Apr 13, 2011 | Scout Calvert: Standardization on the Hoof

Standardization on the Hoof: Pedigrees, Genetic Disease, and Genomic-Enhanced EPDs

Scout Calvert (Wayne State University)

April 13, 2011

Engineering 2 599, 4:30-6:30

The SJWG is very pleased to welcome back Scout Calvert, who was one of our original members and earned her PhD from History of Consciousness.

Abstract: For decades, beef breed associations have been gathering performance data on registered animals that have become the basis for “expected progeny differences,” calculations made by comparing the cattle in electronic pedigrees, or herdbooks. The American Angus Association began digitizing its herdbook in the 1960s. In 1978, it launched the Certified Angus Beef branding program, a marketing promotion that has successfully made the Angus breed co-extensive with succulent beef through a voluntary certification process, and which enables small but important premiums for beef growers. As EPDs became popular tools for the selection of artificial insemination sires, three genetic diseases reached frequencies of 10% or more in the pure-bred population. EPDs coordinated a shared quest for Angus certification that also resulted in a catastrophic narrowing of the Angus gene pool. Still reeling from the identification of these three diseases since 2008, in 2010, the Angus Association introduced Genomic-Enhanced EPDs. These pedigrees now include data from genetic markers for desirable phenotype characteristics, an innovation with ramifications for animal breeders and human genealogists alike.

Mar 09, 2011 | Michael Mateas: Gaming and the Sociological Imagination

Wednesday, March 9, 4:15-6:15 pm
599 Engineering 2

Michael Mateas runs the Expressive Intelligence Studio at UC Santa Cruz, which explores the intersection of artificial intelligence, art, and design. Their goal is to create compelling new forms of interactive art and entertainment that provide more deeply autonomous, generative, and dynamic responses to interaction. A major thrust of this work is advanced artificial intelligence (AI) for video agames, including autonomous characters and interactive story telling. By viewing AI as an expressive medium, their work raises and answers novel AI research questions while pushing the boundaries of the conceivable and possible in interactive experiences. Current projects in the group include automated support for game generation, automatic generation of autonomous character conversations, story management, and authoring tools for interactive storytelling.

Mar 02, 2011 | The Science and Politics of Psychedelic Research

Rap Report > The Politics and Science of Psychedelic Research: A Conversation with MAPS


Hosted by Ben Roome (Philosophy)

The development of new pharmacological therapies for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders requires an intricate lattice of practices. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has pursued the application of various compounds for therapeutic use for over 20 years. The group’s recent success in carrying out clinical drug trials for the use of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD is the result of careful scientific and political collaboration. In order for these and other trials to be approved by the FDA a complex set of engagements has been developed through painstaking research, careful argument and deep commitment. Bringing key members of MAPS into the space of the Science and Justice Working Group, we will consider unprecedented collaborations and the delicate consensus needed to bring this science more fully into mainstream medicine.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | 4:15-6:15 PM | Engineering 2, Room 599

The Science and Politics of Psychedelic Research
SJWG Rapporteur Report
2 March 2011
MAPS engages with the Science and Justice Working Group
Four key members of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies joined
the space of the Science and Justice working group to focus on the practices involved
with bringing the psychedelic compound MDMA (more commonly known as ‘ecstasy’) to
phase III drug trials for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The meeting opened with a brief history of the MAPS mission in relation to MDMA
related by by Josh Sonstroem (MAPS Director of Finance and IT). A tremendous
controversy around MDMA emerged in the mid eighties. As therapists explored
potential applications for the compound in therapeutic use, MDMA was also discovered
by the party community, causing a political backlash that would ultimately lead to the
drug becoming a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it would be classified as
having no medical use and a high potential for abuse. MAPS founder and director Rick
Doblin thus began a 20 year battle to reassert the medical uses of MDMA. His efforts to
bring therapists who had used the drug with therapeutic success were waylaid by
studies funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) claiming that MDMA
caused brain damage after only one use. Although these studies were later shown to
be scientifically inaccurate in several ways, a tremendous amount of ground would have
to be regained in order to reclassify the drug as medically valuable.

