Monday, December 29, 2008

2009: International Year of the Boffin?

Another year has whizzed passed at Economist towers. From our vantage point, just south of Picadilly, the city looks very peaceful and quiet.

Just a quick note to let you all know what I have in the Christmas issue. The double issue, packed with essays, is our single best-selling issue of the year. The lead in the science section this year is suitably Christmassy, and all about scent. The Bom chicka wah wah effect explained.

The scent of a man. To attract a woman by wearing scent, a man must first attract himself. Dec 18th 2008.

2009: International Year of the Boffin?
To round up the end of the year, I'd also like to congratulate the European Commission on its recent masterful work in December in managing to award itself unjustifiably huge bluefin quotas this year, in the teeth of scientific advice.

I'm actually looking forward to 2009, it may be economic misery for most of us, but at least the US has a serious raft of new scientific advisers in top positions in the new Obama administration.

Harvard physicist John Holdren will be the presidential science advisor, physicist Steve Chu as Secretary of Energy, and Oregon State marine biologist Jane Lubchenco will head the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

It doesn't necessary mean that science will always be the final word in political decision-making, but it does show that the science will be listened to and taken seriously, even when this may be politically inconvenient.

This sort of heavyweight scientific advice has been notably absent from the Bush administrations. Consequently, science, as a result, has moved right down the political agenda. The only way for science to play its part, is to make sure that plenty of scientists get top political jobs. They see the world differently. If anything, this makes political decisions all the more difficult because you have to take in reality as a data point, rather than just try to find a compromise between the various noisy interest groups and lobbyists.

Nobody in authority ever hired a scientist because they wanted to make lots of people happy. But any administration serious about solving real world problems, rather than just politics as usual, needs boffins.

Also, a recent green.view:

Welcome to the NASQUACK. An exchange for species rather than stocks. Dec 15th 2008

Happy New Year. Don't forget, if you have a story or lead, please drop me a line.