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Public Affairs Update

  • Concerned Scientists say Bush Administration ignores research . . . . A private organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), claims that the Bush administration systematically distorts, manipulates, or ignores scientific research findings that run counter to the administration’s political beliefs. In their February report they contend that “the scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented.” (See also February 2004 Footnotes, p. 3, “National Academies to pursue vetting of science advisors.”) Sixty prominent scientists, including 20 Nobel Prize winners and recipients of the National Medal of Science, signed the report. In an Associated Press story, the group’s president, Kurt Gottfried, said, “We’re not taking issue with administration policies. We’re taking issue with the administration’s distortion ... of the science related to some of its policies.” Also in the story, White House science adviser John Marburger said he found the report “somewhat disappointing ... because it makes some sweeping generalizations about policy in this administration that are based on a random selection of incidents and issues.” He provided a 17-page point-by-point rebuttal this month. The UCS report was released concurrent with a National Academies of Science study that commends the administration’s plan to study climate but expresses concern that the research was under funded and not being pursued vigorously enough. For a copy of the UCS statement, see www.ucsusa.org/global_environment/rsi/signon.html. See www.ostp.gov for Marburger’s statement.

  • National Academies Reports . . . . ASA member Barbara Schneider served on the National Research Council Committee that produced the recent National Academies of Science (NAS) report Implementing Randomized Field Trials in Education: Report of a Workshop. This report summarizes active exchanges among researchers and educators about the challenges to successfully carrying out randomized field trials in schools, strategies for addressing those challenges, and the effects of the current trend to fund more such studies on states, school districts, and students. The report can be reviewed in its entirety at books.nap.edu/catalog/10943.html. Barriers to minorities’ entry into health professions are the focus of a new Institute of Medicine report, In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce. This report describes ways to reduce institutional and policy-level obstacles and recommends actions that training programs and accreditation bodies should take to make it easier for minority students to pursue health careers. For more information, see www.national-academies.org/morenews#tn0205b. A forthcoming NAS report, Measuring Racial Discrimination, describes how several racial and ethnic groups in the United States, including blacks, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians, and others, historically have faced severe discrimination—pervasive and open denial of civil, social, political, educational, and economic opportunities. Today, large differences among racial and ethnic groups continue to exist in employment, income and wealth, housing, education, criminal justice, health, and other areas. Measuring Racial Discrimination considers the definition of “race” and “racial discrimination,” reviews the existing techniques to measure racial discrimination, and identifies new tools and areas for future research. For more information, see www.nap.edu/catalog/10887.html?ed_11. Finally, NAS’s recent report titled Census evaluates the 2000 Census and offers advice for conducting the 2010 count of Americans. Detailing the major successes and problems that arose in the execution of the 2000 Census, the report indicates that the count was generally well done, and it provides recommendations on ways to improve the 2010 census design and implementation. Read the full report at books.nap.edu/catalog/10907.html.

  • Statistics on high school graduation rates . . . . Who Graduates? Who Doesn’t? A Statistical Portrait of Public High School Graduation, Class of 2001,” by the Urban Institute’s Christopher Swanson, is the most extensive set of systematic empirical findings to date on public school graduation rates. This study includes detailed descriptive statistics and analytic results for the nation as a whole, by geographical region, and for each of the 50 states. The study also offers a detailed perspective on high school completion by examining graduation rates for the overall student population, for specific racial and ethnic groups, and by gender, and analysis of graduation rate patterns for particular types of school districts. See www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=410934.

  • Analysis of Americans’ health behaviors . . . . new analysis of health habits of U.S. adults provides a higher-than-usual level of detail on four important health-related behaviors?lcohol use, smoking, leisure-time physical activity, and body weight. The report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, combines data from three years of the ongoing National Health Interview Survey to examine the health behaviors by age, gender, race and Hispanic ethnicity, education, income level, marital status, geographic region, and place of residence. The survey uses several measures to monitor each of the health-related behaviors. In addition to analyzing differences in these behaviors by many population characteristics, the report compares various population subgroups in terms of healthy and unhealthy behaviors. The report noted significant differences by race and Hispanic ethnicity. The differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic adults were particularly noteworthy for women. Health behaviors are self-reported by respondents in this large-scale nationwide household interview survey, and therefore some unhealthy behaviors may be underestimated. For more information about the National Health Interview Survey or to view a copy of Health Behaviors of Adults: United States, 1999-2001, visit www.cdc.gov/nchs.