apps” available on their smartphones.


Incarceration: What’s Wrong, How to Fix It


11/10/15 – The nation’s prisoner population is falling slightly, but there is far to go, according to a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice. In a series of articles that draw on a report from the National Academies, Issues has examined incarceration from various angles, including how to reduce incarceration rates, help those already in the criminal justice system reenter society, address the impact of mass incarceration on communities of color, and improve health care provided by prisons and jails.




Spending NIH Funding Wisely


11/10/15 – With the recent lifting of budget caps on federal government spending, hopes are rising for an increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health. In Issues, an experienced observer of medical policy has offered suggestions on how the agency can get the most bang for its bucks, including by linking its goals of creating and disseminating knowledge with sharper attention on the role of research in boosting economic growth.


Scientists Speaking Out


11/3/15 – The United States “needs more scientists who are willing and able to step out in the public arena and to weigh in, clearly and strongly,” the president of a leading research university system argued recently, citing several successes. In Issues, a communications specialist sharpens this point, laying out how scientists can best communicate their findings to policymakers, including by highlighting evidence and options that can appeal to opposing ideologies.


Planning Beyond Sandy


11/2/15 – Following Hurricane Sandy, a multidisciplinary team developed a “decision tool” to aid recovery efforts, and in Issues a strategic planner involved in the project described lessons learned and called on the nation to shift from its tendency to react to natural disasters and instead to prepare for them. This message is amplified in a new report, described here by a former head of federal emergency management that proposes a national mitigation investment strategy to ensure that future generations are better prepared for the next disaster.




Climate Fight Clubs


10/30/15 – This year is on track to become the hottest year ever recorded, easily beating out 2014 and possibly signaling a return to a sustained period of rapid global warming. As many observers look to international voluntary limits on carbon emissions that drive atmospheric warming, a leading economist suggests in Issues that groups of countries might better form “climate clubs” that promote reductions by setting uniform prices on emitted carbon and penalizing nonparticipating countries through tariffs on goods they hope to export to member nations.



New Focus on Fusion

10/29/15 – A number of young companies are working to fulfill the promise of nuclear fusion, believing that they can succeed where government has fallen short. In Issues, the researcher who once headed the U.S. fusion program has indeed argued that the current approach being pursued jointly by several nations is a technological dead end, and he laid out lessons from the experience that should guide others pursuing alternative routes.



Recipe for Lab-Grown Meat


10/13/15 – At a recent conference in the middle of beef country, the head of a nonprofit group focused on the future of biotechnology in food production described what she called the “post-animal bioeconomy,” with laboratory-grown meat on the menu. In Issues, two Arizona specialists in sustainable engineering have earlier suggested that it is time to “start thinking about how factory-grown meat might transform our food system, the environment, and even our culture.” Check here to see just how meat is grown in the lab.




Juvenile Lifers and Neuroscience


10/10/15 – Five counties nationwide account for a quarter of all individuals sentenced as juveniles to life without parole, according to a report released just before the U.S. Supreme Court began examining whether to extend its ban on such sentences to retroactively cover those already incarcerated. One argument often cited for such a change: As detailed in Issues by a pioneering neuroscientist, young brains are not fully formed and thus juveniles may not be fully capable of assessing the risks and consequences of their actions. Check here for an update on opening oral arguments at the court.




Promoting College Togetherness


10/10/15 – Two respected educators have argued in Issues that higher education can be most effective by adopting “blended learning” that captures the best of online and face-to-face instruction. Extending this idea, David Brooks of the New York Times suggests that as technology makes the transmission of information “a commodity,” colleges should emphasize those things that require physical proximity, including moral and spiritual development, declaring: “Very few of us cultivate our souls as hermits. We do it through small groups and relationships and in social contexts.”



Shifting Gears for Saving Species


10/7/15 – In a significant shift detailed in the New York Times, many environmentalists are now arguing that conservation must work on a larger scale, focusing not on preserving single species in small islands of wilderness but on large landscapes and entire ecosystems, and on the benefits that nature provides to humans. Issues has provided the backstory, introducing some of the key players and their roles in this battle for the soul of conservation science.



Share Water, Avoid Conflict

10/5/15 – On the Blue Nile, construction is under way on a huge dam intended to guarantee water to the three countries—Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan—that are supporting the project. Such cooperation, an observer of environmental politics has said in Issues, is just what will be needed to overcome future conflicts over water in numerous regions, especially in international river basins.

GOP Acclimating to Change


10/2/15 – A majority of Republicans, including 54% of self-described conservatives, believe that the world’s climate is changing and that humans are playing some role, according to a new survey conducted by three Republican pollsters and reported in the New York Times. In Issues, a political analyst has looked at measures that conservatives might accept as part of a climate action plan, while an energy analyst has proposed combining control strategies drawn from across the political spectrum.



Temporary Visas Hurting U.S. Workers


10/1/15 – Global outsourcing and consulting firms are using visas to bring into the United States foreign workers who then take over jobs previously held by U.S. workers, according to a report in the New York Times that describes a variety of ways by which companies are allegedly abusing the system. Adopting improvements in the visa and immigration systems for scientists and engineers, as detailed in Issues, would help solve some of the industrial problems while also boosting the nation’s education system and improving the overall economy.



Tinkering with Human Genes


9/30/15 – Scientists in Britain have applied for permission to genetically modify human embryos as part of a project to study the earliest stages of human development, according to a report in the Guardian. Such work, a scientist-writer team has said in Issues, calls for sharper attention to matters of global bioethics, while another group has argued for a new, deliberative, and public-encompassing approach to evaluating emerging gene-editing technologies.



