INCITE event officially launches with Andrew Revkin

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Surviving the New Climate Communication Climate: A conversation with Andrew Revkin

As part of INCITE’s INCITEment series, on November 1st Adam Revkin, one of America’s leading writers on environmental sustainability, reflected on the role of the media and the scientific community in the current moment. As part of the discussion, Revkin also touched on the challenges and opportunities of sustaining dialogue on climate change and related issues.

The INCITEment series aims to stimulate conversation between the university community and the broader public. The goal of this public series is to improve public discourse surrounding the most pressing political and social issues which we currently face.

INCITE receives support for Liberal Arts Education project from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

INCITE has received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for our Liberal Arts Education project. The Mellon Foundation supports initiatives with the goal of strengthening humanities research and broadening the scope of research disciplines.

Measuring Liberal Arts is an initiative in which INCITE proposes to measure the degree to which American colleges and universities offer an liberal arts education. This is done through the development of the conceptual elements of a liberal arts education and the identification of the empirical characteristics of schools to measure those elements.

INCITE funds project in Syria for $30,000

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INCITE has allocated $30,000 in funds to an initiative addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. ASPIRE (Advancing Solutions in Policy, Implementation, Research and Engagement for Refugees) uses a multidisciplinary approach to respond to the issues facing Syrian refugees. These approaches take the form of various research projects in collaboration with Columbia University researchers and partners at other universities, as well as partners at governmental agencies, the UN or NGOs. As a part of ASPIRE’s approach, a consortium bringing together various Columbia University professional schools and opportunities for student engagement will be established.

Electoral Collegiality?: The Right Way

From time to time, INCITE and its research affiliates will share their thoughts on a range of topics. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions of each post are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of INCITE. The following piece was written by William McAllister, Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellows Program at INCITE.

To meet its constitutional obligation as envisioned by the founders of the republic, a majority of the Electoral College must vote for someone other than Donald Trump to be president. The founders created the Electoral College in part because they feared national, direct election by the “people”—white men, 21 and over who owned property!—could result in an unqualified president. The wise men of the Electoral College would avoid choosing such a man.

Ah, irony. Trump is precisely the unqualified man the founders feared from direct election. In Federalist 68, Hamilton writes that the Electoral College ensures against a President with “talents for low intrigue” and the “little arts of popularity”—traits that define Trump; and that it guarantees a person with the “esteem and confidence of the whole Union,” “pre-eminen[ce] for ability and virtue,” “aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration”—Trump?, not so much. That Hamilton did not include disqualifiers like being a crook, a charlatan, an authoritarian, and mendacious may only indicate he couldn’t imagine someone with all these malevolent traits being taken seriously as a candidate.

Political conservatives and the right generally assert their sacred protectorate over the constitution as the founders understood it. Since Trump is clearly anathema to the founders and since the founders established a mechanism for preventing Trump from becoming President, the right must be urging the Electoral College to vote for someone other than Trump: Tea Partiers, carrying copies of the constitution close to their hearts; politicians and legal scholars, promoting “originalism” in constitutional interpretation; right-wingers, deifying the founders; and conservatives, claiming to revere the values and norms that, they say, the founders were embedding in government by eschewing direct election and erecting the Electoral College.

Don’t hurt yourself trying to find any of these kinds of people taking this position. Prominent advocacy organizations (Federalist Society, Judicial Watch), think tanks (Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation), publications (Weekly Standard, National Review), online and other media (Fox, Breitbart), like all on the right, have all failed to do so. We expect everyday political disingenuousness, among the commentariat as we do among politicians and ourselves, but the current situation is not everyday. This is arguably the most threatening electoral result to the political system and the national government since 1860. At such a moment, our everyday disingenuousness—ok, hypocrisiessimply won’t do. And liberal declarations that getting the Electoral College to not vote for Trump is a “moonshot,” while almost certainly correct, miss the point. This moonshot is exactly the vote the founders would expect from the Electoral College. So too should the political right and the Republican Party.

