I’m speaking at Harvard Friday on science blogging

I am moving this to the top for use during my presentation.

HarvardThe all-day workshop is titled, “Unruly Democracy: Science Blogs and the Public Sphere.”  It is jointly sponsored by the Program on Science, Technology and Society at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT.

I’m on an afternoon panel.  There is still a little space available.  You can register here.  Click on poster to enlarge (big PDF).

Full agenda and fellow panelists are below:

Friday, April 30, 2010, 9:30am-4pm
Bell Hall
Belfer Building
79 JFK Street
Harvard Kennedy School


Sheila Jasanoff (STS Program, Harvard Kennedy School)

Henry Donahue (CEO, Discover)
Gideon Gil (Science Editor, Boston Globe)
Representative of Seed Magazine [pending confirmation]

Francesca Grifo (Union of Concerned Scientists)
Chris Mooney (MIT and Discover)
Jessica Palmer (ScienceBlogs: Bioephemera)

Amanda Gefter (New Scientist)
Kimberley Isbell (Citizens Media Law Project)
“Dr. Isis” (ScienceBlogs)
Thomas Levenson (MIT)

Sam Bayard (Citizen Media Law Project)
Phil Hilts (Knight Program, MIT)
Joseph Romm (Center for American Progress)
Cristine Russell (Harvard Kennedy School)

Open Discussion and Wrap-Up

Here’s some posts I’ll be talking about:

NYT Feb20

18 Responses to I’m speaking at Harvard Friday on science blogging

  1. Sou says:

    No tips right now, Joe, but I have a question. This looks to be a really interesting session. Will there be any notes available after the day? If not, would you be willing to summarise some of the key points that come up – if I nicely say please? (Wish I wasn’t so far away.)

  2. Monique says:

    To Joe and Sou,
    I emailed the contact person listed for the workshop to ask if they were going to webcast the workshop or make transcripts and other materials available. I’ll share any reply I get.

  3. Sou says:

    Thank you Monique. Given the topic, perhaps live blog reporting would be in order :)

  4. Seth Masia says:

    Joe, this strikes me as a good forum to talk about the various ways we define “truth” in our culture. Rational argument often fails because the disputants have different ways to arrive at truth. I categorize levels of truth this way (you may have a better way to do it):

    1. Received truth: One source of evidence, usually a sacred text interpreted by a human with some cultural status.
    2. Consensus truth: Arrived at through debate, sometimes in a public forum or legislative body. Sometimes by majority vote, and open to dispute.
    3. Arbitrated truth: Arrived at through debate but mediated by an authority with power of final decision — our judicial system, for instance. It often (not always) follows formal rules of evidence.
    4. Investigated truth: Arrived at through fact-focused research, often peer-reviewed. Much academic research and the best investigative reporting falls in this realm.
    5. Scientific method: You can define this.

    The press fails when it chooses to parrot the debate rather than do what a proper science reporter does, which ought to be at the level of investigation. If something is parroted, it ought to be the outcome of scientific method.

  5. Anne says:

    Road show, road show!! Why limit this impressive array of ideas and thought-leaders to the most stereotypically elitist university in the nation? At least do a repeat at MIT for god-sakes, or maybe Boston U or Tufts or something. We are failing to properly educate our youth on the truth and perils of climate change — worse than that — ideologues from Texas and elsewhere are ensuring that high school textbooks print denialist rhetoric in Earth Science teachings, presenting an inflated “controversy” around the basic science where none exists. At the very least, make a video, make copies, and send them around to colleges and universities around the country, targeting areas most prone to the disinformation campaign, like Texas, Oklahoma (Inhofe), etc. Fundraising anyone?

  6. Joe,

    For sure, the blogosphere has become our “blackest billingsgate”.

    “The blackest billingsgate, most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated and applauded, but touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes.” ~John Adams, Letter to John Taylor (1814)

  7. Monique says:

    Update for Sou and others who can’t make it to the venue. This is the email from the organizer on access to materials after the workshop.

    “Hi Monique,

    We are videotaping three of the panels and hope to have them up on our website shortly after the workshop (

    Check back later for more info!

    Thanks for your interest,

  8. SecularAnimist says:

    Great poster, by the way.

  9. Sou says:

    This might be of interest to the panel on Norms and Law. It sparked a big row in South Australia a couple of months ago. It’s not science, but it is about policy and blogging. The then South Australian Attorney-General was known around the country for being a bit unusual. In this case he wanted to curb blogging before the State Government elections (held in March 2010).

    From the Adelaide Advertiser 2 Feb 2010

    SOUTH Australian laws censoring anonymous political comment on the internet have sparked national and international outrage, with readers comparing the “draconian laws” to those in Nazi Germany and China.
    Well over 1000 people had posted comments on the AdelaideNow website up to midnight last night – most vehemently against the Rann Government’s legislation which will force internet bloggers and anyone publishing a comment on next month’s state election to supply their real name and postcode.

    And the follow up from the Advertiser

    ATTORNEY-GENERAL Michael Atkinson will move immediately to repeal controversial laws which sparked an outcry over censorship of the internet.
    After backing down late last night to say the laws would not be put into effect, Mr Atkinson told reporters he would follow the advice of Opposition legal affairs spokeswoman Vickie Chapman and use a section of the Electoral Act to immediately repeal the section.