Press “UP” for Space


9/29/15 – A Canadian company, Thoth Technology, has announced plans to build a 12-mile-tall space elevator—for which it recently won a U.S. patent—to carry vehicles, payloads, and even people into orbit. As described in Issues, this is but one of several imaginative propulsion alternatives to conventional rockets that could make reaching and working in space more practical and affordable over the long run.



Thinking Boldly about Education


9/27/15 – The Washington Post is out with a description of how the University of Central Florida and Arizona State University are changing higher education by opening access on a grand scale and at lower costs, partly by relying on an ever-widening menu of online and semi-online courses. Arizona State President Michael M. Crow says the schools are pointing the way to a new era for U.S. research universities, based on a model he has explored in detail in Issues.



Feds Boost Behavioral Science


9/25/15 – In keeping with an exploration in Issues of how the social and behavioral sciences can nudge people in useful directions, President Barack Obama in mid-September issued an executive order calling on all federal agencies to ensure that their policies “reflect behavioral science insights,” adding that such efforts will lead to “substantially improved outcomes for the individuals, families, communities, and businesses those policies serve.” In a related move, the National Science and Technology Council released a report detailing how the government was already using behavioral insights “to strengthen the ways in which federal programs and policies serve the Nation.”


Considering Climate Change


9/24/15 – With Pope Francis joining numerous other observers in urging the U.S. government to take greater action to mitigate climate change, Issues has offered several discussions (including here, here, and here) of strategies that could help while minimizing political turmoil.


Biotech Regs Get New Review

Government regulations are suffocating the use of biotechnology to bring more and better food crops and animals to consumers, two leading observers of the field recently argued in Issues. In apparent agreement, the Obama administration announced in early July (here and here) that it is planning to update regulation of a variety of biotechnology products, saying that the system had become outdated and confusing and did not foster public confidence.


Why We Go to Space


Details of getting to and working in space have been regular grist for the mill at Issues, including why the United States should pursue joint international projects and why it should develop advanced launch technologies with capabilities beyond today’s rockets. But sometimes it is worth taking a grander look at why humans journey into space, as Charles Krauthammer did recently in the Washington Post, concluding that “For the wretched race of beings we surely are, we do, on occasion, manage to soar.”


New Thinking for Highways

With expiration looming for the Highway Trust Fund, some federal legislators are looking for a short-term extension to be followed by a six-year deal that would enable lawmakers to investigate direct user fees for funding infrastructure projects. In Issues, a transportation policy analyst has already proposed a shopping list of user fees that would be more efficient and more equitable than the fuel taxes now at the heart of highway funding.



Looking beyond Funding at NIH


After more than a decade of essentially flat funding, the National Institutes of Health appears likely to get a considerable budget boost from Congress for next year. But a policy analyst has pointed out in Issues that addressing a number of questions reaching beyond overall funding levels could help the nation get the best continuing return on its investments in health research.



Science v. World Poverty


The behavioral and social sciences have yielded benefits in the United States in areas such as national security, health care, and education, as described in Issues. In advances on the global stage, reported in the Wall Street Journal, new bands of scientific “randomistas” are adopting data-driven programs drawn largely from psychology and behavioral economics to help poor people save more, live better, and scramble up in their own way.



Muppet Lessons for MOOCs


“Sesame Street” has delivered lasting educational benefits to millions of children, a pair of economists has reported, adding that lessons from its decades’ of experience might extend to the massive open online courses entering higher education. In Issues, for example, two educators have examined how MOOCs can benefit research universities by blending the strengths of technology for delivering basic information with the person-to-person skills of faculty members for sharpening creative thinking and problem solving in their students.



Business Support for Climate Protection


Six of Europe’s largest oil and gas companies have called on the United Nations and world governments (here and here) to agree on “carbon pricing” to limit global warming, even as U.S. companies oppose such collective action. In Issues, two economists have argued for a carbon tax as a promising pricing mechanism, while a senior policy analyst, recognizing past resistance to such options, has called for a Plan B that places more emphasis on “technology-push” solutions.



Latest Look at Global Warming


Based on new research, federal scientists suggest that an apparent recent slowdown in global warming—a common talking point for many people who dispute human-caused climate change—did not occur, but only seemed so based on incorrect data. If this new view should add to calls for action, a longtime government energy staffer has proposed in Issues an approach to draw the best from “liberal” and “conservative” policies and practices.



Immigration Problems Roll On


Issues recently presented a comprehensive plan for improving the U.S. visa and immigration systems for scientists and engineers. But moving forward has remained challenging, as evidenced by talks at a forum organized by the National Journal (video here), and by reports of the continued prevalence of a key problem, the too-frequent granting of visas used to outsource high-tech jobs to foreign workers.



Building a Butterfly Highway


The White House recently announced plans to set aside a “highway” of conserved habitat between Texas and Minnesota that will aid embattled monarch butterflies on their annual migrations, part of a larger federal effort to protect crop pollinators. An ecologist who studies biological diversity has argued in Issues that such policy innovations are also needed elsewhere in the world to protect animal species whose long migrations place them in heightened peril.


Asians Missing from Top Sci/Tech Jobs

Asian professionals are nearly as common as white professionals in five large technology companies in Silicon Valley, yet Asians—especially women—are severely under-represented at executive levels, according to the latest federal diversity data examined by the Ascend Foundation, which also offered possible explanations for the leadership gaps. Issues has previously reported on federal data indicating that Asian women are rare not only in top positions in industry, but also in academia and government.