Valerie Mojeiko (MAPS Deputy Director and Leader of the Psychedelic Harm-Reduction
Program) thus picked up the thread at this point to explain MAPS early positioning as a
non-profit focused on public education. Beyond publishing and disseminating
information about psychedelic research, MAPS began the Psychedelic Harm-Reduction
Program with the Black Rock City Rangers, a volunteer group at the Burning Man
Festival that focuses on mediating difficult situations, including uncomfortable
psychedelic experiences. It was in this context that MAPS was first able to develop a
form of psychedelic therapeutic practices.

Brad Burge (MAPS Communication and Education Associate) brought the discussion
further along in history by explaining how the early Ricardi study, the one that claimed to
show that MDMA has only-adverse effects, was ultimately overturned by later research.
Burge also helped to explain how early NIDA-funded studies actually contained a
tremendous amount of data that would be used to support MAPS’s argument that
MDMA was safe for human use. While the presentational tone of these studies focused
on the dangers of MDMA, the actual data they contained showed that MDMA did not
carry any lasting adverse effects. This elegant re-appropriation of scientific data
produced by anti-MDMA groups would typify the MAPS strategy in future engagements.

Berra Yazar-Klosinksi (MAPS Clinical Research Associate followed up by providing an
in-depth explanation of clinical practices employed in MAPS funded studies being
carried out in North Carolina, Switzerland, Israel and Jordan. The crux of this
explanation was to demonstrate that the measurement techniques employed by the
FDA to test other compounds for the treatment of PTSD are tremendously well suited to
MDMA therapy. In particular, the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) very
successfully demonstrates the value of three MDMA assisted therapy sessions for the
treatment of PTSD. It is primarily these successes that have led MAPS to recently
rebrand itself as a non-profit drug development organization. Berra also discussed the
difficulties of applying the CAPS in the various languages and social milieus in which
MDMA trials are being carried out. A tremendous amount of work still needs to be done
to bring MDMA into mainstream medicine. Every year MAPS becomes more successful
at addressing what needs to be accomplished and finding creative new ways to achieve
their goals.

Members of the Science and Justice Workgroup then contributed comments,
suggestions and critiques that might help MAPS members explore new possibilities for
successful scientific practices. Jake Metcalf opened with questions about MAPS
branding practices associated with their prospectus. In particular, Metcalf discussed the
imagery used in the prospectus; the prospectus shows a variety of stock photos of
‘mainstream’ people such as soldiers and housewives and assiduously avoids
counterculture tropes. The ensuing discussion about MAPS’ branding practices
considered the challenges of simultaneously appealing to funders, adopting a pose of
objective scientific research practices, and maintaining some connection to MAPS’
countercultural roots. Jenny Reardon followed this thread with a series of questions
focused on considering how MAPS might challenge the scientific practices employed by
the FDA while still moving towards their goal of mainstream medical acceptance. She
suggested that while MAPS may be trying to take the drugs out of the counterculture
and take the counterculture out of the drugs, there may be useful epistemic insights in
countercultural science. She noted that particularly in Northern California there is a long
history of important technoscience endeavors initiated by members of the
counterculture as a countercultural effort. Martha Kenney focused on concerns
surrounding the translations issues of the CAPS, and suggested a moved towards
critically considering these issues as part of the measurement practices, rather than as
a mere veil to objective understanding. This sparked discussion from the MAPS guests
about the various challenges of testing for PTSD in different cultures—if the tests are
translated from English on the fly by the tester then there is no consistency in the test.
But even translating in advance poses a challenge because PTSD is articulated through
a culture’s psycho-social constructs. Natalie Purcell also posed a valuable question
about how MDMA treatment might be producing a certain conception of the
phenomenon of PTSD across cultures that deserves critical attention. Karen Barad
posed a question about the expression of side-effects to MDMA therapy, and how they
might be addressed through good scientific practices.

MAPS representatives took these considerations in the spirit of collaboration and
expressed their excitement at exploring them further, both within MAPS itself, and as
part of future meetings of the Science and Justice Working Group.

