Emeritus Faculty Association news September - October 2009

Next Meeting:
The next meeting will be Friday, October 2nd, at 10.30 am., when we will resume our old location in the Javits room, library 2nd floor. The speaker will be Prof David Black of Marine Sciences talking on "Global warming: causes, consequences, and what you can do about it." Climate change occurs on a variety of time scales - from the multi-thousand year glacial-interglacial cycles of the last 4 million years to the 3 to 7 year cycles of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation. Climate variability that occurs on very long time scales (10,000-100,000 years) is well-recorded in the geologic record, and the forcing mechanisms and climatic response on these types of time scales is reasonably well-understood. Climate variability on shorter time scales (interannual to millennial) is much less well-understood. Information is critically needed about the patterns and processes of climate change on sub-millennial time scales in order to help fill critical gaps in our understanding of the climate spectrum, especially as these are the time scales on which anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change is expected to occur.
Bio: David Black received his Ph.D. in Marine Geology and Geophysics from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. After some landlocked appointments he returned to the sea at Stony Brook's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in 2006. His main research interest is in the field of paleoceanography (the study of how the oceans, atmosphere, continents, and ice sheets interacted in the past to produce climate change). David is working on reconstructing the paleoclimate and paleoceanographic conditions that existed during the Quaternary Period using a variety of techniques, including micropaleontology, stable isotope geochemistry, and trace element geochemistry. His current emphasis is on decadal- to century-scale climate and ocean variability during the Holocene and late-Pleistocene, and has active research projects in the tropical Atlantic and subtropical Pacific oceans.

Ask not for a larger garden. But for finer seeds.
The recent NY times full page spread on member Sue Bottigheimer may be viewed at:

Last Meeting
The Provost's annual luncheon on May 1st attracted a near-record number of members and guests. Karl Bottigheimer began the after-dinner proceedings by thanking members of his executive board for their services throughout the year, his last as Co-Chair. He expressed the Association's appreciation to Provost Kaler for hosting this annual event, and for providing the many services to the Association throughout the year. He singled out for special mention two office staff members, Ann Ozelis and Janine Pearce, who were present. Karl then welcomed and introduced our guest speaker, former Stony Brook president John (Jack) Marberger, who spoke on the topic of "Policy and Science."
Eight years ago when he received a phone call from the White House Office of Personnel asking if he would allow his name to be advanced as a candidate for Science Advisor, Jock initially replied that he was not interested, but was eventually persuaded by his deputy Peter Paul. When he met with various advisors and then the President himself, he was assured that it made no difference that Jack was a Democrat. As for stem cell research, Jack stressed that he could advise only on the science, not on the related ethical questions. Jack stressed that at no time throughout his tenure in Washington did anyone try to exert any ideological pressure on him.
Only following World War II did science policy become the concern of the federal government, a delayed response that finally reflected the many technological advances that had been made during the first half of the century and that were continuing at a rapid pace in areas such as fusion, electronics, information technology, bio-technology. In the 1950s the National Science Foundation was founded, and government departments and agencies began hiring thousands of scientists. By 1957, the year of Sputnik, most of the scientific agencies we have today had been established, and in that year President Eisenhower appointed the first Science Advisor.
The executive branch of the federal government is a huge operation involving dozens of departments and agencies, each headed by a political appointee often with little executive experience, and who changes with each new administration, thus leaving most responsibility to the higher level bureaucrats. The Science Advisor, together with the Office of Management and Budget, are thus the agencies designed to co-ordinate the funding and workings of the various administrative units as they relate to science. Most other world governments have concentrated national science expenditures in the hands of a single science department headed by a science minister. In contrast, in Washington each department head submits an annual budget to the OMB that includes the science-related expenditures of that department. Because the secretaries in charge of those departments are able to devote only a small fraction of their time to matters relating to science, the Science Advisor needs to visit departments and agencies in order to stress the importance of their scientific work and their need to make science a high priority in their proposed budgets. The Science Advisor also represents NSF and NASA, agencies that do not have cabinet secretaries as advocates. Also hindering a coherent, national policy on scientific research is the fact that expenditure proposals relating to science have to pass through some 50 Congressional committees and sub-committees.Yet that process is probably to be preferred over the European model of unified ministerial control where budget cutters can take aim at one large pool of money. Thus the record shows that regardless of administration each year the American federal government spends relatively the same amount on science, about 10 % of all non-defense expenditure. To illustrate the incoherence, Jack ended his presentation of a series of statistical charts by expressing disappointment that the current federal budget allots a full 25% of non-defense science spending to the life sciences, to the detriment of funding for the other sciences (the next largest category is 10%, for engineering ) illustrating that federal government science expenditures are the product of a yearly zero-sum game among the sciences.
However, in the question period, one member (not from life sciences) said he did not begrudge that allocation because he believed that whereas the 20th was the century of physics, the 21st was likely to be known for the importance of biology. Further discussion centered on whether an advocacy role was appropriate and whether polls of scientists were reliable.

The importance of being earnest
Research shows that maintaining an active circle of friends by attending emeritus meetings prolongs life expectancy, see: