Science, Ecology and Natural History in the News
An important aspect of teaching science consists of demonstrating individual curiosity about science events. We also have an obligation to model for our students the selection of high quality sources of science news.
This webpage provides links to high quality science news resources and specific information on selected science topics.
High quality science knowledge starts with published reports of science research. Commonly an individual or group conducts science research, writes a report of their research and then submits it to an organization that publishes science research in an academic journal. The editor of the science journal, a highly qualified person with academic credentials in that field of study, assigns typically 3 people, also with academic credentials in that area, to read and review the research article. Each reviewer makes a recommendation about the quality of the research described in the article. They either recommend that it be accepted for publication, that it should be revised and resubmitted or that it should not be accepted for publication. The editor then reviews the recommendations from the 3 reviewers and makes a decision on what to do with the research article: publish, recommend revisions or reject it. This peer review process typically assures that only the highest quality research is published for public consumption. Rarely, it may be later discovered that the scientist fabricated data reported in the article or some other ethical transgression occured. In these cases, the editor investigates the allegations and if accurate issues a retraction, removing the article from the publication. The peer review process seeks to police itself and the result is high quality research that the public can use to make informed social decisions.
There are thousands of organizations that publish science research. Some of these organizations are highly respected and it is extremely hard to get reseach articles accepted in their publications. The organizations with this high quality reputation can be relied on to have only the best research in their publications. Other organizations are low quality, sometimes they don't even use a peer review process, so it's fairly easy to get any research published. In other cases, people with a particular perspective start their own research publications and publish "research" that matches their perspective. You can find, for example, "research" that explains the earth is flat and many other false narratives. It also has been the case that people with specific political or social goals manufacture conspiracy theories or false accursations in order to discredit high quliaty news sources. In this context it becomese vitally important that the scientifically literate citizen understand the diversity and quality of science research.
So, in social decision-making it matters which research you use in your argument to support a particular course of action. Various people and organizations have the potential to selectively cite research that supports their perspective or cite research from low quality sources. These science news sources can quickly overwhelm and confuse the social conversation as the high quality authoritative science news sources seem like just one among many equal voices in the conversation. One key endeavor then is to help people recognize the high quality sources of science news information and learn to prioritize that information in their social decision-making.
Here are just a few organizations that publish high quality science research.
Science https://science.sciencemag.org/ - The American Association for the Advancement of Science publishes this academic journal with a world wide reputation for high quality. Published weekly it is the source for many news stories about cutting edge research.
Nature - https://www.nature.com/nature/research - Published in England, Nature is a weekly science journal that publishes high quality science research.
There are thousands of peer-reviewed academic science research journals in every field of study.
Science News Sources -
There thousands of organizations that hire journalists to read academic science research and write articles for the general public. As with academic research journals, news organizations are diverse and provide a continium of quality in their reporting of science research. Here are a few examples of organizations that publish high quality science news stories.
AAAS Science Journal News
American Association for the Advancement of Science News
Science.gov - "Science.gov serches over 60 databases and over 2200 selected websites from 15 federal agencies, offering 200 million pages of authoritative US government science information including research and development results."
Kids.gov - A US government website with resources for kids such as science videos. "Brought to you by USA.gov, Kids.gov is the official kids' portal for the U.S. government. We link kids, parents and teachers to U.S. government information and services on the web from government agencies, schools, and educational organizations, all geared to the learning level and interest of kids."
New York Times Science
National Science Foundation News - Press releases and news stories about science research from the government agency that funds science research around the world.
Science Topics in the News
Following are science topics in the news with some links to important science information about those topics.
Vaccines: An Unhealthy Skepticism - Fantastic video that describes history of vaccines and how public opinion, based on discredited research causes reduced vaccines rates in the U.S.
Center for Disease Control - No evidence of a causal relationship between vaccines and autism.
Discredited research in Lancet Journal, that incorrectly suggested a link between vaccines and autism; retracted article due to poor research and ethical issues.
Opinion - What Would Jesus Do About Measles? Dr. Paul Offit a pediatric infectious disease specialist discusses the measles outbreak in Philadelphia in 1990-91. He discusses some parents' religious objections to vaccination and the social obligation to protect children from preventable harm.