Feb 24, 2011 | Climate Cluster II Panel Discussion: Climate Change Scientists in the Trenches

Climate change science is attracting an exceptional amount of public interest, yet debates over the merit and implications of climate change research seldom unpack the complex set of practices and networks that make up this field. This panel will explore the multiple realities of conducting climate change science at a time of heightened skepticism and media attention. Panelists:

Jason Box, Associate Professor of Geography Atmospheric Sciences & Program Researcher at Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University

Jeffrey Bury, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, UCSC

Ken Mankoff, Ph.D. Student, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC

Lisa Sloan, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Director of the Climate Change and Impacts Laboratory, UCSC

Click here or more information on the Climate Cluster.


Thursday, February 24, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. | E2 Room 599

Climate Cluster II: Climate Researchers in the Trenches
SJWG Rapporteur Report
24 February 2011
Lisa Sloan - Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Director of the Climate Change and Impacts Laboratory, UCSC
Jason Box - Associate Professor of Geography Atmospheric Sciences & Program Researcher at Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University
Jeff Bury - Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, UCSC
Ken Mankoff - Ph.D. Student, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC
Moderator: Costanza Rampini

Rampini began by showing a cover of Rolling Stone, noting that the fact that climate change has made it to the same cover as Lil Dwayne shows how popular this topic has become. Rampini continued that most discussions of climate change don’t take the time to unpack for us for it means to conduct climate change science. The four panelists were introduced as scholars who could help the audience understand what it means to be a climate change scientist.

Rampini then asked the panelists to introduce themselves, briefly explain their work, and say whether they identify as a climate change scientist. (panelists' answers are paraphrased below)

Sloan: Emphatically, yes, I a am a climate scientist and I work on paleo climate. People on an airplance want to change their seat if you tell them you are a climate scientist. Knowing about the past can help you understand the envelope
of behavior the future might bring.

Box: I am a physical climatologist and geographer. I work in Greenland and technically yes I am a climate change scientist because I study climate and the climate is always changing. I want to make the physical science matter and so always want to bring it back to the human impacts. Otherwise the science is just for the science.

Bury: I identify as a social scientist, not a climate change scientist, but 3:1 is a good ratio for this conversation. I work on the Andes.

Mankoff: I am a climate change scientist to be. I am a computer scientist by training and I study how oceans warm Antarctica, and used to be a climate modeler before returning to school. I also volunteered for Al Gore’s group and gave custom live versions of An Inconvenient Truth, and the motivation was to get people to do behavioral change.

Rampini’s next question was about collaboration. She prefaced that, because climate change science generally involves transboundary collaboration whether over disciplinary boundaries or national boundaries. Collaboration can be very
fruitful and very challenging, and asked the panelists to share their experience with transboundary collaboration, especially and instances that were particularly successful or difficult.

Sloan: Not sure what you mean by disciplinary boundaries. Interdisciplinarity on this campus is pretty good and this campus is a good incubator for crossdisciplinary work. Last night I gave a talk to a senior center and this town is
pretty good at breaking down boundaries too.

Box: I want my department to have more impact and give back to society and not just do science for the sake of science. I am between physical and social science boundaries and I have talked with a social scientist in my Geography department
who sees climate change as the biggest issue out there, which is encouraging.

Mankoff: I have been warned against doing interdisciplinary work, for example I am discouraged from doing field work, but I am doing interdisciplinary work anyway.

Bury: I come at this from an International Relations perspective, and also see where I am coming from as transdisciplinarity. I work a lot with Peruvian scientists and have seen the Balkanization of the snow and ice people, i.e. different research teams who sneak in and out of the field and don’t want to talk to each other.

Box: I can confirm that I’ve similarly seen epistemological differences with the scientists in Peru as well, whereas in Greenland things are much friendlier.

Rampini then asked about how uncertainty manifests in the panelists’ work and how they deal with it.

Bury: uncertainty is one of the primary things we try to deal with in our work. The challenge is how to devise the right methods that get the confidence of scientific colleagues when measuring what goes on in Peruvian communities. There is
deep uncertainty about what future costs will be.