Hunting for Subs with Robots

Seagoing robots are likely to play a significant role in shaping how the United States and its allies fight future wars, if a number of technical, operational, and policy questions are answered, a national security and intelligence analyst recently argued in Issues. Now, in a first-of-its-kind advance on the technical front, a NATO research vessel taking part in an annual naval exercise successfully deployed for testing several prototype robotic underwater vehicles designed to hunt for submarines.


Helping Impoverished Students Learn

Students from low-income families are concentrated in particular regions and schools across the nation, and black students are more likely than white students to attend these high-poverty schools, according to a new report and interactive maps from the Urban Institute. In a pair of articles, Issues has examined what research says about how to improve the educational outcomes of impoverished students, including the need to address out-of-school factors that affect their academic performance.


Troubles for Overweight Kids

A decade ago, Issues featured an article based on a landmark report by the Institute of Medicine that described the growing obesity epidemic among U.S. children and proposed comprehensive remedies. But two new scientific reports provide glimpses of challenges that remain—one describing what some observer see as limited progress in changing how foods are advertised to children, and another revealing that nearly all parents think their overweight children look “just right.”


What’s the Value of Student Testing?

In all of the talk about testing students and holding schools, teachers, and principals accountable for their performance, one question commonly surfaces: Does the current testing regime work? This was recently debated in the New York Times. And in a broader examination, Issues presented the results of a major study—mostly disappointing—of how much standardized testing drives improvement in student learning and whether it can serve as a broad-based evaluation tool.


Living with Technology’s Impact on Jobs

A policy analyst recently argued in Issues that economics provides a compelling model of how labor markets adjust to technological change, though often with painful, if temporary, consequences. In the Atlantic, an economist and former software company CEO reaffirms this thinking, proposing that technology will primarily shift workers into new jobs demanding new skills, and that the country must adjust by adopting broad-based policies that will help workers gain the tools needed to prosper.


Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Hits Record

For the first time since the federal government began tracking carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere, the monthly average concentration of this greenhouse gas surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015, according to latest results. Soon after, the Republican head of the Senate environment committee repeated his claim that carbon pollution is good for the Earth. In what may be a way to help square this circle, a leading conservative scholar has described in Issues policies that might win bipartisan support for reducing carbon emissions to mitigate climate change.


Gene Tests Spark Ethical Concerns

Tests by scientists in China of a technology for modifying the genetic code of human embryos, even though unsuccessful, are fueling intense debate in public and scientific arenas (here and here). In Issues, a scientist and a writer recently explored how new voices from various quarters are fostering dialogue on the ethics of such emerging—and deeply personal—health sciences.


Call for More Health Funding

Government funding for the National Institutes of Health should be roughly doubled during the next budget cycle, with an accompanying set of reforms to guide its operation, Newt Gingrich, a Republican and former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, declared in the New York Times. In Issues, a policy analyst at Duke University has examined the forces behind the ups and downs of NIH funding over recent decades, pointing out that the “place to start is with an understanding of NIH’s political context, and the fact that the NIH budget rests on several tectonic plates, subject to different political pressures.”


New Moves for MOOCs

In an examination of how massive open online courses, or MOOCs, may reshape higher education, two education leaders noted in Issues that “colleges and universities may get to the point of offering their introductory courses online” and that “there is an opportunity for worldwide availability of courses.” Both of these futures are reflected in Arizona State University’s new plan to offer students anywhere in the world an online slate of first-year courses that will earn official credits toward graduation at a greatly reduced cost, which is consistent with ASU president Michael Crow’s vision for higher education.

Electric Vehicles Taking Off

Global sales of electric vehicles grew by more than a third in 2014 over the previous year, according to Bloomberg Business, and manufactures are preparing to increase output as production costs plunge. Such encouraging projections are among the reasons behind the argument made in Issues by a team of analysts that the United States should continue government support for electric vehicles until at least 2017, when the next review of federal auto policies is due.

Seeking Space Cooperation

Even as relations between the United States and Russia remain rocky, the two nations plan to work together on a roadmap to send humans to the Moon and Mars, according to a statement by NASA’s director reported in Space Daily. Such cooperation would reflect advice offered in Issues that given the U.S. budget climate, “space exploration is now a discretionary activity, not a national imperative,” and that one sustainable path would be “making space exploration a cooperative global undertaking.”

Rethinking Conservation

The successful spread of invasive species, such as the migration of coyotes from the wild into urbanized areas, is driving some conservationists to rethink their science and strategies, according to a report in Salon. Journalist Keith Kloor has taken a broader look in Issues at this emerging controversy in conservation circles about whether human activity is an integral lpart of nature or a force from which nature must be protected.


NASA Needs to (More) Boldly Go

NASA recently announced a dozen grants to private companies to develop technologies for getting to and working in space, including a rocket that its developers say could carry humans to Mars in less than six weeks. But a space historian has argued in Issues that such approaches will not be enough, and that the government should pursue radically new launch technologies that could truly open the door to vast opportunities for space exploration and development.


Political End Run on Climate

Political scholar Steven F. Hayward recently presented in Issues the conservative position on global warming and climate change, including a look at measures that conservatives might accept as part of any action plan. He has now extended his views in the Wall Street Journal, describing several ways for “the GOP Congress to get ahead of Mr. Obama” and “restore some balance to climate-change policy.”