Twice in the last sixteen years the candidate chosen by the Electoral College has differed from that chosen by the nation as a whole. The first time indeed proved to be tragedy, for Iraqis, Afghanis, U.S. soldiers and their families, and for Americans blown up by the Great Recession; now the second occurs as farce. Liberals and the left have long opposed the Electoral College; and evidently the right does not believe it should function as their sacred founders intended. This suggests we should replace the Electoral College’s state-by-state, winner-take-all method with an alternative that better reflects the plurality winner of the vote of the nation as a whole. That is, we need a more democratic method. Our country should not fear such democracy, especially now that those voting include women, the descendants of enslaved people, those who do not own property.

To accomplish this, alternatives to an unlikely constitutional amendment have been proposed. The initiative furthest along at the state level—each state’s pledging its Electoral College vote in proportion to its popular vote—has been approved by ten states. But these are deeply blue states so that for this, or another proposal, to succeed will almost certainly require a powerful political impetus. This can and should come from those who have benefitted from the current system. We will soon have three former presidents from the Democratic Party, and we currently have two from the Republican Party. It is up to these former presidents to come together in declaring against the Electoral College, agreeing on an alternative, and using their political talents and fund-raising abilities to put a democratic remedy into law. Our former Presidents have rightly been concerned with ills and elections elsewhere in the world. Now they should focus on the U.S. 

Add Health researchers receive the first Golden Goose Award

Researchers behind landmark Adolescent Health Study – a study that almost didn't happen – will receive Golden Goose Award, announcement at event this evening in Washington, D.C.

Nearly Blocked by Political Concerns, Study Has Had Major Impact on Understanding of Social Factors Affecting Adolescent Health, and on Effect of Adolescent Health on Long- term Adult Well-being

Read an interview with Dr. Bearman on this landmark study

Five researchers whose determined pursuit of knowledge about the factors that influence adolescent health led to one of the most influential longitudinal studies of human health—with far-reaching and often unanticipated impacts on society—will receive the first 2016 Golden Goose Award.

The researchers are Dr. Peter Bearman, Barbara Entwisle, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Ronald Rindfuss, and Richard Udry, who worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in the late 1980s and early 1990s to design and execute the  National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health for short.

The social scientists’ landmark, federally funded study has not only illuminated the impact of social and environmental factors on adolescent health—often in unanticipated ways—but also continues to help shape the national conversation around human health. Their work has provided unanticipated insights into how adolescent health affects wellbeing long into adulthood and has laid essential groundwork for research into the nation’s obesity epidemic over the past two decades.

The award will be announced this evening at 7:00 PM EDT at an event at the Long View Gallery in Washington, D.C. celebrating the 50th anniversary of the University of North Carolina Population Center, in conjunction with a meeting of the Population Association of America. Some of the awardees will be in attendance.

“Four bold researchers wanted to learn more about adolescent health. Who knew that one federal study would change the way doctors approach everything from AIDS to obesity?” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who first proposed the Golden Goose Award. “Decades later, this work is still paying off, helping Americans lead longer, healthier lives. America always comes out ahead when we invest in scientific research.”

The pathbreaking nationally representative Add Health study has answered many questions about adolescent behavior, with particular attention to sexual and other risky behaviors, but it was almost stopped in its tracks by political concerns.

The study’s design grew out of the American Teenage Study, a project developed by Drs. Bearman, Entwisle, Rindfuss, and Udry. This initial adolescent sexual health study was designed to look at adolescents’ risky behaviors in a social context, rather than focusing only on individuals, in hopes of helping the nation address the growing AIDS epidemic and other public health concerns. After two years of planning work funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Teenage Study passed peer review and was funded by the NIH in 1991. But the grant was subsequently rescinded due to objections regarding the study’s focus on sexual behaviors.

