Monday, March 17, 2008

Jessica Turnbull Serial Fluffer

I was happy to see the Collegian publish a story on basic research at Penn State this morning. I think that this is an area where Graham really doesn't give a damn. He is only interested in the economic impact of research and it is hard to see any such payoff in astronomy research.

The article focused on Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University which is one of the Eberly College of Science's stronger programs. The take-away message of the article was that Penn State researchers have done good work and that that they are nervous about the future of their funding.

Unfortunately the piece appears to have been based entirely on interviews with Penn State faculty. While I do believe that the Penn State astronomy program is strong, a good reporter would have sought out the opinions of astronomers from outside the University on the quality of the program. It maybe that those in the know think differently than I do about the program or about particular accomplishments. Or they may concur with my opinion which would have given the article more credence.

And the the whole issue of funding should have been examined a little more closely. There should have been a discussion about the federal funding for astronomy in general and at Penn State in particular. This wouldn't have been hard to do since the NSF post this data online and the uncertainties in the federal higher education budget, in general, and research budget, in particular, have received much attention.

It should be no surprise that the reporter is Jessica Turnbull, of Graham fluffing fame. I think she's preparing for a career in public relations rather than journalism.

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