Visa Demand Calls for Reform

Once again this year, demand for U.S. visas for skilled workers exceeded the year’s entire supply in the first week that employers could file applications, and some critics say qualified U.S. workers are displaced by cheaper foreign hires through the program, says a report in the Wall Street Journal. In Issues, a leading policy analyst has offered a detailed blueprint for improving the visa and immigration systems for scientists and engineers, including increasing the cap on visas for skilled workers and cutting visas to companies that outsource high-tech jobs to foreign workers.

Lab Burgers Aim for the Menu

When the first laboratory-grown hamburgers hit the grill, two Arizona specialists in sustainable engineering said in Issues that their $300,000-plus price tag “doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start thinking about how factory-grown meat might transform our food system, the environment, and even our culture.” Now, Dutch researchers report that costs have dropped to around $11 a patty, still a ways from commercial reality, but tipping the scale in favor of paying increased attention to the potential impact of faux meat.

Alternative Routes to Highway Funding

Some states are trying to reduce rewards for owners of electric vehicles to help offset declining revenues from the federal excise tax on motor fuels, says a report in Slate. But a group of researchers has made the case in Issues for continuing economic incentives for electric vehicles for at least several more years, while another analyst has proposed adopting a national system of direct user fees that can equitably and efficiently support a range of transportation activities.



What Comes after Job Losses?

The transformation of labor markets being swept in by information technology and robotics, as explored in Issues, will challenge society’s ability to adjust. Among possible strategies cited in the New York Times, some observers say the government might provide displaced workers with an unconditional basic income so they can serve as volunteers in socially important areas such as elder care, child care, cultural activities, and environmental protection.


Fracking Hits the Road

A quartet of scientists and policy analysts recently noted in Issues that little information is available publically on the side-effects of “fracking” to tap oil and gas resources. As something of a cautionary tale, Newsweek has reported that some municipalities in New York and Pennsylvania spray briny wastes from local gas wells on roads to melt winter ice or suppress summer dust, without tracking their use or considering new research that points to their potential health risks.


Climate Cues from Ronald Reagan

George Shultz, former secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, recently argued in the Washington Post that “the globe is warming and that carbon dioxide has something to do with that fact,” adding that deniers “will wind up being mugged by reality” and that his boss would have taken corrective action as an “insurance policy.” In Issues, a scholar of conservative thought has offered details about what an acceptable policy might look like.


Higher Education: Web or Walls?

In a new book cited by nprEd, an education policy analyst and writer envisions a future in which “the idea of ‘admission’ to college will become an anachronism” as online higher education produces a “University of Everywhere” that will be open to everyone. In Issues, two leading educators have agreed that massive open online courses, or MOOCs, hold great promise, but they argued that the best solution will be to blend the strengths of electronic study with the benefits of the traditional college experience.



Good Time for Carbon Tax

With the recent steep fall in oil prices and associated declines in other energy prices, the stars are aligned for adopting a carbon tax on consumption of fossil fuels, Lawrence Summers, a former treasury secretary and presidential adviser, says in the Washington Post. While favoring such a move, two economists have argued in Issues for even broader changes in tax policies, such as ending various energy supply subsidies, to maximize reductions in carbon emissions linked to global climate change.


Making Babies and Bioethics

The United Kingdom has moved toward becoming the first country in the world to authorize a “three-person” in-vitro fertilization technique that combines two parents’ genetic material with that of a third female donor. In Issues, a researcher and a writer have previously joined forces on an essay examining the global bioethical debate that is emerging alongside such revolutionary technological developments.



Ramping Up U.S. Entrepreneurship


Despite a widespread impression that the United States is a hotbed of innovation, the past three decades have seen a dramatic slowing in the formation of new companies, says a report in the newest Foreign Affairs. Among various proposed solutions: inviting in more talented immigrants who combine technological prowess with an appetite for entrepreneurial risk. And Issues has provided a detailed blueprint for how to make this happen.



Helping Students in Poverty

For the first time in at least half a century, a majority of public school students in the United States come from low-income families, according to new federal data reported in the Washington Post. This shift underscores the need cited in Issues to take a more comprehensive approach to improving educational outcomes for low-income students (as well minority students and English learners) and to address the many out-of-school factors that affect their academic performance.


Conservatives Discover Climate Change

The Politico news group recently sketched out the insider maneuverings when all but one of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted to acknowledge that climate change is real, though they balked at tying rising global temperatures to human activities. So what should be done? In Issues, a scholar of conservative thought has written that whatever policies are developed to address climate change, they must be compatible with individual liberty and democratic institutions, and cannot rely on coercive or unaccountable bureaucratic administration.


Military Taps Social Science to Save Energy

The behavioral and social sciences have helped shape public policies in many diverse areas, but their contributions are not always apparent to the broader science community or the public, two leading analysts have pointed out in Issues. For example, the Washington Post reports that the military is increasingly turning to psychology and the behavioral sciences to find ways of saving energy, and the “opportunities that we see. . . are phenomenal,” says one specialist in the Pentagon.


Robots Advancing on Europe

Just as an economic analyst recently reported in Issues how advances in artificial intelligence and robotics may eliminate or modify many types of jobs in the United States, a study cited in the Global Post predicts that a new wave of robots and computerization may take half or more jobs, especially among the white-collar workforce, in Germany and elsewhere across Europe. But at the same time, the European Union is investing heavily to speed up the development of robotics, convinced that the net result will be creation of many more new jobs across a variety of fields.


China Promoting Electric Cars

A quartet of authors has argued in Issues that the United States should continue its push to commercialize electric vehicles until at least 2017, when a review of federal auto policies is scheduled. China seems to be following an even more aggressive route, as the government recently announced plans to extend its current incentives for electric cars until 2020, while also reducing subsidies for traditional vehicles.