Sloan: uncertainty comes with science. The classic problem is that when we hear about the climate change debate people speak in absolutes, but scientists can’t do that. That’s a tough one to me.

Mankoff: I try to explain that a scientist doesn’t have to say that gravity is just a theory, but that doesn’t mean we don't think it’s happening when I talk to nonscientists. The other way I deal with it is with an error bar that gets spit out of a
software program.

Box: Science is only a tool, a way of knowing, and a quantitative statement should always be accompanied by an uncertainty measurement. The IPCC does an excellent job by qualifying each of its statements about uncertainty with a word (e.g. unequivocal, likely, very likely, etc.). Weather forecasters shouldn’t way “it’s going to rain tomorrow,” they should say “there’s a 95% chance it’s going to rain tomorrow.”

Mankoff: I will go so far as to say that species going extinct is bad, and I think this is more compelling, though subjective, than saying “we have observed a 90% decline”

Box: without a value system we are unable to make decisions, and perhaps the wall between left and right is that they simply have different value structures. This is a problem we need to consider if we want to get beyond it.

Rampini then noted how the ‘climategate’ scandal has been compared to the OJ Simpson trial. In the case of OJ Simpson, the large amount of evidence helped lawyers in finding flaws in the police procedures. Rampini then suggested the possibility that more information (or in the case of climate change, data) doesn’t make uncertainty go away but that it can make it worse. Rampini asked if the panelists thought the debate over climate change had left the scientific lab and
entered the political arena. She also asked what kind of role, if any, do scientists still have in these political debates.

Box: Sea level rise will have wider error bars in the 5th IPCC assessment and that will cause confusion for the public.

Sloan: Not sure that outside skepticism makes the science better. What is going on with Inhoffe is ugly, what is going on with the political side of things makes me think the scientists aren’t playing a decent role in the political arena so I feel

Bury: The scandals have taught me not to leave emails on the server. USAID’s whole program is now all about climate change and I brought them together with people from the World Bank. This story shows how the politicization of science in Washington has consequences for development.

Rampini then asked about audience, and whether the panelists had any experiences communicating their research to a general public or policy-makers.

Bury: I have been very impressed by how Box has communicated his findings about Greenland with lots of internet resources and being on a Greenpeace ship. What I’m working on is developing new formats for communicating findings to visually demonstrate glacier repression in the Andes. I won’t take USAID’s money but I do give them free advice. We have no skepticism in Peru, everyone there believes that climate change is taking place.

Mankoff: I have had people walk out of the room and say I am trying to poison them with CFL lightbulbs.

Box: Know your audience. I was sponsored by the UCC to talk with my congressperson about climate science. To speak with conservatives I couldn’t rely on the typical environmental message. Instead, it is wise to make appeals to patriotism, and ask them what we are leaving for our kids, speak in terms of stewardship and to speak of economic competitiveness, e.g. with solar manufacturers in China.
! !

Sloan: Make it local, that gives your audience a stake in what climate change might mean. E.g. say that Beach Hill in Santa Cruz may become Beach Island. The audience also asked a number of questions of the panelists. One participant asked whether the way the panelists conducted their work had changed in response to the skeptic movement, e.g. if there was more pressure for transparency.

Box: The more transparency the better.

Sloan: The NSF now wants a data management plan that includes how it will be archived so that anyone can access it, but this causing issues about how to pay for and manage the data management.

Bury: I also need a data management plan that will be public, which is difficult since I work with human subjects.

Other conversations that were prompted by comments from the audience included: the problem of translating knowledge into action (where even in environmental education one participant had noted substantial gaps between awareness and action); whether tackling the effects and causes of climate change were competing policy priorities; and whether scientists are invested in changing values and perhaps should think more about values. Mankoff commented that it is important to make both causes and effects policy priorities and that values do not come into the science, as that would not be science. Box noted that more than nine out of ten climate scientists come from a liberal perspective, and discussion on what should be done about climate change politically included references to “psychological warfare.” Bury noted that he studies the scientists and asks them to come to policy meetings with him, and that he also brings ethicists into the field with him. Discussion turned to the notion of objectivity as itself a value and the possibility of valuing objectivity.