In 1993, Congress passed legislation forbidding the NIH from funding the American Teenage Study in the future, but at the same time mandating a longitudinal study on adolescent health that would consider all behaviors related to their health – implicitly including sexual behavior.

“I congratulate Dr. Rindfuss and his colleagues on this award, which underscores the vital importance of federal funding for research,” said Rep. David Price (D-NC), who was a key advocate in the House of Representatives in the 1990’s for continuing to pursue this research. “Federally supported research projects not only produce new life-saving treatments and expand our understanding of the world around us, they also spur economic growth and innovation in ways we cannot always anticipate.”

In 1994, Drs. Udry and Bearman, now joined at UNC by Dr. Harris, proposed Add Health to meet Congress’s new mandate. The new study maintained the American Teenage Study design’s strong focus on social context, but significantly expanded the scope of inquiry to include all factors influencing adolescent health.

The study has followed its original cohort for over 20 years, and it is now providing valuable information about the unanticipated impacts of adolescent health on overall wellbeing in adulthood. For this reason, the researchers recently changed the study’s name to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, and it is a landmark example of how longitudinal research can yield extraordinary and unexpected insights.

"Science often advances our understanding of the world in ways we could never have foreseen,” Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) said. "Regardless of how this research began, it has served as a breakthrough for understanding the way society molds our personal health.  That’s why congressional funding and support for breakthrough research is so important to push us forward as a country.”

The nationally representative sample and multifaceted longitudinal data paired with a revolutionary open-access model have enabled more than 10,000 researchers to publish almost 3,000 research articles on human health. These scientific studies have strengthened an understanding of the importance of family connectedness to adolescent health, allowed researchers to track and scrutinize the rising tide of the obesity epidemic, and demonstrated the social, behavioral, and biological importance of adolescence to lifelong health and wellbeing

What began as a study driven both by social science curiosity and public-health concerns has been central to shaping the national conversation around adolescent health for more than two decades.

The Golden Goose Award honors scientists whose federally funded work may have seemed odd or obscure when it was first conducted but has resulted in significant benefits to society. Drs. Bearman, Entwisle, Harris, Rindfuss and Udry are being cited for their extraordinary multidisciplinary, longitudinal study of the social and biological factors that influence adolescent health, and their work’s wide-ranging and often unexpected impacts on society.

The five researchers will be honored with two other teams of researchers – yet to be named – at the fifth annual Golden Goose Award Ceremony at the Library of Congress on September 22. Descriptions of the past winners can be found  at the Golden Goose Award website.

About the Golden Goose Award

The Golden Goose Award is the brainchild of Rep. Jim Cooper, who first had the idea for the award when the late Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) was issuing the Golden Fleece Award to target wasteful federal spending and often targeted peer-reviewed science because it sounded odd. Rep. Cooper believed such an award was needed to counter the false impression that odd- sounding research was not useful.

In 2012, a coalition of business, university, and scientific organizations created the Golden Goose Award. Like the bipartisan group of Members of Congress who support the Golden Goose Award, the founding organizations believe that federally funded basic scientific research is the cornerstone of American innovation and essential to our economic growth, health, global competitiveness, and national security. Award recipients are selected by a panel of respected scientists and university research leaders.

Golden Goose Award Founding Organizations:

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Association of American Universities (AAU)

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Breakthrough Institute

Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) Richard Lounsbery Foundation The Science Coalition (TSC)

Task Force on American Innovation

United for Medical Research

 

Golden Goose Award Congressional Supporters

Representative Jim Cooper Representative Suzanne Bonamici Senator Christopher Coons

Representative Charlie Dent Representative Bob Dold Representative Donna F. Edwards

Representative Randy Hultgren

 

Golden Goose Award 2016 Sponsors

Benefactor Elsevier Partner
United for Medical Research 

Contributors

American Mathematical Society
American Physical Society
Association of American Medical Colleges

Supporters

American Astronomical Society
American Physiological Society
Consortium of Social Science Associations
Texas Instruments