Protecting Animal Migrations

Migratory animals face increasingly perilous times, their challenges magnified by their long journeys. Among examples in the recent news, monarch butterflies, which commute annually between North America and Mexico, have just been added for consideration for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, while elephants, which wander across vast spaces of Africa, were lost in record numbers to poaching last year. But a specialist in the conservation of biodiversity has argued in Issues that timely international action can save many of the great animal migrations, gaining aesthetic, ecological, and economic rewards.


Losing Track of What Kids Eat

As part of a comprehensive plan to reduce childhood obesity in the United States, an Institute of Medicine report, highlighted in Issues, recommended giving the Federal Trade Commission authority to monitor how the food industry markets its products to kids. The government agreed, and the commission set to work—but Politico says it may now be quitting the job.


Military Limits on Energy Innovation

Despite the Department of Defense’s history in innovation, it is not practical to look to the military for the kind of transformational energy technologies that will be needed to mitigate climate change, say two analysts on Future Tense. In a more detailed look at this situation, a scholar working at the intersection of national security and economic policy has detailed in Issues how the military faces fundamental limits in driving major energy innovation, adding that it would be better to seek more limited gains by focusing defense-led technology development on energy projects that actually align with military missions.


Community Colleges Can Pay Off

New research described recently on nprEd shows that some community college degrees or certificates can significantly increase a student’s potential income. In Issues, the head of another major study has reported similar results, adding that some of the patterns observed “are likely to surprise anyone who spends most of his or her life thinking about and working in elite institutions and strong research departments.”


Poor Reporting of Fracking Risks

Development of oil and gas resources enabled by fracking is rapidly growing across the United States, but there is little information available to the public on the risks associated with such efforts, according to a recent Issues. Even investors are shortchanged, says a new report, as the majority of oil and gas companies engaged in fracking fail to adequately inform the business community about practices and progress in reducing risks of their operations.



Going to Space Together

A long-time observer of space policy and history has written in Issues that in charting its future in space, the United States would be wise to heed President John F. Kennedy’s advice and make exploration a cooperative global undertaking. NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, recently added a note of agreement, pointing to the roster of countries with growing space capabilities and adding philosophically that “When we go to explore, we do it as a globe.”



Value of Teaching Coding?

In a scene reported by Politico, President Barack Obama recently sat down with some middle school students to write a bit of computer code, to help promote a popular campaign financed by the tech industry to advance education in computer science. But along with examining projected benefits of boosting such educational efforts, Politico also cited an Issues article arguing against the need to train large numbers of new science and technology workers, as their career rewards might be limited and they would mainly serve to help companies keep their costs down.


Getting Drivers to Pay

With the Highway Trust Fund going broke and Congress delaying a long-term fix, California and a handful of other states are considering mileage-based user fees to replace or supplement fuel taxes. In Issues, a longtime California-based civil engineer and urban planner has worked through the advantages of this and several related options for supporting transportation activities.


Putting Social Sciences to Work

Using the recent outbreak of Ebola as an example, the World Bank explored in its 2015 World Development Report how advances in understanding human behavior can be used to improve personal and social well-being. Striking the same theme, two leading scholars have argued in Issues that applying the social and behavioral sciences to policy and practices in the United States will be essential to achieving national goals in areas ranging from health care to national security.


Examining a Planetary Reboot

Newsweek is out with a major survey of possible ways to modify Earth’s systems to mitigate or avoid human-caused climate change. The prospects and pitfalls of “geoengineering” have also been explored in Issues, with authors offering such pragmatic advice as convening a government advisory committee to guide projects from research to implementation, and making sure that public interests dominate the decision-making process.


Heading the Wrong Way

NASA recently launched its latest advanced rocket on a mission designed to lead ultimately into deeper space. But in Issues, a long-time observer of science and society has argued that the federal government and its space agency should be looking more actively in a different direction—toward the oceans, which offer more promising solutions to the world’s energy, food, environmental, and other problems.


Looking Hopefully to Yeast

Canada has awarded a pioneering network of researchers $2.3 million to use yeast, along with several other key organisms, to investigate the molecular mechanisms of rare diseases in search of effective therapies. This reflects in some measure the hope expressed in Issues that science funding agencies and institutions would continue to invest time, infrastructure, and patience into working with this little organism that has so much discovery yet to offer.


Smart Automation to Help Humans

Advances in information technology and robotics will transform the labor market over the next few decades in ways that will challenge society’s ability to make timely adjustments, says an exploratory study reported in Issues. One approach to helping workers find a satisfying fit in such a technological future, according to an essay in the Wall Street Journal, is to develop “human-centered automation” that gives the unique talents of people precedence over the useful but limited skills of machines.


Improvements in Immigration System Still Needed

President Obama’s recent decision on immigration, whatever its effects, will not address the problems that trouble technology companies the most, including tight limits on temporary visas for high-skilled workers, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. In Issues, a leading analyst on science and technology policy laid out a comprehensive set of proposals that might offer an effective, achievable, and secure way to streamline the nation’s visa and immigration systems for scientists and engineers.

Politics and Climate Change, Revisited

A new United Nations report has reaffirmed the major role that humans are playing in driving climate change. With the Republicans now in control of the U.S. Congress, the recent Issues article outlining conservative views on climate change may provide some pragmatic advice for designing and implementing therapeutic actions.

