FOOTNOTES
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Public Affairs Update

  • Heard in DC . . . molecular/cellular Nobel laureate touts importance of “social factors” in understanding learning and memory . . . . At a recent Dana Foundation-hosted conversation between former New York Times columnist William Safire (Dana Chairman) and renowned neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel about Kandel’s research and publications on basic cellular, genetic, and molecular mechanisms underlying animal learning and memory, Kandel asserted the importance of social context and factors in the learning process. Before a large audience of national science policymakers, leaders, and students, as well as the general public, Safire asked a self-admitted “trick question” about the abilities of women (relative to men) in science and math. Kandel, a molecular/cellular biologist, did not miss a beat and elaborated on the importance of “social context” and “social factors” in determining gender differences. It was reassuring, from a social science perspective, to hear a biological scientist acknowledge that the social world is a critical subject of scientific scrutiny. A webcast is available at www.dana.org/broadcasts/webcasts/#032206.

  • Investments in education and training of U.S. Hispanic population would benefit nation . . . . Education and training are economic linchpins that will give the nation’s Hispanic workers and their children important tools to contribute to and share in U.S. prosperity, says a report from the National Academies’ National Research Council. The report, Multiple Origins, Uncertain Destinies: Hispanics and the American Future, examines the Hispanic experience in the United States and was prepared by the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education’s Committee on Population, chaired by Marta Tienda, Professor in Demographic Studies and Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. The report shows that targeted investments in these areas would benefit not only Hispanics, but also the country as a whole by enhancing U.S. productivity as baby boomers retire. The committee’s study, which covered economic, health, education, and other aspects of Hispanics’ lives, found that, like many other immigrants in U.S. history, Hispanics have adapted to their new environments. Hispanics are not monolithic; they vary in national origin, immigrant and legal status, skin color, socioeconomic background, language use, and political views. The nearly 500-page report is available from the National Academies Press; (202) 334-3313 or 800-624-6242 or online at www.nap.edu.

  • New census report highlights dramatic changes in U.S. aging, focusing on baby boomer impact . . . . According to a new U.S. Census report, commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), today’s older Americans are very different from their predecessors, living longer, having lower rates of disability, achieving higher levels of education and less often living in poverty. The baby boomers, the first of whom celebrate their 60th birthdays in 2006, promise to redefine further what it means to grow old in America. The report, 65+ in the United States: 2005, was prepared for NIA to provide a picture of the health and socioeconomic status of the aging population at a critical time in the maturing of the United States. It highlights striking shifts in aging on a population scale and also describes changes at the local to family levels, examining, for example, important changes in family structure as a result of divorce. The report covers a wide range of topics and timelines, pulling data from previous censuses, nationally representative surveys, and recent population projections. In addition to data compiled by federal agencies (i.e., the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), the report includes statistics from the Current Population Survey; American Housing Survey; National Health Interview Survey; National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; Survey of Income and Program Participation; and the Health and Retirement Study. Access the report at www.census.gov.

  • New research organization to focus on causal factors in education effectiveness . . . . A new organization has been established to help support a growing community of researchers committed to educational practice. The Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE), led by an advisory board of researchers, is a specialized organization within the broader field of education research. SREE will provide a forum for investigators who are concerned with cause-and-effect relations important for education. The mission of SREE is to advance and disseminate research on the causal effects of education interventions, practices, programs, and policies. The Society aims to: (1) increase the capacity to design and conduct investigations that have a strong base for causal inference, (2) bring together people investigating cause-and-effect relations in education, and (3) promote the understanding and use of scientific evidence to improve education decisions and outcomes. SREE will draw its membership from researchers, institutions, corporations, and various organizations interested in advancing research-based solutions to pressing problems found in classrooms, schools, school districts, and school systems. Through focused activities and organized events, the Society will provide an opportunity for investigators to share findings and exchange ideas about the latest discoveries and methodological innovations important for the study of cause-and-effect relations found in educational settings. For more information, visit www.sree-net.org.