Why Policy Papers are Difficult

  1. Scientists present facts/results leading to conclusions.
  2. Scientists write in impersonal tone with facts driving the paper.
  3. Policy papers are driven by an opinion which is based on
  4. Scientists are not used to writing with such disparate information.
  5. Scientists don't normally use social, political, legal arguments.

Details of the Long Paper

  1. Topic: science or technology policy.
  2. Audience: your classmates. So technical level is that of talks.
  3. Purpose: advocate, attack or defend some specific policy or point of view that leads to an action.
  4. Length: 6-8 pages with some illustrations plus references. Abstract and conclusions are mandatory.
  5. Illustrations: original tables and/or figures, each with an informative caption that supports the point of the table/figure.
  6. Deadlines:
    1. Topic: 8:00 am Monday 10 May by email
    2. Sentence outline: 5:00 pm Thursday 13 May (See samples.)
    3. Draft: 5:00 pm Thursday 20 May
    4. Review of peer paper: 5:00 pm Monday 24 May
    5. Final version: 5:00 pm Wednesday 2 June
      Graduating seniors due 4:00 pm Tuesday 1 June.

Searching for Topics and
References for the Policy Paper

	Possible Topics

Misconduct/fraud in science:  
    cold fusion
    herbal medicine
    low electromagnetic fields

Science illiteracy: feasibility/necessity

Public perception of the internet, 
    e.g., censorship, commerce 

The case for public money for 
    alternate medicine
    fusion power
    manned versus unmanned space missions
    nuclear energy
    search for extra-terrestrial intelligence
    science, eg, big versus small science
    solar power
    supersonic transport
Continuing controversy/Is legislation needed?
       of humans or human parts
       in agriculture. 
    danger of cholesterol (vitamin C, marijuana, etc.)
    danger of cellular phones
    global warming: fact or fiction
    ozone hole and its importance 
    population control

Scientific challenges after the Cold War  
        Science-based stockpile stewardship
        Monitoring nuclear pollution
   Role of science/technology in developing 
      new weapons.
   Starting what new?

Do we need more or less scientists/engineers? 

Points to remember in picking science policy question.

Example of Sentence Outline

Will Electric Vehicles Really Reduce Pollution?


The amount of pollution created by electric vehicles depends mostly on the source of the electricity used to charge them.

This makes it impossible to determine if electric vehicles pollute less than internal combustion engine vehicles without considering where they are to be deployed and by what sources of electricity they are to be powered.

An electric vehicle that is charged with energy from a clean source will produce little pollution, while one charged with energy from an unclean source may produce more pollution than an internal combustion engine vehicle.

The sources of energy for most regions fall somewhere between these two extremes.

The use of electric vehicles will allow new possibilities in pollution control and management that may outweigh some of their potential failings.

While not ready to be used everywhere, electric vehicles have the potential to pollute much less than internal combustion engine vehicles

  1. Internal combustion engine vehicles are responsible for the vast majority of pollutants that plague urban areas today.
  2. These emissions are directly responsible for many of the air quality problems faced in major urban areas.
  3. Electric vehicles produce little or no pollution directly; most of the pollution associated with their use is created at the power plant that provides their electricity.
  4. While studies of the pollution-reducing ability of electric vehicles in California are quite favorable, they cannot be applied to the rest of the world as a whole.
  5. We can expect similar results for the United States, namely, that while electric vehicles produce much less carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, they use similar levels of nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, and increased levels of sulfur oxides.
  6. Not all pollutants related to electric vehicles arise from the generation of electricity.
  7. While electric vehicles may not always hold an outright advantage in terms of pollution reduction, they allow for more control over the pollution that is generated.
  8. The use of electric vehicles would allow even further decreases in auto emissions over time because only about 10,500 power plants will have to be monitored, maintained, and upgraded as opposed to the over 100 million private automobiles.
  9. Because so many tradeoffs in local versus global pollution are involved, it is impossible to say with certainty that electric vehicles provide the best short term solution to transportation related pollution.

At present, for the vast majority of the country, neither electric vehicles or comparable gasoline-powered vehicles holds a solid advantage over the other in cleanliness.

This balance will probably not change any time in the near future as the problem with electric vehicles is not inherent to them, but rather to the means by which we generate our electricity.

Although electric vehicles offer some compelling advantages over internal combustion engine vehicles in terms of pollution management, the real advantage of electric vehicles lies in the future when more electricity is produced from cleaner sources.

For those living in California, or in other regions with a high percentage of energy production coming from clean sources, the future is already here.