Lamont Weekly Report, June 12, 2020

    On Wednesday, the Lamont campus closed for the day so that our scientists, students, and staff could support our Black colleagues and oppose systemic racism – in the sciences and American society more broadly. Organized only days ago by several small groups of physicists and astronomers, the effort variously known by the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM, #Strike4BlackLives, and #ShutDownAcademia rapidly snowballed into a large, multinational demonstration and collective introspection. On Monday afternoon, Chief Executive Officer Sudip Parikh of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – publisher of the Science family of journals – issued by e-mail a statement arguing, “This is not a moment that our community can let pass. It is time to stop what we’re doing, take time to listen to our friends and colleagues, and commit ourselves to taking the actions needed to bring about real and lasting change.” By Tuesday, other scientific organizations had joined the call. The American Geophysical Union, in a statement cosigned by Robin Bell and AGU President-elect Susan Lozier, strongly encouraged “all AGU members and staff…to take the day to reflect and engage on our current social issues around race and racism.” The same day, the American Astronomical Society posted an endorsement of the strike and encouraged “everyone in our community to make a lifelong commitment to action to eradicate anti-Black racism in the astronomical sciences, in other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and in academia and research more generally.” Nature magazine, which delayed the online release of this week’s issue from Wednesday to Thursday to recognize the event, wrote, “The enterprise of science has been – and remains – complicit in systemic racism, and it must strive harder to correct those injustices and amplify marginalized voices.”

    To continue our discussion of these issues at Lamont and across the Earth Institute, Kuheli Dutt will lead a Racial Sensitivity Workshop, to be held on Tuesday, June 30. Pre-registration is required. I urge all of you to join me at the workshop.

    Another focus this week was on the final stages of planning for ramping up research on the Lamont campus. A Lamont Town Hall on the topic yesterday afternoon drew more than 260 participants. (For any who missed the discussion, a recording of that meeting is available; password Lam0ntPhas31%.) A widely broadcast memo yesterday from Interim Provost Ira Katznelson and Dean of the Faculties of Health Science and Medicine Lee Goldman stated, “We cannot responsibly ramp up laboratory and clinical research until we are confident that we have made all necessary arrangements for securing personal protective equipment, daily symptom self-checking procedures, facility readiness, training, and any other important safety measures. These steps include a mandatory gateway testing program, which we will have in place before we begin to ramp up our laboratory and clinical research activities.” President Lee Bollinger has set June 22 as the target date for the onset of this ramp-up, and Lamont’s laboratory research working group, chaired by Steve Goldstein, has selected the Comer Building for the first return of critical laboratory research activities to the campus.

    In other news this week, Radley Horton has been appointed to the Fourth New York City Panel on Climate Change. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the formation of the new panel yesterday. Radley was quoted in the City Hall announcement.

    Added to our web site this week were two more of Marco Tedesco’s science columns, originally written in Italian for the daily newspaper La Repubblica. A column posted last Friday discussed the impact of coronavirus-induced reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, aerosol formation, and high-altitude cirrus clouds formed from airliner contrails on near-term changes to global climate. Marco’s posting Monday treated the impact of the pandemic-response shutdown on water quality in lakes and coastal regions.

    On Monday, The Revelator ran a long story on the ongoing megadrought in the American southwest. According to the text, the story was motivated in large part by the paper on this subject by Park Williams and colleagues published two months ago in Science.

    A web story by freelance writer Anuradha Varanasi devoted to her interview of Rosanne D’Arrigo was posted yesterday. The topics of the interview questions ranged from Rosanne’s graduate student and early-career days, to memorable field experiences and some of the scientific questions her research has addressed.

    Also posted yesterday was a brief story on the appointment of Maureen Raymo as the Observatory’s sixth Interim Director, effective July 1. The story is taken from an e-mail announcement by President Lee Bollinger sent out yesterday to the Columbia University community.

    On Tuesday afternoon next week, Einat Lev and Terry Plank will be featured in an online “conversation about volcanoes” in a presentation on "The Volcano Alarm: Anticipating Eruptions," as part of the Earth Institute Live series. Pre-registration is required.

    As many of you anticipate that presentation, may you enjoy a weekend off from the remote workweek.