On Nov. 13, ERI and Concerned Scientists at IU hosted a virtual panel connecting the 2020 election to big issues related to science, public health, and the environment. The panel included Rush Holt, a nuclear physicist and former US Congressman, Juliet Eilperin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Washington Post reporter, and Kenneth Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists. ERI Director Janet McCabe moderated the discussion.
Watch the forum
Description of the video:Hello everyone. Welcome to our forum, Science, Health and the Environment: How the 2020 Elections Will Shape the Future. I'm Deidra Miniard, a grad student in the O'Neill school studying environmental science. I'm here with Sadie Newman and we're representing Concerned Scientists at IU and it's student affiliate organization, Advocates for Science at IU. We're excited to join forces with IU's Environmental Resilience Institute to bring everyone this event today. So for today we will start with brief introductions followed by remarks from each of our panelists. Then our moderator, Janet McCabe, is going to lead a short discussion. And then after that, we'll be opening it up to Q and A but first to introduce the host of this event. Concerned Scientists @ IU is a grassroots non-partisan movement made up of over 1200 community members. and IU faculty staff and students. Advocates for Science is of course, the student group. And we bring together students from disciplines and schools all over campus. And so together both organizations work to advocate for the role of science and evidence-based decision-making, as well as communicate science to the public. And we're excited to join with IU's environmental Resilience Institute, which was launched in 2017. And so the ERI works with partners throughout the state to foster Indiana's ability to withstand the impacts of climate change. Before we get started, I want to announce an upcoming event that CSIU is holding, just for you to keep it on your radar. So Friday, December 4th CSIU is planning to host a forum to discuss what our organization should prioritize as new as a new federal administration comes into office. So I hope you'll plan to join us for that event. If you're interested in being added to our email list to hear about updates for that event and others like it. We'll be putting instructions for how to do so in the chat box. So just keep an eye out on that. And we want to say thank you to our speakers who took the time to join us today. We also want to thank Janet McCabe for moderating and thank you to the ERI and Vanessa Worthy for making this webinar possible. A big thanks to Dr. Michael Hamburger, who kind of led the charge to organize this forum. And finally, thank you to everyone who helped make today's event possible, everyone who's made time in their schedules to join us for today's discussion. And to those of you who have already submitted questions in the registration portal, we do have those. And now I'll turn it over to Sadie so she can introduce our speakers. I, my name Sadie. I am also a graduate student in the O'Neill School and I am studying environmental science and public affairs. I've had the pleasure of serving on CSIU and ASIU for the past two years. And I will introduce our guests today. First we have Juliette Eilperin. She earned her BA in politics with a certificate in Latin American studies from Princeton University. Juliet is a Pulitzer Prize winning senior national affairs correspondent for The Washington Post, covering how the Trump administration is transforming federal environmental policy and the agencies that oversee it. Juliet has authored two books and has previously served as the Post's White House bureau chief, national environmental reporter and the House of Representatives correspondent. And just this week, Juliet received a 2020 triple AAAS-Kavli Science Journalism Award for a series on climate. Dr. Rush Holt earned his MA and PhD degrees in physics from New York University. He has held positions as a teacher, scientist, administrator, and policymaker. Dr. Holt was the Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the largest research facility at Princeton University. He served for 16 years as a member of the US House of Representatives for New Jersey's 12th congressional district. Rush also served as the 18th Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And this is Curie. She has a really hard time when I talk out loud like this. I can't wrap my dog around my neck. Like that. You have a very jealous cat. Yes, very jealous. She gets very nervous. And we also have Ken Kimmell. He has more than 30 years of experience in government, and environmental policy and advocacy. He has served as the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists since 2014 and is a national advocate for clean energy and transportation policies. Prior to joining UCS, Ken was the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, served as chairman of the board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and spent 17 years as a director and senior attorney at a law firm specializing in environment, energy, and land use issues. And finally, our moderator, Janet McCabe, as many of you may now, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1983. She is the director of the IU environmental resilience Institute, who is helping us host today. and is the Professor of Practice at the IU McKinney School of Law. She joined the EPA in 2009 and was the Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation from 2013 to 2017, where she shaped and implemented Clean Air Act standards. Prior to joining the EPA, Janet was the executive director of Improving Kids Environment, Inc., the Assistant Commissioner for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Thank you to our speakers and for the audience, please add your questions for our panelists in the chat box throughout the events. And I'll now hand it over to Janet to get started. Alright. Thanks Sadie, Thanks Deirdre, thanks Michael. And thanks to the 100 plus of you that have joined us today, most of whom seem to be named Vanessa Worthy. So that's a really interesting phenomenon. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but you can't have too many Vanessa Worthy's, so wear it proudly. I'm thrilled to have everybody here and I think it's a testament to how where we are in the world that a program could be announced on Wednesday or Tuesday and have this kind of attendance by Friday. So bravo to Michael for not being swayed by thinking there wasn't enough time to put something together that would be interesting. And I am honored to be able to moderate a panel of three people that I admire to an extreme degree for the contributions that they have made and make on an ongoing basis for the issues that we're going to be talking about today. I do want to acknowledge for the purpose of this conversation that we all understand that the final details and final I's and T's have not been dotted and crossed in the presidential election. But we are proceeding today on the assumption that we will have a new president Biden administration and Kamala Harris administration coming in in January. So the format is that each of our panelists is going to speak for a few minutes and share some thoughts. And then we will move into moderated discussion. We've got some initial questions to tee up. But you've been so generous already with your questions coming in ahead of time. We do want you to continue to do that because there will be some time here towards the end of the program where Sadie and Deidra will be teeing up questions from the audience for our panel members. So without any more preliminaries, I am going to turn it over to Juliet for her remarks, Thanks so much Janet. And thanks to everyone at IU for helping put this together. As Sadie had alluded to. I've worn a number of different hats at the Washington Post. I've worked there since 1998 and of the things that's been interesting is for the last decade and a half, a little more than that. I've really covered in some way, shape or fashion, environmental policy, politics and science. And what I've seen is obviously a real transformation where science has become a become contested terrain within federal decisionmaking. And one of the things that's been interesting is because there has not been enough of a consensus in the legislative branch for most part to pass legislation that would set the rules of the road for how one perceives on these issues, what kind of how we're charting our path forward. You've had this incredible whiplash between administrations of, whether you have democrats in control then Republicans, than Democrats again. And as a result, there's been a huge amount of back and forth. And I think that's We're obviously at one of these moments again. So for some context, I had been... what's interesting... as I had been covering the environment full time talking to folks like Janet McCabe and others at the Environmental Protection Agency at places like Interior. And then I switched in 2013, I had switched over to covering the White House. And that coincided with then President Barack Obama really elevating some of these issues and making them a higher priority in his second term than they weren't his first. So there was a huge flurry of activity which led to some really significant policies, particularly on climate change, but also in terms of public lands protection and so forth. And there was a real push for, for example, the Federal Government to re-examine how would you even did its environmental analyses of questions like climate impact of the decisions that it made. And then obviously, you had President Trump win office in 2016. And what that led to starting the following year was a wholesale reassessment of both the scientific underpinnings of major, major decisions and a change to how the federal government does policy. It's kind of worth noting that my informal title, literally a couple of weeks after the election, I had a discussion with the editor on the National Desk. And we discussed how essentially I would take over what we'd call the "dismantling beat". I was a one-person dismantling bureau after being the White House bureau chief. And I quite literally focused on the unraveling of many of the most significant energy and environmental policies that were made under, under Barack Obama. And I focused initially on, on, on health, health care as well as labour, but really came to do so much on the environment. And I reclaim that beat and add just a week or two ago, we published our analysis. 127 environmental and energy policies have been dismantled, had been finished. in terms of being rolled back by the Trump administration with another 40 underway. And now of course, with the results of the election, we are going to see a new administration, come in in January that is, is going to restore that. And so I think we're at a moment, which I think is quite interesting because you both will have not only a change in the federal government's approach to kind of key scientific issues. And of course, this extends far beyond the environment to things like the coronavirus and, and many other key issues. But also we're kind of at a crossroads. And there's a question of, is there any kind of consensus that will be forged? So there's a little more certainty right now we are, are stuck in a moment where you have national policymakers really redefining things within every matter of a few years. And is there a question is there a way that folks will come together and establish slightly more long-term directions on how we view science that informs multiple decisions. Thank you. Great. Thank you, Juliet. Yeah, certainly this has been busy time to be a journalist. Will continue. Next. We'll hear from Rush. Rush, please go ahead. Thank you. Thanks. Well, first of all, thanks to the organizers and real credit to you for this great organization that you seem to have there at IU. And I'm delighted to be here with these insightful panelists. As we consider today, science, engineering, technology, and environment, one might ask elections more importantly about poverty and prosperity, war and peace, disease and health and education and employment. In fact, I think most citizens would think it odd to devote this session to science and the election, or at least they would think it is a parochial concern of a particular interest group. I argue that achieving good policies in environment or climate or health or anyplace else in order to realize the values and hopes with respect to all of these things, must begin with a general understanding of how things really are and how things really work. Science, which is a way of asking questions so that they can be answered empirically and verifiably, is all about gaining an understanding of how things