A pretty good first year!

I can’t believe it’s already been a whole year! After many friends and colleagues encouraged me, I started this blog at the beginning of December in 2013. I didn’t know what to expect, but I think it’s been worthwhile, and I look forward to continuing with it.

For those of you who are interested, especially you regular readers of this blog, I’ll use this post to review and assess the blog so far. Most of all, I’d like to thank all of you readers and those of you who have shared my posts, gave me advice and feedback, helped me to improve posts, and had interesting discussions with me about the issues and events in them.

I wrote about one post per week, and I hope I’m continually getting better. My most popular blog posts included those about: gender and racial diversity issues in science; Rosetta and the comet; the solar flare that could have been much worse; fracking; climate change resilience; the academic job market; citizen science and Galaxy Zoo; an event about the multiverse; and debates and budgets for scientific research and STEM education. (See my list of blog posts.)

Considering that many of my posts, especially the science policy ones, are US-based, it’s not surprising that the majority of visitors to this site are from the US. Many people from the UK, Canada, Germany, Brazil, and other places visit it as well. People reach the site from Facebook, Twitter, search engines, my work website, and from other websites where I’ve published or posted articles.

For the next year, I’m not sure how regularly I’ll keep writing on the blog, but I’ll do my best. I’ll definitely keep writing about both science policy and astronomy/astrophysics news and events. Some will be more like science news stories and some will review the various issues and players involved. In the next couple months, I’ll write about the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in January and about the Citizen Science Association and American Association for the Advancement of Science meetings in February, all of which I’ll be attending (but traveling by train!). I’ll try writing a book review or two too, as I’m looking forward to reading books about Fukushima and environmental justice. I might review Interstellar as well, but I haven’t seen it yet, so don’t give me spoilers!

Please keep giving me your comments, questions, criticism, corrections, and feedback (either on the blog itself, on Twitter or Facebook, subspace communication, or in person). And please keep sharing the posts that you like or that interest you, and whenever you have more information or news relevant to something I’ve written, please let me know. Also, contact me if you have any interest in writing a guest post here some time.

Finally, as you may know or have guessed, I’m continuing to pursue work in scientific research and education as well as science writing/communication and science policy. As I learn more and improve in these fields, I may occasionally write about my challenges, tribulations, and successes as well.

The basic idea for this blog…

Hello, internet.  I’m Ramin Skibba, an astronomer and astrophysicist (with interests in sociology and political science) at UC San Diego.  The basic idea for this blog is to comment on and discuss political issues within science as well as science in politics and policy.  In my opinion, the connections between science and politics are too often ignored.  Scientists, teachers, and science journalists should learn more about relevant political issues, while politicians and pundits should learn more about the relevant science before advocating for particular policies.

In particular, issues I’m interested in writing about include, but are not limited to: climate change, energy policy, scientific integrity in policy-making, science in the media and education, diversity in science, and investment in science.  One of my first blogs will probably be about the current budget proposals and the effect of the sequester on the funding of scientific research.  I’m also interested in writing about the recent UN climate change conference in Warsaw.

I hope that these blog posts start conversations.  You’re welcome to reply, write comments or questions, and link to articles elsewhere.  I encourage plenty of skepticism and criticism, as long as it’s constructive.  I’ll also occasionally have guest bloggers here to write about these or related issues.  (If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, please contact me.)

Finally, “pale blue dot” refers to a photograph of Earth taken by Voyager in 1990.  The phrase also refers to these inspiring words by Carl Sagan: “The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena….Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves….There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”