Vaccines in Pennsylvania - Venteicher, W. 2015. Pennsylvania looks to tighten vaccine requirements for school children. Trib Total Media. This article describes PA's political process to increase vaccine requirements with public comments to article.
Food - Chicken
One of the important choices that every human makes is what to eat. One goal of science education is to help people achieve science literacy so they can evaluate the evidence as to the quality of the food they eat. The following resources provide one example of the challenges consumers face in deciding whether something they eat, in this case chicken, is of high quality and high quality production methods.
Jim Purdue explains Purdue Corporation's philosophy.
Dr Bruce Stwart-Brown, Purdue VP of Food Quality and Safety
Terri and Jeff King, Purdue Family Farmers
USDA Process Verified Program - Poultry
Compassion in World Farming - Video of a Purdue contract farmer and his experience raising chickens.
National Chicken Council - Animal welfare for broiler chickens guidelines.
National Chicken Council - Expert Panel Examines Compassion in World Farming Video
USDA Microbiological Data Program - "a monitoring program to collect information reguarding...foodborn pathogens ...on fresh fruit and vegetables. ...MDP operations ended in December 2012 due to the elimination of program funding."
Lunar Eclipse October 8, 2014 - The Weather Channel
NASA Eclipse Website - Fantastic information, diagrams and resources.
Eclipse Simulation - shows the position of sun, earth and moon and their movements.
Astronomy Simulations - University of Nebraska Lincoln, Excellent simulations of basic evens like eclipses.
Slouoh Observatory Rebroadcast of live coverage of the eclipse, Oct 8, 2014. It's worth the wait through the first 2 minutes prior to the broadcast.
Planet Movement simulation
Moon Phases Simulator
What happened to the dinosaurs?
The following articles tell the amazing story of how people used scientific evidence to create explanations for how most dinosaurs all went extinct at the same time. It's an incredible story of discovery.
Preston 2019 New Yorker Article - Website PDF
New York Times Article - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/29/science/dinosaurs-extinction-asteroid.html
Video - The Day the Mesozoic Died: The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRPu5u_Pizk
Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change - Perhaps a good place to start is the Synthesis Report Summary for Policy Makers.
John Oliver's comedic report on climate change that illustrates 97 scientists in a debate with 3 climate deniers as a way to show that human caused climate change is overwhelmingly accepted in the scientific community. (Note: video clip contains curse words).
John Stewart's comedic report on climate change. (Note: video clip contains curse words).
NASA Earth Observatory - "The Earth Observatory’s mission is to share with the public the images, stories, and discoveries about the environment, Earth systems, and climate that emerge from NASA research, including its satellite missions, in-the-field research, and models. (downloaded 1/25/2016)"
Sea Level Rise Article, Images and Graphs
Sea Ice Article, Images, Data and Graphs
US scientists fight political meddling
Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming - (12Jan2006). Nature 439, p. 161-167
Climate change is killing frogs finds new research - Butler, Rhett A. (2006). retrieved news.mongabay.com 3/6/07.
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
Poison Ivy and Cimate Change - Measurements show that the % of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere is rising. This research study documents that the poison ivy plant, with additional CO2 concentrations, grows more and produces a more toxic version of the chemical that produces the skin rash on human's skin.
Salmon Confidential- This documentary, produced by an advocate for preserving salmon (Salmonaresacared.com), describes the biology of wild salmon, salmon diseases, the impact of salmon farms on spreading deadly viruses to wild salmon, the scientific research process used to solve the mysterious decline and mortality of salmon in British Columbia, along with the social, political and economic choices surrounding salmon. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTbxOFcvC4U, 11/30/15).
New Animal Species found in Indonesia
75% Loss of Flying Insect BioMass
Genetic Editing of Farm Animals
A New York Times article describing the recent science research and success in genetically modifying farm animals for desirable traits.
Floride in Public Drinking Water
The science evidence from respected science institutions on impact of floride on human health provides information for citizens to make decisions about floride use. These are some of those sources and documents.
Center For Disease Control Community Water Floridation
CDC Statement on Evidence Supporting the Safety and Effectiveness of Community Water Floridation, June 8, 2015.
CDC History of Community Water Floridation, 1999
The discovery of 2003 UB313, the 10th planet