are and how they work, not, how we wish things were, or what are groundless opinions lead us to think things are. Scientifically established. Evidence is ultimately better than your opinion or mine. And scientific thinking is the best defense against deception from others, from politicians or other countries or ourselves. Vannevar Bush, when he laid out the plan that has more or less guided science policy in the United States for the past 75 years, wrote, "Without scientific progress, no amount of achievement in other directions can ensure our health, prosperity, and security as a nation." So indeed, we should be asking today, how did the election shape our future science policy? Now students in STEM fields, of course, wonder about their education. Some of you undoubtedly are thinking, how do I prepare for and choose a career? How do I advocate to make science accessible and more relevant to people's lives? Most professional scientists that I've found, when they ask what the science policy of the government will be, are asking simply, will the government provide sufficient funding to support me in my research? Now, I suspect the participants in this discussion also consider other aspects of policy for science and science for policy. That is, what the government will do to foster a vibrant scientific research enterprise that's policy for science and includes funding and other things. And how scientists provide and government uses, ...how scientists provide and government uses scientific understanding to advance the policies in these other areas. That's science for policy. Of course, there's a lifetime study of these things and woefully today on the panel, we can't cover it all. Now in some sense, science was on the ballot last week. However, hundreds of questions never cross the voters minds. Let me list a dozen or so questions out of hundreds and in no particular order that need to be considered in the coming year and that all citizens should keep up the drumbeat, that they'd be considered intensively and scientifically. How will the US Census reach conclusion using modern understanding of statistics? What legal limitations, if any, should, should be put on CRISPR genetic editing to produce gene drives with persistent unnatural characteristics in plants, insects or humans for generations into the future? How do we ensure that health studies and resulting treatments fairly include members of minorities and people with nonstandard physiologies? Should there be a cabinet level Department of Science? How do we shore up the scientific foundations of clean air and clean water laws? How do we ensure that economics is used as an empirical science rather than a competition of politicized platforms of ideological opinions. How do we move faster and implementing energy and agricultural practices to reduce carbon? Should the president's science advisor or secretary of science, if there is one, have a full seat on the National Security Council? How can the mega swarms of satellites be limited so that they do not completely swamp scientific observation directed upward and downward? How do we legally guard against subtle but powerfully discriminatory anomalies that enter systems of artificial intelligence beneath the programmers recognition? How do we organize scientific research and education in the United States to get full participation of diverse members of society in the doing of science and the application of science. Now were any of these on the ballot? You might argue that a few of them, maybe indirectly, were. What should have been on the ballot. I would argue, is the big question. Whether the public wants to take ownership of science and whether the scientific establishment will allow them to take ownership of and embrace science. If we've learned anything from the COVID pandemic, it's that a vibrant, highly skilled research enterprise is no substitute for public engagement. We cannot defeat an insidious virus if the public ignores decades of warnings about how the virus would behave, or if we make no preparations. We cannot defeat an insidious virus if we think our opinion about how epidemics propagate, the ones, the opinions that we got from our political tribe or on a random Internet site, or in our own wishful imagination, is as good as that developed by the scientific community. If we do not know or do not want to accept that science with its empirical grounding and its attempts to remove bias should be used by all people and by their chosen policymakers as the starting point for good policy, we will not have good policy. So how did this come to be a partisan political matter? I wish I knew. Holden Thorp in an editorial in Science Magazine two weeks ago, referred to a recent Pew survey that found only 20% of the political right has "a lot of confidence in scientists." And he asked, "When the election is over, should the scientific community try to get the missing 80% of the ideological right to understand its people and its methods? Or should Science write it off as a lost cause and continue to take funding while providing the outstanding new medicines." I don't make. As a partisan political point. But to make the point that our society has not embraced science in the way that it must in order to have good policy. Thanks, Rush. Incredibly sobering remarks there. To move us on to Ken Kimmell from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Ken? Hey, good afternoon everybody. I want to thank the two panelists who preceded me who have really thrown some important issues into the mix. I'm, I think there's a good time to quote the old adage that imitation is the highest form of, sorry. Yes, imitation is the highest form of flattery. I very much appreciate that the Concerned Scientists at Indiana University, have seen some commonality with the Union of Concerned Scientists. So I appreciate being here. I'm going to talk about a little bit about the election and the way that science played. And I agree with Rush, that science was very much on the ballot in the 2020 election in a way that I've never seen before. So why do I say that? Well, I think two of the major issues of the campaign were COVID and climate. And the debates about those did not, did not follow the typical fault lines that you see between Republicans and Democrats. Usually when these issues are debated, there's the discussion of free markets versus government, tax policy, freedom versus equality. Those