I spent the last few days at the 5th Netroots Nation, in Las Vegas. As always, the conference has been a whirlwind of political geekery and good, clean fun. This year featured a video address by the President, and Q&A sessions with the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate, not to mention two panels on the use of snark in politics.
My obligations here finished early. I’d been involved with three panel submissions, of which two were approved: one about politicized sciences and the other on politicized education. My colleague Steve Newton took over on the latter panel, organized by Texas Freedom Network and featuring two candidates for Texas State Board of Education as well as TFN’s Dan Quinn and the incomparably Michael Bérubé. Both panels went off on Thursday, leaving the rest of the meeting to schmooze.
My panel was the first session of the conference, and featured DailyKos’s DemfromCT, aka Greg Dworkin, a doctor who has spent the last few years trying to increase public preparedness around pandemic flu as well as vaccination more generally. He’s got a nice post summarizing his talk up at DailyKos, connecting flu preparedness, the importance of the internet and bloggers in reaching out to the public, and the whooping cough epidemic in California being driven by anti-science anti-vaccine beliefs. I spoke about the usual thing, as you can see in the video above. And I was followed by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, co-authors of Merchants of Doubt, a great history of the global warming denial movement. Hopefully the video of the full conversation will be posted soon.
I’d asked the panelists to present a somewhat positive account at least of the science, if not the politics of the issue, on the assumption that we’d have plenty of time in the discussion to cover the bad stuff, and I think that worked out well. During a discussion of the balance between the need for expertise and transparency in communicating science, I managed to work in a mention of #sbFAIL and Pepsiblog, pointing out that they had legitimate experts, but lacked the openness that makes real blogs effective in science communications.
We also talked about science journalism, and about the common theme of all these forms of science denial: a rejection of the value of expertise. Alas that I couldn’t show Don McLeroy’s famous “Someone has to stand up to experts” rant. Check out good summaries of the panel at Northwest Progressive Institute, ClimateScienceWatch,and Delaware Liberal.
Hopefully I’ll figure out how to get my Keynote slides into Slideshare soon, so you can see them in better quality than the video above could capture.
Now I’m off to another conference, and am sending this from the free wireless network at the Las Vegas airport.