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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ANS & NYAS - Case Studies In HP Politicalization

I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the similarities and differences between the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) publication of the Chernobyl book, and the American Nuclear Society's (ANS) 2012 President's Special Session On Low Level Radiation & Its Implications For Fukushima Recovery.

Both the NYAS and the ANS appear to be pro-science.  The NYAS's mission includes advancing scientific research and knowledge, supporting scientific literacy, and promoting science based solutions to global challenges.  The ANS's objectives (see Art. B2.1 in Bylaws) include promoting the advancement of science and engineering relating to the atomic nucleus, and of allied sciences and arts.

They both sound Disneyland-ish wonderful.

So how could two different organizations, each devoted to the advancement of science, publish books (the ANS's 200+ page document is pretty much a book) completely at odds with each other and the scientific consensus?  (The Chernobyl book exaggerates radiation health effects and the ANS book downplays them.)

The reason seems to be that neither organization had any sort of editorial mechanism to ensure that what gets published represents the scientific consensus.  One only has to be a member of the organization in order to get something published.  Both organizations seem to rely on small print disclaimers, that what is printed may not reflect the opinions of the organization, as sufficient for achieving their mission/objectives.

So now both books are "out there" in society.  The NYAS stopped publication of their book, though the full text is still available electronically to its members on their website.  The full text is electronically available to everyone with a little diligent web searching.  The ANS never undertook hardcopy publication of their book, but it is still available to its members and the general public on its website.

The NYAS website includes critical reviews of the book and tries to defend itself by stating that it has a responsibility to provide open forums for discussion of scientific questions.  Maybe pregnancies arise from storks or from sex...let's have a forum.

The ANS website does not include critical reviews, but does reiterate the disclaimer.  It further promotes the book by including links to its blog article.  It also further promotes ignorance by including links to its 2001 official position on radiation health effects, while ignoring the progress of more than a decade.

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