fault lines were not really central to the debate. The fault lines seem to be honestly between one candidate who pledge to listen to scientists and follow their advice, and another candidate who didn't. And that really was the fundamental discussion that we saw about climate and about COVID. It's also notable that typically presidential campaigns are about two or three words. For Trump in 2016, it was Make America Great Again, for Biden in this campaign. I think it was "empathy, decency, and science." So for all those reasons, when you have a president getting, president-elect getting the most votes in history, a 5 million vote margin and being only the third time since 1932 that an elected incumbent, it was ejected from office. I think it's fair to say that not only was science on the ballot, but science won. And we should all be really quite encouraged by that. Notwithstanding all the things that Rush said about the long-term, which are true and profound and really important for us to address. But I think we can take this as a big win. I know that some people feel somewhat disappointed about the election. But that's because I think they're comparing the election results to polls, which turned out to be wrong. So I would say don't compare the election results to inaccurate polls. Compare the election results to what the status quo was, and it is a big change in the status quo. Now, it's also true that there are some big challenges ahead for president elect Biden, as he seeks to implement a science-based set of policies. So one of course is the Senate. Currently it looks like the Republicans are slated to hold control of the Senate. Of course, that may change with the Georgia election. But even if the Democrats pick up two seats, that makes it a 50-50 tie with Vice President Harris, casting the deciding vote. That is not a big enough majority to pass truly comprehensive climate legislation, for example. So whether the Democrats get a majority or not, there are going to be some things that are going to be difficult to do in that situation. We also have a second constraint, which is that the federal judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, has become far more conservative in the last four years and most likely even more skeptical than the court was earlier about the administration adopting very expansive use of statutes to get things done. So I think to borrow from Homer, President Biden, is going to have to kind of navigate between the Scylla of a constrained Senate and the Charybdis of a judiciary that may be skeptical. That is a big, big challenge. On the other hand, I am very optimistic that there's a lot that President Biden can do on things like climate and on science. I think has Juliet pointed out many of those rollbacks that President Trump has initiated are not final. Those can be stopped. Some of those great regulations that Janet was responsible for getting done can be restored. I think in general, the president can welcome and nurture scientific integrity and bring back many of the scientists who got demoralized and left and bring in new scientists. That's something that he can do. I think there's many areas of Executive Branch regulation that are on solid legal footing. And he can pursue those things like energy efficiency standards for appliances, fuel economy standards for cars. There's a lot there that can be done and strengthened from the Obama era, that would be on solid ground. I also think government has a tremendous chance to lead by example, and make its purchasing decisions in the marketplace for things like renewable energy and electric vehicles Those are unquestionable authorities it has, that can make a huge difference in the marketplace. I think that government can help speed up and promote the siting and permitting of renewable energy infrastructure. A good example in my part of the country is this huge offshore wind industry that is ready to go off the, off the coast of Massachusetts is being held up surprisingly in permitting by the Department of Interior, So that can be moved a lot faster and it should be. And finally, I would just say this and then I'll stop. I wouldn't write off the possibility of some legislative victories. The fact is that House is in Democratic hands, the presidency will be as well. Mitch McConnell can't say no to everything. There are bills that have to get passed in Congress. And the trick is going to be to make sure that the things that we want to see happen are in those bills. Just one example, we had been working for years on clean energy tax credits. Those almost passed last year. The problem really was the White House was ideologically opposed to electric vehicles and wind turbines, and so said no to them. But with a different president, a different congressional makeup. That's the kind of thing we probably can do. And then the final point I'll make is a lot of the really great climate leadership is coming from states. And it will make a huge difference to have a White House that is not hostile to states moving forward, but instead wants to empower those states. So just as an example, President Biden can allow California to have the waiver under the Clean Air Act that it needs to do strong vehicle standards. So just not getting in the way of state action is also really important. So to summarize, I think that science was on the ballot. I think science won, I think there is a mandate for elevating the role of science and taking action on climate, but really make progress over the next four years. We're going to have to be quite thoughtful and strategic about the particular things we push. So I'll stop there. Great. Thank you. Ken, I really... it's like you're in my brain. These are things that I've been saying over the last week. And I want to turn, to Juliet first and to spring from, from the the picture that Ken just painted. You're talking to lots and lots of people. You've been talking for lots and lots of people about what might happen, what has happened. I think I think some of us speaking for myself, were ... had been a little bit surprised at the comprehensive effort that the current administration actually accomplished in terms of overturning prior policies. They really got a lot done in four years. It turns out, not everything though. So what's your take on the agenda for a new by the administration? Will the demoralized federal agencies be able to deliver in a efficient way