Saturday, November 28, 2009

Best Available Science: A Process for Evaluating the Validity & Applicability of Scientific Findings to Decision Making

Saturday, Dec 12, 1:30 pm Public and FREE

Dennis K. McBride, Ph.D. Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Georgetown University Medical School Public Policy Institute

National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington,VA 
(Map) (Flyer)

Policymakers, judges, government agency staff, lawmakers, scientists, and others must constantly balance scientific, social, economic, political, emotional and other considerations when making a decision.  However, they are often "on their own" to determine the validity and applicability of scientific and technical data as they ask themselves, "How reliable is the information in front of me? What is the level of maturity of the underlying science, and can I make a sound decision based on it?"

Dennis K. McBridePh.D., President Emeritus and Chair of Fellows at  the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, will discuss the book, Best Available Sciencethat he co-authored with researchers from Potomac and the Institute for Regulatory Science. Led by the lead author, Alan Moghissi, this book is the culmination of three decades of insight from experts in the scientific and policy worlds, who have developed a process to enable not only scientists, but also non-scientists, to clearly and easily assess the maturity of scientific information. The book isolates scientific issues from other issues at play in policymaking.  It provides a framework for understanding the validity of scientific information that can be universally understood.  It gives decision makers a simple assessment system to most effectively utilize scientific information.  It also separates science from topics that are outside of the purview of science. As we continue to strive for excellence in both science and policy in an ever-changing landscape, Best Available Science, is a compelling resource.  It arms you with the ability to make the best decision possible with the best available information.  This guide can also be used as a tool for scientists to more clearly communicate with policy makers and help them to "speak the same language."

Dennis K. McBride, Ph.D. is President Emeritus and Chair of Fellows at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington area think tank dedicated to the provision of science and technology policy expertise to the administration, congress, and the judiciary. Members of the Institute remain actively engaged in the scientific disciplines for which they provide expertise. McBride is an evolutionary psychologist with an extensive background in the science of human evolution. Prior to Best Available Science, he co-authored Quantifying Human Information Processing (Rowman & Littlefield).

McBride is Chief Scientific Officer for Quantum Leap Innovations.  In addition to being an active adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s medical school and Public Policy Institute, he has also held appointments as professor in colleges of engineering and arts and sciences. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Art of Science: Scientific Methods vs Pseudoscience

Saturday, Nov 14, 1:30 pm Public & FREE

Marvin Zelkowitz, Professor Emeritus and Research Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Maryland

National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington,VA 

Everyone has been exposed to the scientific method in grade school: Develop an hypothesis; Develop an experiment to test that hypothesis; Collect relevant data; Evaluate the data; Modify the hypothesis to account for differences in the observed and predicted results; and Repeat the process to improve your theory.

However, is this the way science works in practice? Do working scientists follow this method? Using computer science as a sample domain, the answer is "Sometimes." Looking at science in general, the differences between good and bad science and what levels of validation various experimental methods produce is discussed. Understanding when scientists do science and when they are venturing into the realm of pseudoscience is the focus of this talk.

Marvin Zelkowitz is a Professor Emeritus and Research Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Maryland. He has been studying software development issues and technology transfer for the past 40 years. He is also on the Board of Directors of NCAS and is currently the Treasurer.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Nov 11 7 pm Drinking Skeptically with NCAS

Drinking Skeptically in the DC Area!

2d Wednesday Each Month -- Drop in 7 - 9 p.m.

Jackie’s Restaurant (map)
8081 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD

What is Drinking Skeptically, you may ask? (You are a skeptic after all, questions are expected.) Drinking Skeptically is an informal social event designed to promote fellowship and networking among skeptics, critical thinkers, and like-minded individuals. It provides an opportunity for skeptics to talk, share ideas (and yes, drink) in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. We discuss the issues of the day and whatever else is on our minds. But most of all, we have fun while promoting skepticism, science, and rationality. Don’t drink? Don’t let that stop you from joining us! Some of the world’s most famous skeptics are teetotalers, and we are happy to have you! Remember that drinking skeptically means drinking responsibly. If there’s one thing science has taught us, it’s the effects of alcohol on the human body.