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Scholarly Blog Index

ACI connects researchers to curated academic blogs.

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The ACI research team discovers and evaluates blogs from all academic disciplines. Our editorial review and ongoing quality assurance help to provide focused and valuable content for researchers. Learn more about ACI

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Most Popular Articles

S: Agriculture

What does research say about how to effectively communicate about science?

Andrew Maynard, Arizona State University and Dietram A. Scheufele, University of Wisconsin-Madison Scheufele, University of Wisconsin-Madison Truth seems to be an increasingly flexible concept in politics. Many scientists and science communicators have grappled with disregard for, or inappropriate use of, scientific evidence for years – especially around contentious issues like the causes of global warming, or the benefits of vaccinating children. Only recently, however, have people begun to think systematically about what actually works to promote better public discourse and decision-making around what is sometimes controversial science. The goal was to apply scientific thinking to the process of how we go about communicating science effectively. The public draft of the group’s findings – “Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda” – has just been published. Bacteriologists engage with kids at the Wisconsin Science Festival, one way of communicating science to the public. But it also depends on what people feel and believe is right and the societal or political contexts within which communication and engagement occur. Unfortunately, the social sciences haven’t provided science communicators with concrete, evidence-based guidance on how to communicate more effectively. Two earlier NAS meetings identified how diverse the areas of expertise are when it comes to research on science communication. For instance, it’s becoming increasingly…

U: Military science

Strife Series on Intelligence in the digital age, Part II – Surveillance, data protection and the right to privacy

While proponents of extensive surveillance legislation argue that these measures are necessary in the 21st-century fight to uncover and neutralize terrorism plots, the indiscriminate interception and retention of personal data poses serious challenges to international human rights law. Surveillance and human rights law Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights asserts the right to privacy and prohibits states from unlawful and arbitrary interference with the privacy of individuals within their jurisdiction. Governments with the necessary capabilities have institutionalized operations and legislation which is simply not compatible with the Right to Privacy under article 17. Tensions between intelligence agencies and private technology enterprises Despite the introduction of such worrying legislative measures, intelligence agencies have voiced concern that they are losing the technological edge over potential terrorists as tech companies are increasingly focusing on developing sophisticated encryption tools and software to reassure their customers' privacy concerns. Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights for the UN, has made important recommendations for the way forward. In the end, the question of surveillance and privacy falls in line with the greater theme of balancing liberty and security. He focuses on conflict resolution strategies, political violence, and human rights. Outside of academia, he is Series…

B: Philosophy

Could the brain be a radio for receiving consciousness?

Here’s an answer I wrote a while ago to the following question: Taken in the right spirit, it can be a good way to learn about what science is, and also what the limitations of science are. In the future we might try an experiment like this: we build an artificial brain. After all, if consciousness is somehow floating in the ether, how could we be sure that our artificial brain wasn’t just tuned to the ‘consciousness frequency’, like a gooey pink radio? If our artificial brain showed no signs of consciousness, the antenna crowd could claim victory, and say “See!, you need cosmic consciousness in order to get biological consciousness! But constructing a consciousness-shield is straight out of science fiction, and just sounds absurd. In any case, there’s actually a much bigger problem facing any scientific approach to consciousness. So the word “inter-subjective” is a pretty good synonym for “objective”. So the sun is a pretty objective feature of reality. But consciousness is not objective in the same way that the sun is. Their approach is to take some observable phenomenon — either behavior or some neural signal — and define it as the hallmark of consciousness. The proponents of IIT have gone so far as to claim that they are okay with panpsychism: the idea that everything from quarks to quasars is at least a little bit conscious. If everything is conscious, then the question of whether the brain “produces” consciousness — or the universe “transmits” it — becomes…

H: Social sciences

E-bureaucracy: Can digital technologies spur public administration reform?

Photo: Arne Hoel / World Bank Can the increasingly cheap and ubiquitous digital technologies—there are now 4.7 billion mobile phone users in the world—move the needle on governance and make bureaucrats more accountable? And the application of technology in government, as many World Bank task team leaders of complex IT management information systems projects have painfully learned, is fraught with difficulties and disappointments. But the good news is that with some of the right “analog complements,” digital technologies can indeed significantly improve governance relatively quickly. However, the evidence does show that digital technologies can empower committed pro-poor politicians and bureaucrats, who can be found in even the most challenging governance contexts, by giving them a tool to experiment and take on erstwhile seemingly insurmountable problems. E-bureaucracy can, therefore, be an entry point for reforming bureaucracy.

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