at this new Biden vision. And how likely is it that we're just in four years, you know, if the parties change again, we just whipsaw back again, you know, it's just It's just no way to run a government, it seems to me, to just have each administration or undo what the previous one did. Alright, thanks. So there's no question that the incoming administration plans to take a very comprehensive approach to climate change, that they want to integrate this into all aspects of the federal government. I had read a story about this just a couple days ago where you can really see that they are looking at. I mean, I think that there will be people at the Treasury Department, people at the Pentagon, people at Agriculture, you know, who are going to be looking at how they can maximize their executive authority to really make a difference, Ken made a reference to say, procurement. And, and I think you're going to absolutely see that there the General Services Administration obviously has significant buying power. And we've seen again, you know, for example, states like California have had put in more stringent requirements for some of their suppliers in terms of their carbon footprint of their products, you could potentially see policies like that being adopted. So I think that there is no question that they're going to be looking for their opportunities. And if you look at, for example, who was just appointed to the president-elect's transition team at the start of the week. Many of those people, including some of the less traditional agencies, have spent at least some time thinking about these issues. And so they're going to bring that sort of approaches they're trying to shape the new administration. You, you raise a really interesting point about where the federal workforce is right now. I mean, we have seen, you know, there's a there's just no question that there have been a huge number of vacancies. One of the ways that, for example, the Trump administration has managed to run the government is that they did not, they wanted to whittle the size of the federal government down. They have actually not really achieve those kind of deep cuts they proposed in our budget. Because essentially there had been one continuing resolution after another and that essentially the two parties had agreed, if anything, to increase spending a little bit in the Trump era, even as they were making massive tax cuts. And so what you're seeing is that there are these, there are these open holes. And I think one of the real questions is how quickly and administration could fill those positions, both in terms of, you know, can they make the hiring process anymore in the ... I mean, that's going to be a real question. Is there any... made in terms of funding for the government. And as someone who's covered multiple government shutdowns, including an extended federal shut down at the beginning of last year. Serving in the government is not as attractive... Looks like Juliet is frozen, at least for me. Everybody seeing her as frozen? Okay. So Juliet, I think we're having some internet connection issues with you. So while you're trying, let me see if Rush or Ken has anything they want to add to what you've been saying. I'm good. Okay. Okay. Sorry, Juliet, are you back? You seem to be I think. Sorry. I'm also I'm going to turn on a hotspot to try to do it now. But as he's going to say that lawmakers from both parties are eager to spend money on objectives, whether it's through tax credits, whether it's through funding for renewables, that's one obvious area of common ground. Yeah. I agree. I've been thinking that maybe they should create a fast-track hiring process for people who left the agencies who want to come back... a simplified path. Interesting. So great. Okay. Well, let me turn to Ken with this question. No, you you in the last four years, you've heard a lot of different opinions about what's, what science says or what, what's the right science. And, you know, we, we hear that 99% or whatever the number is of scientists agree that climate change is happening and then others quite in a normal tone of voice disagree with that. So, how do we handle at what is the phenomenon about science being misused? Actually, I can direct this to Ken and Rush. You can take turns... misused or abused. And and how does the the lay public grapple with that when they they do not feel that they understand these issues and maybe both sides sounds pretty reasonable. Yeah. I do think that's a great question and of course, sort of a dismissal and disregard and suppression or maligning of science reached its apex, perhaps during the Trump administration. But it's not the first time we've seen it. And so it's good to think about this as a long-term problem. Well, one thing I'd recommend to people, UCS prepared kind of a meta playbook of all the ways that science is misused. It's called the disinformation playbook. And it's sort of styled after football. There's the block, the tackle, et cetera. I would recommend people take a look at it because it, it shows within many different issues, the patterns that you see and how science is being misused. But in general, the things that I would watch out for most, even, even in the new administration. If you see political appointees being appointed to agencies that they've spent their careers fighting. That is a big red flag that the scientists are going to be one of the first to get thrown overboard. So that, that's a big one. If you see that career civil servants are not being allowed to speak freely and independently about their work, even if it's cast as our own opinion as opposed to the opinion of the agency. That's a big warning sign that tells you something wrong is afoot. You learn that critical words in a report have been crossed out. And so you use your powers under the Freedom of Information Act to compare drafts of a report. I'm sure Juliet knows this very well. Drafts with finals and see, "Hey, why did this change?" "What's going on here?" Another one is if advisory boards are stacked, either with people from industry or it could be people from environmental NGOs. So there's an effort not to get the full range of scientific opinion. And then with the Trump administration, there was an overt effort to actually institute rules that will handicap future administrations from considering all of the relevant science. So those are big things to watch out for for, for each