Climate Change and Coastal Risk

A new report from the National Research Council, described in the New York Times, declared that “as a compassionate nation, we rally each time a disaster strikes and provide resources for postdisaster recovery that far exceed those we are willing to provide to manage risk.” In Issues, a strategic planner involved in recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy pointed out the same problem and offered some practical lessons for breaking out of this default survival strategy.


Understanding the Adolescent Brain

Noted psychologist Laurence Steinberg recently explored in Issues how adolescents’ brain development may make them more likely than adults to take risks and ignore consequences—and what this should mean for policymakers. In a new book, described on National Public Radio’s website, he expands the discussion, arguing that the nation’s education and legal systems, as well as parenting, have yet to catch up with emerging scientific insights.



Julia Child in the Lab

Two scientists in Arizona who study the intersection of technology and social change recently examined in Issues the status and prospects of factory-grown meat. Now, a team of chefs, designers, and artists in Amsterdam has published The In Vitro Meat Cookbook, which describes such dishes as “maple-smoked labchops” and “meat fruit tartlets.” The authors explain on the Future Tense blog that they want to help people “visualize a wide range of possible new dishes and food cultures to help us decide what future we actually want.”


Renewed Focus on Geoengineering

A number of new reports and meetings on climate change and its projected effects are injecting new saliency and urgency into the conversation, says an expert in the field writing in The Hill. But several authors have argued in Issues that before any geoengineering efforts are launched, the United States, for its part, should convene a government advisory committee to guide research and implementation, and also take steps to ensure that activities will not be influenced by any vested interests.

Defusing Water Conflicts

Islamic State militants reportedly are increasingly using water as a weapon in Iraq, cutting off supplies to villages and pressing to control dams and other water infrastructure. Troubling, for sure. Yet many regions of the world potentially face even more complicated conflicts over water, and an expert examines in Issues how they may be defused through informed government policies and management decisions.


Predators in the City


12/23/15 – Increasing numbers of wild animals, including various major predators, are making themselves at home in urban areas across the United States and worldwide, says an opinion article in the New York Times. Such intermingling is helping to fuel a debate in conservation science, reported in Issues, about whether human activity should be viewed as simply part of nature or as a critical threat from which nature must be protected.


Electrifying Africa, but Not Enough


President Obama has announced that private companies and government institutions will provide an additional $12 billion to the administration’s electrification program for Africa, with a goal of adding 30,000 megawatts of capacity. But two analysts have argued in Issues that far more electricity would be needed to adequately boost productivity and raise living standards among poor people there and in other impoverished regions.


Learning from MOOCs

The Atlantic recently examined the status and prospects for massive open online courses, or MOOCs, highlighting many of the ideas explored in Issues by two leading educators. Among the shared observations is the value of incorporating the insights from the MOOC revolution back into the traditional classroom through such mechanisms as “blended learning” and restructuring of the lecture-then-exam model of teaching.


Control Algae, Protect Climate

Nutrient-driven algae blooms in Lake Erie recently forced Toledo, Ohio, to warn residents against drinking water from public supplies. In Issues, a trio of experts have examined options for restricting input of nitrogen and phosphorus into the nation’s waterways, not only to improve environmental quality but to rein in a driver of climate change.


Blurred Lines in the Work World

The line between jobs that are considered routine and able to be done by a machine and those that require a human brain is blurry and becoming blurrier, says a New York Times article, citing a recent working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Issues has also examined this shift, surveying the potential for information technology and robotics to transform jobs over the next several decades.


Innovating Women

Immigrants have made out-sized contributions to science and technology innovation in the United States, entrepreneur and researcher Vivek Wadhwa has said in Issues (here and here). Looking at the international scene from another angle, he recently focused on the dominance of men in executive high-tech positions, reporting on LinkedIn that educational trends are now making the future look brighter for women in Indian firms than in Silicon Valley.


Paying by the Mile

In keeping with ideas explored in Issues, the Center for American Progress urges in a new report that Congress use the current debate over the beleaguered Highway Trust Fund to begin switching from federal gas taxes to mileage-based user fees to provide robust, sustainable support for surface transportation activities, and at least one House member is already taking action.


Backlash against Foreign Workers

An expert in labor markets has argued in Issues that the United States is producing more than enough quality workers in scientific and engineering fields, making it unnecessary to further tailor immigration policies to the needs of specific industries. Now, a story by the Associated Press says that a backlash is growing among U.S. workers against foreign workers brought in under policies that favor employers over the domestic workforce.


Welcoming the Robots

The co-founder and chief executive of Google, Larry Page, said recently (and perhaps not unsurprisingly) in a video recorded at a venture capital meeting that the expansion of robots in the workplace—a prospect examined in Issues—may actually improve the lives of many workers in a variety of ways, including by enabling them to “just reduce work time.”


Conservative Movement on Climate Change?

Henry “Hank” Paulson, who served as Treasury Secretary under Pres. George W. Bush, told a television talk show recently that many Republicans are ready to acknowledge the serious threats posed by climate change and discuss options. In an examination of what such movement might look like, three analysts have suggested in Issues a broad and effective portfolio of technology options that could provide the common ground on which conservatives and liberals agree.


Which Way to Space?

Traveling to Mars has been called the next step for U.S. spacefarers, though arguments swirl about whether to get there via the moon or an asteroid. But observers have argued in Issues that attention should focus instead on developing radically new propulsion systems that will make getting to space cheaper, or on joining with other nations to make space exploration a global undertaking.