Jan 25, 2011 | Science & Justice Training Program Information Session

New date and place: Tuesday, 1/25/11, 12:00-1:30 PM, Humanities I room 320

The second cohort of our Science & Justice Training Program begins in Spring 2011! We are hosting an information session on January 25 in Humanities I 320, 12:00-1:30 PM. A pizza lunch will be provided. Graduate students from all campus departments are welcome in the Training Program and are encouraged to attend the information session.Continue Reading Jan 25, 2011 | Science & Justice Training Program Information Session

Nov 10, 2010 | Climate Cluster I: Thinking Through the Technical Fix

The scope of climate change science has expanded from projections of long-term weather trends to include proposals to technically “fix” the climate, such as geoengineering and carbon mitigation strategies.  Like climate modeling, proposals for technical remediation contain scientific uncertainties that translate awkwardly in the political sphere.  This situation compounds the difficulties in planning for future climate conditions.  The Climate Cluster’s fall panel discussion will explore several interrelated themes that arise in discussions of technical approaches to climate change including consensus, uncertainty, indeterminacy and model downscaling.  We will also focus on the possibilities of creating, integrating and communicating climate change research through mechanisms such as climate modeling and geographical information systems (GIS).

Andrew Mathews, Assistant Professor, Anthropology (Technopolitics & Environmental Institutions)
Michael Loik, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies (Plant & Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change)
Barry Nickel, Lecturer & Director of the Center for Intergrated Spatial Research, Environmental Studies (Spatial Ecology & Geospatial Tool Development)
Bruce Daniels, PhD Candidate, Earth & Planetary Science (Science of Climatology & Hydrology)

Moderated by Tiffany Wise-West, Ph.D. Student, Environmental Studies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | 4:15 p.m. | E2 Room 599

“Thinking Through the Technical Fix”
A Panel Discussion Presented by the Climate Cluster
SJWG Rapporteur Report
10 November 2010
The panelists began by discussing ways to improve the predictive power of climate models and other tools that scientists use to predict the impacts of climate change in habitats and species. Some of the challenges that were identified by Barry Nickel, Michael Loik and Bruce Daniels for improving climate change predictions were 1) improving the resolution of climate models which at the moment fail to capture important local variability 2) capturing variables in dynamic systems. Andrew Matthews raised the concern that “more knowledge doesn’t necessarily make the uncertainty go away, sometimes it makes even worse.” With this comment, Prof. Matthews is referring to the political uncertainty that surrounds scientific issues such as climate change that have widespread implications for a variety of stakeholders.

The panelists proceeded by discussing some of the sources of uncertainty and how they affect their respective work.

Barry Nickel stressed the distinction between uncertainty in measurements and uncertainty in understanding. He referred to the chain of uncertainty that is created when GIS models incorporate and combine various global climate models (GMCs). He concluded by saying that “his world is filled with uncertainty.” He also stated that that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to new forms of knowledge.

Michael Loik explained how the biogeochemical models, which he uses in his work are driven in part by GCMS to which they incorporate biological functions to find out, for example, whether changes in precipitation would lead to increased vegetations in a specific area. In his work, one of the great challenges stems from matching the ‘simple’ results of the biogeochemical models with the complex matrix of biological and ecological found in-situ. Loik stated that him and his lab embrace uncertainty in their field design by often testing opposing hypotheses as they relate to climate change

Bruce Daniels discussed how most models are parameterized (i.e. averaged) to reality. He also reframed the conversation by emphasizing the importance of trust over that of scientific certainty. He explained that trust has a lot to do with knowing what scientists are actually doing and developing relationships over time.

Andrew Matthews then asked about the credibility of trust and whether we can trust a scientists based on their academic accomplishments and affiliations. He concluded by saying that modeling is concerned with the technical side of imagining futures, but not concerned enough with how these futures are taken up by politics and social system.