administration. But I do want to go back to the bigger point Rush made. Which is if you have a situation where, you know, red state America thinks the science says X, and blue state America thinks the sign says Y, you're really in a very, very dangerous situation and I don't have the answer to this, but I think part of it has to do with social media and the fragmentation of information. And I do think that a day of reckoning is coming for Twitter and Facebook and Google, in terms of, I think they have to step up their responsibility to serve as filters or at least to put people on notice that information that's being spread virally is not true. They're taking some preliminary steps to do that. But as Facebook and Twitter and take over the source of information away from conventional media where things are actually run through the gauntlet. Their responsibilities I think become more and more important. So I'll stop there. Yeah, I love how you've given some little breadcrumb indicators that people can watch more. And this is, of course really important. This is the kind of thing that we teach our STEM students to be critical consumers of information and to ask those questions and look for those. Rush, did you want to jump in here on this question? Yeah. I mean, I just I finished my earlier prepared remarks by quoting Holden Thorp, the editor of Science magazine, who said, should we write off as a lost cause these people who have no confidence in science. And just go about our laboratory work and produce our good vaccines and, and do what we can do? And I'd say no, we, we have, we have to not just stem the erosion in the appreciation of science. We have to regain a lot of lost ground. Because as I said, we won't be able to deal with climate change or pandemics or anything else without the engagement of the public. We can't say, well, the expert scientists at EPA will take care of it. Or these public health officials, they know what they're doing will leave that in their hands. The public has to be engaged, demand that the scientists at EPA apply the science that is actually written in the, in the Clean Air Act, that they have to really understand that this is not just a casual comment that you should wear masks to prevent the virus, but because, I have a, you know, a sense of how this was arrived at. I believe the methods that the scientists used to arrive at this. And if the public thinks that science is of, by, and for somebody other than them, and in fact, most of the time they think it is for the scientists themselves. They decide what to research, they get the money from the government, they make the decisions what to do, and they're doing it for themselves. In fact, one of the criticisms against climate science is that, well, it can't be true. They just want to stir up the, the, the questions so they will get funding to do more research. You've heard that. I mean, it's, it's preposterous. But it is really serious. So we can't just say "Gee, isn't it a shame that all of these people don't trust science." We've gotta do something about it. And I think it's up to the scientists to show that that science really works. That this way of collecting empirical evidence and removing bias gives the most reliable knowledge on which you can base the policy for your hopes and values. In The Origin of Species. Darwin said, "Great is the power of steady misrepresentation. But the history of science shows how, fortunately, this power does not endure long." And really what he's saying is scientifically founded ideas and scientific approach to problems gives a much more reliable, lasting basis for making decisions than raw opinion. And it is possible to teach that. But you can't teach it. If you're talking down to people. If scientists say, Look, we know this, I realize I'm using techniques that you'll never understand, but trust me. Well, they won't trust you. And so we've got to find a way to do it. I don't actually know the answer. I'm just nibbling at the edges here. But I think it's, it's crucially important because it precedes our ability to deal with all of these other policy issues. Yeah. Yeah, I agree with you. We're going to go to audience questions here in a minute. Thanks for sending them all. But I just wanted to, to mention a couple of things in response to all this. One is that there's a really interesting book by Kurt Andersen called Fantasyland, which goes back through the entire history of the country, showing the theme throughout our history and sort of this independent, "I can think whatever I want and, and if it's my truth than its truth and you can't tell me, I can't believe it." And I think that's what we're talking about here, with a significant number of people in the United States. It's a very interesting phenomenon that the other thing I wanted to say before we pass on is, is just that... (pass on to the program not pass on to the afterlife.) is that one of the things I think that will help the incoming administration is all the work that so many people have been doing, including organizations like UCS, including journalistic efforts like The Washington Post to, to set the new administration up with advice and to-do lists and analysis that will help them, I think, I hope, make some decisions of how to start and represent what a lot of people are thinking about. I'm thinking about some of the recent documents that have come out with the top things that the administration should do. There's a there's a group of former EPA career officials called Environmental Protection network which has done a bunch of work on, on kind of a high priority things and how to how to get them done. And so I think that this administration has more than a fighting chance to really start working immediately to move in the right... not just to reverse everything for, for the sake of doing it, but to move us, to move us forward. So I'm gonna step back, I'm going to turn it back over to Deidre and Sadie to pose some questions from our listeners. Thank you, Janet for moderating that part of the discussion. So we'll jump right into audience Q and A. So for the first question, I'll open it up to anybody who wants to answer on our panel. How do we assure that the benefits of medical and scientific research is shared equitably across our society? And how do we ensure that policy solutions are written and implemented in such a way that they're equitable? Well, I'll just say quickly, that's