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Ogmius Newsletter

Center Staff in the News

Roger Pielke, Jr. was quoted in an April 9, 2006 Daily Camera article on the role of academic earmarks on climate research, 'Pork' pares research: NOAA climate-study projects hurt by federal earmarking, by Todd Neff.


"Earmarking takes the job of prioritizing research away from lab directors and makes it "almost entirely political," said Roger Pielke Jr., director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado. "Science has a long track record of being merit-based," Pielke said. "Earmarking pits jobs and moving money against excellence, and we shouldn't be surprised when excellence suffers when that occurs."

CU's Pielke said universities should also take action against certain earmarking. He cited the University of Michigan as an example of an institution with strict policies that limit earmarking.   "I don't see Congress necessarily making a distinction between a science project and a road project," Pielke said. "So it's up to the universities on this issue."  On a Web page explaining its policy, Michigan officials say scientific earmarking "wastes taxpayer money and slows the scientific progress that would be made if the same sums were allocated on a merit basis."  "It's something I've pushed at the University of Colorado," Pielke said. "It hasn't gotten legs so far.”

Research by Center graduate student Joel Gratz about lightning and college football stadiums was discussed in an article in the Winter 2005-06 UCAR Quarterly, Storms and Stadiums, by Bob Henson.


Although tornadoes are the worst fear of severe-weather planners on many campuses, lightning is a widespread and serious threat in its own right. The lightning threat to sports fans gets precious little attention, according to Joel Gratz, a master's student in environmental studies and business at the University of Colorado. Gratz attended a CU game in Denver in August 2003 with fellow CU students Ryan Church and Erik Noble. A lightning-studded storm interrupted the game for the better part of an hour, but stadium officials gave no instructions to spectators, many of whom stayed in their seats throughout the downpour. "We wondered why the event managers gave no direction to protect 76,000 people from the danger of lightning," says Gratz.

That soggy night led the three students to delve further into the topic and to write an article for Weatherwise magazine. They now have a paper on stadium safety and lightning soon to appear in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. One finding was that the nation's biggest college football stadiums happen to coincide with some of the areas of greatest lighting frequency, from the upper Midwest to the Southeast and Great Plains. Gratz and his colleagues note that the usual rule of thumb—take shelter if thunder follows lightning by less than 30 seconds—can be hard to employ when the noisy crowds and bright lights of a big game make it hard to see and hear what's going on with the weather.