Bill Clinton on education and opportunity

Former President Bill Clinton gave the keynote address at a Brookings Hamilton Project conference on “Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis.” Clinton’s remarks followed several panel discussions of apprenticeships and other ways of training high-skill workers. Panelists included Harry Holzer and Robert Lerman, who have written about this topic in Issues.

Clinton emphasized the need for policies such as income-contingent student loan repayment, lower tuition, and retention programs  that enable low-income people to afford and finish a quality education. He also recommended that we eliminate the misleading distinction between education that develops workplace skills and academic knowledge.

Need for Carbon Tax…and More

Robert J. Samuelson recently said in his Washington Post column that the best near-term idea for moving against global climate change is a carbon tax to help finance government and stimulate energy-saving technologies and new forms of non-carbon energy. Two economists made a similar argument in Issues, adding that other useful tax-related policies include an end to energy supply subsidies, a green tax swap, a tightening of the gas guzzler tax, and conservation incentive programs.

Katie Couric Takes on Childhood Obesity

The co-executive producer and narrator of the new documentary Fed Up, Katie Couric said in Time that its key message is that the nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity is due mainly to “the food we’re eating every day and the sugar that’s hidden in so much of it.” A groundbreaking Institute of Medicine report nearly a decade ago offered a broader description of—and prescription for solving—the problem, as presented in Issues by several of the report’s authors.

Climate Change in a Conservative World

Climate change is here and action is needed now, says a new White House report detailed on But a conservative scholar says in Issues that for the nation to be most effective, government policymakers will need to understand how conservatives view the climate change debate—and science issues more broadly—and take their fundamental principles into account.

Tapping User Fees for Transportation

Facing a depleted highway trust fund and a flat motor fuel tax, the Obama administration recently opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to help pay for transportation projects. Looking beyond this modest foray into charging people directly for their highway use, Martin Wachs, a longtime transportation analyst, has suggested in Issues that several types of more efficient, and more equitable, user charges are ready to be phased in.

FIRST Act Generates Resistance

The proposed Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, which is the House Republicans alternative to the America Competes Act, is producing a strong reaction from the science community. At the May 1 AAAS Forum on S&T Policy, presidential science adviser John Holdren empasized the importance of maintaining NSF’s independence in making research funding decisions, and earlier in the week the National Science Board raised concerns about some aspects of the bill.

What Climate Change Means for Security

A retired Navy rear admiral and current professor of meteorology said in Slate that human-driven climate change is a growing security threat for the United States and many other nations. In Issues, a recent examination called the case for linking climate change and national security “robust but imperfect,” adding that people who are persuaded say there is much the United States can and should be doing on this front.

New Federal Boost for Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships, which Issues has explored as a practical tool for preparing the nation’s emerging workforce for good jobs today and into the future, will now become a key part of a major new federal job-training program. Newly announced by President Obama, the program will provide $100 million in competitive grants to expand apprenticeships nationwide, along with additional funding to encourage businesses and community colleges to collaborate on vocational training that targets critical industrial needs.

Technology’s Workplace Impact

A recent New York Times article examines a worrisome question: what if the rush of technology in many fields is becoming a substitute for labor, pushing people out of good jobs without opening promising new employment opportunities? In Issues, Stuart W. Elliott presents his latest findings on how advances in information technology and robotics are likely to transform the workplace in the next few decades, concluding that the nation should regularly track emerging technological capabilities in order to anticipate their full consequences.

Upping the Odds for Geoengineering?

In its latest report on climate change, the United Nations makes its first mention of a possible future need to remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and inject it underground, according to the Toronto Star. But experts have cautioned in Issues that long before the United States takes such a step toward even modest “geoengineering,” it should establish an official oversight mechanism for evaluating research and making public decisions.

Returning to Energy Basics

Investment in renewable energy projects declined in the United States and globally during 2013, according to a new report, in large part because of worries about future government support. But an expert on energy markets has argued in Issues that progress will be maximized only if the U.S. government stops trying to drive commercialization of particular technologies and returns to doing what it does best, supporting conceptual and technical research to find new and better technologies.

More Doubts about Farmer Suicide Link

In Issues, a journalist recently debunked the common perception that the use of genetically modified cotton in India has precipitated an epidemic of suicides among its small farmers. Now, a statistician has released data making the same case, arguing that not only does available data show no increase in suicides following the introduction of genetically modified cotton, but that the suicide rate among farmers has actually declined since then.

Seeking the Cultured Burger

A well-known wealth manager in Silicon Valley recently examined in Forbes the prospects for factory-made “cultured meat,” noting, among other things, that global demand for meat is projected to increase by more than two-thirds by 2050. In Issues, two scientists from Arizona State University have taken a more detailed look, suggesting a likely blueprint for initial industrial-scale production of meat and noting that obstacles may be as much social as technical or economic.

Expanding Routes to Good Jobs

James Fallows, a longtime observer of the American scene, reports in The Atlantic on a Georgia high school in which all students not only take traditional academic classes but also participate in one of five “academies” emphasizing specific occupational skills, adding that such programs seem to be on the rise across the nation. Issues has also explored (here and here) how apprenticeships and other forms of technical training can prepare students, including those not interested in college, for jobs that are interesting, pay well, and likely to be secure.

Court Sides with Whales

The United Nations’ highest court has halted Japan’s large “research whaling” program in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica. But the decision will not stop all whaling by Japan or several other countries, and creating a “whale conservation market” that sells sustainable “whale shares,” as described in Issues, may provide an effective alternative to legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect global whale populations.