Collaboration & Communication
Tiffany Wise-West asked the panelists to talk about the type of collaborations that they have been involved in and the publics with whom they communicate.

Bruce Daniels, Michael Loik and Barry Nickel all talked about collaborating with and communicating their findings to professors in various departments on the UCSC campus and other non-academic groups in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area.

Bruce Daniels talked about the importance of seeing the needs of our surrounding communities, even needs that they don’t know they will have yet.

Andrew Matthews talked about the importance of using ways to communicate findings that the public can use in the way they use information (e.g. a poster can be better than an article). Andrew Matthews expressed his opinion that social scientists are sometimes “poorly socialized” and don’t cooperate as much as natural scientists. He spoke of forced collaborations and the ethical questions they raise.

IPCC Scandals & Consensus
Tiffany Wise-West asked the panelists their opinions regarding the recent IPCC scandals dubbed ‘climategate.’

The panelists talked about how politics play an important role in the IPCC.

Michael Loik emphasized that sloppiness was at the root of the scandals and that the IPCC is the best climate change science that we have. He also said that framing and portrayal are ultimately key as the scientific process must go through political filter.

Andrew Matthews asked: What kind of institutions would be able to make better use of the facts hat we do have? He also argued that really good data has often come out of really sloppy processes and that nobody would have picked up on the IPCC sloppiness if they hadn’t been looking for ways to discredit the IPCC as a knowledge-making institution.

Bruce Daniels stressed the difficulty of reaching a consensus that threatens vested interest.

The panelists concluded by suggesting that the IPCC should perhaps include a media section in their assessment reports that would facilitate communicate their findings to the public.

Michael Loik also brought up some examples of successful science-policy collaborations such as the Montreal Protocol.

When panelists were asked how each of them reached consensus with their colleagues, they spoke of comparing various models as well as comparing models to past and present climate and conditions.

Michael Loik also spoke of using synthetic meetings for people to bring their data from their field studies and use meta-analysis to quantify common themes. Andrew Matthews that in his field consensus seems to be reached when others can relate to the story you are telling.

Shadow Politics
Tiffany Wise-West asked Andrew Matthews to explain his use of the term ‘shadow politics.’ Matthews explained that when you create a model, you also create, consciously or not, an imagined institutions/actor that can use that model.

Barry Nickel added to that by remarking that the unintentional creation of the politics around “what we do” actually has ramifications for “the work that gets done.”

Science and the Public
The conversation then shifted to talking about the importance of how climate change science is presented to the public and about the dangers of the public misusing scientific tools when these become too accessible to non-experts.

A person in the public brought up the idea of multiple publics and the importance of focusing on those publics that are most worth communicating to. He also talked about the difference between ethos, logos and pathos, and about how pathos is the real challenge to tackling the challenges of global climate change.

Bruce Daniels proposed the idea of creating a public forum to take climate change science on the road and to the general public. Another member of the public brought up the importance of literacy and science literacy in particular.

In conclusion, Karen Barad asked about the kinds of uncertainty that should we care about and about the ways in which we can deconstruct the word uncertainty to make it helpful to us.

Bruce Daniels compared the uncertainty around climate change to the uncertainty of investing in market stocks – an uncertainty which doesn’t freeze people.

Dawkins Rap

Apropos of Jenny’s earlier post about Sam Harris, I felt obligated to post the famous Richard Dawkins rap animation. I still love this years later.

What would a Neanderthal think of Disneyland?

I was trolling the Internet last week, looking for articles about Neanderthal cloning, and came across a rather bizarre claim about ethics and science. Why was I looking for material about Neanderthal cloning? Ed Green, who ran the bioinformatics portion of the Neanderthal Genome Project, was hired by UCSC last year and is visiting my bioethics class next week.Continue Reading What would a Neanderthal think of Disneyland?

Best-Selling “Science and Values”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Sam Harris
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Last week, Sam Harris, the author of the best-selling book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, appeared on the Daily Show. Not even Jon Stewart could make this stuff funny. In this country, we desperately need less impoverished imaginaries about science and religion.Continue Reading Best-Selling “Science and Values”