    After the election, the Labor government was returned but Atkinson quit the front bench, thankfully.

  10. Sou says:

    And another point that you might consider. Blogging has no national boundaries, but laws do (in the main). Norms are becoming globalised but there remain some cultural differences.

    (Eg bloggers re FoI typically say that as taxpayers they are ‘entitled’ to information, forgetting that they aren’t taxpayers of the country where the information is collected.)

  11. Bruce says:

    What Seth @#4 said … We need standardized, calibrated gradations of truth in truthiness.

  12. ChicagoMike says:

    I’d love to hear you discuss the extent to which scientists have an obligation to point out the policy implications of their research, beyond merely reporting their findings. As you know, conservatives have accused James Hanson and many other scientists of conducting biased research for political reasons. But if the scientists who know best the consequences of inaction on preserving our climate are silent, how can their research have an impact on discussions of policy?

  13. prokaryote says:

    Talking Points in regards to report the science.

    How mass media failed to report on climate change and the science.

    Do we need lawsuits against the orchestrated campaigns from the usal suspects, which make false statements to attack the science?

  14. Who framed this question? Is the question about the science or about manipulating democracy with doubt?

    Has mass media avoided its responsibility to democracy? Where is the discussion of media failure to respect science?

    Where is the university-based outrage over this issue? I fear this gathering will be a milquetoast event — it is a great poster – will that be the strongest part of the event?

    Given the risk, the enormity of the gamble, shouldn’t this be an indictment of timid, pseudo-curious, profiteer delayers? How does this get corrected?

    Is anyone going to discuss whether any democracy can possibly handle this kind of problem? Our democracy seems to be suffering from late stage capitalism cancer…Now it seems that we put our faith in a model of a mild climate change that must somehow stimulate our economy. Are we that sure of the pairing of climate models with government policy?

  15. Sou says:

    I came across this in my travels. It is a post from Juan Cole, which everyone has probably already seen but is a first for me.

    Advice to Climate Scientists on how to Avoid being Swift-boated and how to become Public Intellectuals

    One of the central recommendations is for every scientist to have a blog.

    It’s a short piece and I found it a good article from someone who has had a lot of experience dealing with a difficult and controversial topic (the Middle East).

  16. Jeff Huggins says:

    First Things First — Understanding The Real Problem

    The program is titled, “Unruly Democracy: Science Blogs and the Public Sphere”. And, as has been said, the poster itself is great: Its general feel reminds me somewhat of the current state of the world in many respects.

    But the existence, limited existence, or lack of existence (in some cases) of norms on science blogs, or on blogs broadly, is an issue that’s not nearly the central issue (or even a very important one at all) when it comes to rescuing reason in our democracy from the dumps, addressing our most pressing problems (e.g., climate change), and etc.

    Allow me to describe a scenario to you: Imagine this future …

    * Science blogs adopt excellent norms and convey excellent and valid science.
    * The API, the Coalition For Clean Coal Electricity (or whatever it’s called), and so forth continue to spend huge amounts of money confusing the public on issues involving science and their implications.
    * The New York Times (and etc.) continues to avoid shining spotlights on key advertisers (e.g., ExxonMobil) and — for goodness knows what reason? — continues to think that the sort of journalism that will best serve the public good is journalism that features “the controversy” rather than journalism that focuses on conveying accurate understanding.
    * Lobbyists continue to do what lobbyists do.
    * Corporations and industry groups spend increasingly huge amounts of money in elections, thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling.
    * The public remains largely confused, distracted, and passive. Some small percentage of people blog about the big issues (i.e., climate change) and another small percentage of people comment on the blogs. But for the most part, the streets are “as normal”, there are no sizable boycotts, we’re lucky to get more than 125 people at climate events that happen once every six months, too few politicians are moved to action, and so on and so forth. You get the idea.

    I’m a Harvard (HBS) graduate, so I’ll take the liberty to suggest what all the participants at this conference could do (with their time) that might be more immediately productive: Go across the river together, to the Business School, and express active concern about the fact that a professor at HBS — indeed, a professor of leadership who writes books on business leadership, ethics, and “True North” stuff — has been on the Board of Directors of ExxonMobil for years, and ExxonMobil is still not changing.

    If there are two things that this conference should explore and confirm, in terms of the rules of blogging, they are these:

    First, that blogs can safely call for civil, honest, large-scale public actions (e.g., events, demonstrations, etc.), in a free speech way, without having any liability for such events, as long as the events are intended to be responsible, civil, and so forth, as they should be.

    Second, that blogs can safely call for large-scale boycotts of the specific companies and organizations that should be boycotted by now, and will need to be boycotted, if society is ever going to insist on solutions to climate change and send responsible signals to companies that stand in the way.

    If blogs can safely call for responsible civil demonstrations, and if blogs can safely call for (and facilitate) responsible boycotts, then they should know that they can do so, and they should do so, asap. Those are the issues to clarify. Then we can all talk about improving blogging manners another year, when the much larger issues have been resolved.

    I hope this is helpful and that I didn’t miss the point.



  17. Mike #22 says:


  18. CNA Training says:

    This looks like a very interesting workshop. Since I can not attend the workshop, I’m looking forward to watching the video tapes of the panels on your website.