Weekly Webcrawl: Sequestration edition

In recog­ni­tion of sequestration–across-the-baord fed­eral spending cuts that auto­mat­i­cally take effect today–I’m ded­i­cating this week’s webcrawl to the beauty of science.

First, watch this and swoon:

via Wired.

This video reminds me of two things:

  1. The world is a beautiful place that deserves our attention, exploration, and educated protection.
  2. Politics are a lot like the seasons, which wax and wane between periods of desolation and periods of abundance.

Seques­tra­tion will have a pro­found effect on sci­ence, cut­ting by bil­lions of dol­lars the pri­mary funding supply of the majority of research pro­grams around the country. But, hope­fully, this too will pass…?

In my blog post about seques­tra­tion a couple weeks ago, North­eastern pro­fessor Woody Kay said that sci­ence policy’s biggest problem is that politi­cians and sci­en­tists live in dif­ferent time frames and use dif­ferent lan­guages. So, sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion becomes an inte­gral piece of bridging the gap that has gotten us in this sorry sit­u­a­tion. There were some great posts about this topic this week:

  • For Scientists: this is where news comes from: My friend Jessica Stoller-Conrad blogs about the seemingly-mystifying process of getting your work recognized by popular media on Figure One.
  • Out of the comfort zone and into the fire: Flame Challenge organizer Christine O'Connell describes her first experiences learning how to communicate science to a broad audience, while at the same time issuing a plea to scientists to describe the concept of time to 11 year olds (or, perhaps, politicians?) in 300 words or less.
  • We're all Jonah Lehrer except me: Ruined science writer Jonah Leherer's biggest crime was telling stories. But is this something all science writers are guilty of on some level? How do we ensure our narratives don't bely scientific truth?
  • Annals of amplification in journalism: A continuation of the above point, how do we ensure that media don't run wild with scientific results, delivering to the masses false fear of things like cell phone use and egg yolks?
  • The adventures of Dr. Watson, science writer: Last Word on Nothing blogger Michelle Nijhuis reminds us of both the wonder of Holmes and the challenges Watson had in dealing with him.

Speaking of wonder, isn’t that what it’s all about, this sci­ence thing? A deep curiosity of the world and universe?

Maybe that’s not enough to war­rant big bucks from tax­payers, but with seques­tra­tion, what do we risk for­going? Some great sci­en­tific dis­cov­eries and research pur­suits reported this week:

And what mes­sage do we send to the next gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tists, thinkers, and deciders about the value of sci­ence by cut­ting our com­mit­ment to it? Do we inad­ver­tantly squelch their curiosity and inspi­ra­tion?

Today is a sad day for sci­ence (and many other impor­tant national pro­grams), but per­haps it’s just a wintry stop on our journey toward some enduring spring. I think we all have a duty to get the train rolling again.