what democracy is about. And this can't be science or democracy. It has to be democratically founded science, which is what I was talking about when I said we want to get people to feel that they own the science that's being done for that. They're hiring people who have some particular techniques, just as they would hire soldiers to defend them or, or, or sailors to transport them. And that, but they, it is being done for them and being presented to them in a way that they can embrace. Julia if you want to add anything, I'm happy to jump in, but I wanted to defer to you if you You got it. I wanted to... your question is a really good one and it's one that organizations like mine have been wrestling with a lot. And I did want to say, one of the things that I'm most excited about and most proud of is the recent and really significant alignment of kind of traditional national climate advocacy groups and frontline environmental justice groups. And that alignment appears in a equitable and just National Climate Platform. Which really powerfully says, as we search for solutions to climate. Let's also pursue policies that deal with local sources of air pollution or other types of cumulative inequitable burdens. And I'm excited, not just that we did that, I'm excited that it has caught fire. And if you look at Biden climate plan, if you look at the Kathy Castor Select Committee climate plan, it is full of this idea that the strongest climate policies are also ones that promote environmental justice and vice-versa. So it's an example of the way that we have very consciously started aiming our policies in a different direction. And the reason it's happening is because those front-line groups are demanding it. And so kudos to them for getting those issues front and center and frankly, tugging at the conscience of all of all of us to say these issues needed to get addressed too. So I guess that's an example of democracy. And I'm seeing that happening and I think it's something to be happy about. And I guess just briefly, I'd say two things. One thing I just want to clarify is that again, we felt very strongly at the Washington Post, shining a light on what is happening in all sorts of ways. We don't provide any recommendations for politicians of either party. But obviously we bring to light what is happening because again, we do our constituency is both the American public and the public broadly. On this issue, as Ken mentioned, I mean, I think there's no question that this country is, is, has a renewed at an intense discussion of how to be more equitable in all of these fronts and their structural challenges. As we I feel like again, the pandemic has been one of the clearest indicators of how when resources are not equitably distributed, you have disproportionate, a disproportionate burden borne by Americans of color. And this is something that ... there's no question that, for example, the president-elect has identified as a really high priority. I think that there are ways in which they will, they will address it, but there, it is often difficult to address some of these. And so I think that's, that's actually going to be one of the real challenges that any any incoming administration's. Okay. Great. Thank you. Sadie, do you want to ask the next one? Yeah. So I have a lead up for this for you. One of the big issues that we saw in the election wasn't exclusively a lack of science literacy in political candidates. But also as Rush helped us understand, there is a lack of confidence in science from our voters. In addition to making sure they aren't talking down to people, how can scientists help address this chasm by being better and more trustworthy communicators with the general public? And Juliet specifically, how can journalists be proactive and help in these efforts? I spent a lot of time, as you might imagine, talking to scientists and also trying to explain to them how to communicate. Because I find if I'm talking to scientists who's not able to explain his work or her work in a way that's understandable, my articles do not zing and resonate. And so I think that there is a growing recognition among a number of researchers that they're accountable. I used to reach out to scientists and a lot of them said, like, "No offence, I care about getting tenure. This conversation is taking up my time and if anything, it might get me in trouble." And I think we do see an escalation in engagement by, by scientists with journalists for that reason. And I, but I just think that that's, I always try to emphasize, pretend you're at a cocktail party. Talk like you're talking to your friend about your work, things like that. There are these just these very simple things that I think would provide some of the transparency that Rush has been talking about. Yeah, I think this is a huge challenge. It's one that the Union of Concerned Scientists is also very conscious of all the time. What we tried to do, and I don't know that we're always successful, but we try to break somewhat complicated things down to things that people understand in their daily lives. So just as an example, we did something on sea level rise. And rather than talking about it in the abstract, we prepare these maps that would show sea level rise over the next 30 years. We chose 30 years because that's the typical life of a mortgage. And anyone can go on our website and plug in their zip code. And the map will appear and they'll see what climate scientists are saying is going to happen to their access road or their basement or, how often they're going to get flooded. That's pretty concrete. That's pretty understandable, that's pretty bite size. And it, it, it can pack a big punch. So I think partly what scientists need to do better is connect their work to people's daily lives and it is a challenge to do that well. Rush, do you have any comments to add on that or No? Just in summary, the goal of science communication has to be more than just clarity and accuracy. It has to engage the audience. They have to feel that they are part of it. Otherwise, it has no political relevance. Great. Thank you for your comments. It looks like we are getting close to time so to anyone if we didn't get to your questions, I apologize. We had a lot of questions come in. So now I guess I'll ask for everyone on the panel's closing comment. You're welcome to kind of just give whatever closing comments you already planned. And if maybe in one