Got a bit behind and so am only writing Friday up tonight- Sunday. Sorry about that, I know you’ve been hanging on the edge of your seats – cough cough.
I started off meeting Corey Powell, executive editor of one of the big popular science magazines, Discover. We started off talking about this idea of a debate about Science for the 2008 Presidential candidates. We both felt (perhaps for slightly different reasons) that this was not necessarily a good idea, because it could seem elitist and because it “ghettoised” science as something that needs special attention and isn’t part of everyday issues. We discussed top-down/bottom-up approaches to political engagement in science (and scientific engagement in politics, I suppose) and felt that it was more a question of science engaging with the public policy process. But whichever way it was, a popular science magazine was somewhere where people went to get away from policy debates, and be entertained and interested, so this issue was not a big thing for them editorially.
I asked where they got their ideas for stories. It was from a variety of sources: press release services such as EurekAlert, agencies such as Associated Press, Science/Nature, or just ideas coming from the writers through the conferences they attend, people they meet, areas they cover. Or they “reverse engineer” stories to show the science angle of the big stories of the day.
The weather was absolutely foul that day, so I went back to the hotel between meetings to change. And got even more soaked on my way to the next meeting, which was at the Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy at Columbia University. What a great hour or so I spent there. It’s so stimulating being around creative, intelligent people who are interested in what you have to say as well. I started with the director, Albert Bressand, who happens to be an advisor to the European Energy Commissioner. Given that theirs is very much a public policy centre, we talked about the role of technology in addressing energy and environment concerns within a policy framework. They mentioned an interesting study by McKinsey about how savings can be made with existing technologies (and apparently it raises how Europe is 15 years ahead of the US in this area. They were very interested in the lead markets initiative as it could apply to energy efficient buildings. The more “hands-on” type of government we have in Europe helps, because through the use of taxes etc it can help people make the financial case much more immediate. However they did see that in the US, there was alot of value in using cities as test beds, and they had done a study on CHP (combined heat and power) in New York, and were also looking at micro-grids and solar. They also do some really interesting work on marine transportation and energy use, could be worth investigating.
While there, I had a phone conversation with the Executive Director of the New York Energy Forum, and they were very keen to work with us to identify possible speakers, or explore other possibilities for co-operation.
Finally I talked with one of the Center’s researchers, Steve Hammer, who had done his PhD at the LSE and looked particularly at urban issues for renewables, particularly in London and NY. They were looking at what was going on in other cities, such as Paris and Shanghai. They are trying to develop a model to identify building-by-building energy use in New York, which could be used to make decisions about eg where to place micro-grids, and also get the real data out of the utility comapnies. They were also looking at attitudes. It would be interesting to see if there is some way to work with the New York side on this from a London and wider European urban centre persepctive – I need to see what can be done, perhaps in the context of the C40 process, which is a UK initiative or the urban climate change research process– but these are great people doing fascinating work. One area that is really surprising is the role of building code enforcement in optimising energy use – apparently proper enforcement of building codes could reduce emissions by 20-30%. It all feeds into the issue I have been getting into, the design of a building to influence positively what goes on in the building.
So, that was it! After that meeting, it was back to the hotel and then today, back to Philadelphia for the closing seminar. I have to give my computer back tomorrow or the next day, so I guess this will be my last post from the US. There may be some follow-up when I get back, so check-in occasionally! Thanks for the comments that have been left and the visits you have made. Keeping this blog has really helped me through the whole fellowship process – it has focused my mind before, during and particularly after meetings and really helped me to filter the information I received and make sense of it. I hope that you’ve found it a little interesting as well!