Looking for New Ways into Space

In the spirit of a call in Issues for bold new technologies to advance space exploration and development, an international group of experts has backed the use of beanstalk-like “space elevators” to carry people and goods into orbit, and NASA has announced plans to build ion thruster engines popularized in “Star Wars” to power a mission to capture an asteroid.

Promoting Free Internet Speech

Speaking during a visit to Beijing, Michelle Obama declared that freedom of speech, particularly on the Internet and in the news media, provides the foundation for a vibrant society. Striking a similar theme in Issues, Hilary Rodham Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State, said that protecting open communication—online and offline—is essential to ensuring the fundamental rights and freedoms of people everywhere.

Protecting the Unwanted Fish

The conservation group Oceana has released a new report detailing how “bycatch” is damaging the health of U.S. fisheries. Ecologist and writer Carl Safina has examined this and related problems in Issues, calling for a new era of fisheries management that will beef-up old tools and adopt an array of new “smart tools” to protect these valuable and threatened resources.

Alternate Routes to Career Success

Education expert Michael J. Petrilli argues in the online magazine Slate that many students would be best served not by focusing them on pursing a traditional college education but rather by providing them with sound early education followed by programs in high school and at community colleges that help them develop strong technical and interpersonal skills. Issues has examined various ways of structuring such alternative routes to the middle class, including the expansion of occupational certificate and apprenticeship programs.

Progress in Childhood Obesity, yet Challenges Remain

A major new federal health survey has reported a 43% drop in the obesity rate among young children over the past decade, but older children and adolescents have made little or no progress. In Issues, Jeffrey P. Koplan and colleagues presented lessons from an earlier groundbreaking study by the Institute of Medicine on what the nation should be doing to address this epidemic and its higher risks for serious disease.

Pitbull Promotes Education

Along with making school attendance compulsory, states and cities should develop programs to keep students—especially those at risk of absenteeism and poor performance—engaged in learning from elementary grades through high school graduation, two education experts have noted in Issues. In an innovative application of this spirit, the pop star Pitbull is supporting a charter school in Miami that engages students by drawing its lessons in all subjects, including science and math, from the world of sports.

Immigration and the Economy

The financial services company Standard & Poor’s has recently released a report suggesting that increasing the number of visas issued to immigrants with technical skills will boost the U.S. economy and even spur job growth for native-born workers. Several Issues articles have made similar cases (here and here), but an expert in labor markets has also argued that the nation is producing more than enough quality workers in scientific and engineering fields—and policymakers and industry leaders should proceed accordingly.

Leveling the Playing Field for Women in Science

Issues has explored the status of women in science from several angles, including in an examination of how to plug the leaks of both women and men in the scientific workforce, and in a personal essay about the choices women often face when confronting the “system” of science. Many of these and other ideas are explored in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Mary Ann Mason, co-author of the recently published book Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower.

Toward a Smarter Electric Grid

Utilities have installed more than 60 million smart electric meters in North America in the past decade, the Wall Street Journal recently noted, adding that the challenge now is figuring out what to do with all the information the devices are generating. In Issues, Lawrence Makovich examined the perceptions and reality of implementing a “smarter” grid system, which faces some bumps along the way but offers significant potential rewards.

Climate Change and National Security

The latest report from an international panel of scientists details the increased certainty that human activities are driving climate change and surveys the range of effects thought likely to result. Some observers argue that climate change will touch directly on the United States’ security, and in Issues, Richard Matthew examines the case and offers some possible actions the nation might take.

New Rides into Space Needed

The launch by SpaceX of its newest Falcon 9 rocket, which followed hard on the heels of the arrival of Orbital Science Corporation’s Cygnus cargo ship at the International Space Station, collectively mark the reach of private companies into space. But Jonathan Coopersmith argues in Issues that rockets are so 20th century, and a government effort to develop new launch technologies could open the door to vast opportunities for space exploration and development.

Countering a Blooming Problem

Blooms of toxic algae, nourished by nitrogen and phosphorus leaching into waterways, are increasingly common across much of the United States, according to a recent report described here. In Issues, a trio of experts has explained how better managing use of these nutrients—in agriculture and in urban areas—can yield environmental, socioeconomic, and national security benefits, especially as atmospheric warming drives climate change.

The Little Reactor That Could?

The United States and several other nations are pursuing small modular nuclear reactors as vital components in their energy futures, Issues reported in summer 2011. Progress in developing such reactors continues apace, as described recently in National Journal, spurred by their potential economic and safety advantages over larger nuclear cousins, as well as by their projected role in diversifying energy production and reducing carbon emissions.

Crafting Better Strategies to Fight Drugs

A new international study suggests that the supply of illegal drugs in the United States and globally is increasing, with drugs also becoming cheaper, purer, and more potent. In Issues, four experts on public drug policies proposed a new research agenda—less focused on current approaches and more attentive to alternatives—that may lead to improvements in public welfare.

Skilled Migrants Looking Elsewhere

The value of encouraging migrants to enter and stay in the U.S. science and technology enterprise is hotly debated, as presented in Issues here, here, and here. But an expert working on the immigration frontlines raises a point in National Journal that may affect the conversation: most potential migrants with technical skills are now looking to other countries—and those countries are putting out the welcome mat.

Manufacturing’s Rustbelt Resurgence

Issues has examined several ways to revitalize manufacturing in the United States, including fostering widespread use of advanced production methods and improving the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized firms. Some of these approaches seem to be working in the rustbelt, according to The Daily Beast, as new technologies and an abundance of skilled workers are reviving the often-scorned region’s industrial base.