or two sentences, you could also comment on one of the questions that came through a lot in the, in the questions people entered, which was kind of "What advice do you offer scientists who are interested in policy change?" Would that be like seeking positions at the EPA or stay in academics or be better communicators or even run for office. So I guess in your closing statements, if maybe you could take one or two sentences of some advice for scientists who want to play a role in having and helping have science-backed policy. We can go and do a circle. We can start with Juliet. If you want to go with your closing comments. Okay, well, a little challenging since I'm not in the advice business, but what I would say, broadly speaking is that I think it is... you know, as someone, I guess I would say my broad observation would be someone who has been writing about these issues for a long time. It is exciting to see them as really part of a national conversation that we're having right now. And I think there are lots of ways people can participate in this national conversation. So I leave it to others for how they decide to do that. But that we are at a moment where people are increasingly aware of the connection between some of these really big issues, including front-and-center climate change in their own minds. And so the, the most significant thing is that, that there is really broad participation because there is no question. I always say that actually since I was an 18-year-old, I've been covering people in positions of power and the decisions they make that affect people's lives and, and the planet. And so by fully participating. Because there are always other people who are going to make those decisions for you and for the things that you care about. When one participates, you then are able to shape them. Said, that's what I would say. Thank You. Ken, do you want to go next with your closing statement? Sure. I don't know if I have a prepared closing statement, but I like the question you posed about, about what can scientists do. So I'll just go with that. So I think we, as Juliet said, I think we have largely won this battle over whether scientists should engage in public affairs. And it's true there used to be a view among scientists that that wasn't their role, that it might undermine their science, that they don't have time to do it because they're so busy publishing. So I think that's a really good, a good development. I would love for the culture of scientists to take hold something that says it's not just enough to be a great laboratory researcher. It's maybe not even just enough to be a great teacher. If you're a scientist that knows really important things that need to be out there. Part of being a great scientist is communicating it to people who don't have advanced degrees. So I, I would love for that to be more firmly rooted in the very definition of what it means to be a good scientist. I'd also say we've done a lot of polling on this. Scientists are the third most trusted voices, just behind generals and doctors. So it's true that it's gotten politicized. It's true that some people have less confidence than others and scientists, but scientists still have a huge megaphone because of that. People love science. People love scientists. Everyone gets the idea that science has done amazing things that have affected them positively in their lives. And certainly when, when we get a vaccine that works on COVID, that will be another huge tribute to the power of science and will, I think help boost confidence. So that's really important. So I hope that scientists will realize even more fully their potential and their obligation to be not just scientists, but citizens. And if you're looking for ways to do that, all the ways you mentioned are good ones. But being the president UCS, i have to pitch our own science Network, which is a network of 24 thousand scientists nationwide. If you're looking to get involved in public affairs and lend your science voice to them. That is a great resource and a great way to do it. So thank you so much for having me today. Thank you. And then Dr. Holt. Well then very quickly, yes. Of course. Looked to UCS, look to the Washington Post. They are great practitioners of what they preach. Juliet and Ken. And as Ken pointed out, at least superficially, scientists are respected. So any of you who are students of science or practitioners of science, you have an opening. You have an opportunity to talk to people. You probably are doing something interesting. But I will repeat, your ethical obligation is not just to be truthful, clear, and accurate. You have an obligation to help these people understand that science is of by and for the people, not just the scientists. And you can do that by taking the public along with you as you talk about your science. Not just to be clear, but so that they will feel a sense of ownership. Great. Thank you. And then Janet, I also wanted to see if you had any comments you wanted to make before I close our event out today. I just want to thank everybody for joining us today and thanks to thank the organizers for pulling this together. And thanks to all of you who took time out of your afternoon to, to listen to this fascinating discussion. Great. Well, thank you. Once again, I can't say it enough to our panelists, Juliet Eilperin, Dr. Rush Holt, Ken Kimmell. Thank you for your insight, your expertise, the discussion you've given us today. I'm also want to thank our moderator, Janet McCabe and the ERI and Vanessa Worthy for helping get this webinar up and running. And then of course, Dr. Michael Hamburger, who led the charge. Also everyone in the audience. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for your questions. I'm so sorry if we didn't get to yours, we add a lot, come in. If you are interested in getting added to our email list. So you know about events like this one, please see the chat box I've added in ways for you, if you're interested in getting involved or interested in getting more information. And of course, we're also going to be posting a recording of this event as well on our website. So that's it for our forum today. Thank you again, everyone can't say it enough. And then everyone, I guess, have a great weekend and I hope everyone will come to our next events. Thank you. And of course, virtual round of applause for our panelists today. Thank you. I thank you, everyone. Peace.