Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spotlight: Union of Concerned Scientists

By, John W. Bowie, J.D. Candidate 2014, Pace Law School

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a nonprofit organization aimed at placing scientific integrity and discourse at the center of political and environmental debates. UCS offers numerous publications on a wide variety of subjects, including global warming, clean vehicles, clean energy, nuclear power, nuclear weapons and global security, food and agriculture, and scientific integrity. The UCS website offers comprehensive background information on all of these topics directly through its website, which can be navigated through an easily accessible topic menu on the left hand side of the homepage. Each of these topics opens to a summary page with easy to navigate links for more information on specific topics. A practitioner can get an excellent overview of a complicated topic through the website alone.
In addition to substantial background information on this variety of topics, UCS offers links to regional materials on global warming, clean vehicles, and clean energy. These regional resources offer news posts, legislation and analysis of relevant issues for the select region. These regional resources can be accessed through the left-hand sidebar subtopics nested within the overarching topic.
UCS offers robust resources on the nuclear industry, including specific interactive tools relating to the nuclear industry, such as a Nuclear Information Tracker and advanced resources documenting nuclear weapons facilities. In general, the UCS resources provide a useful counterpoint to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's internet resources. An alternate source of information on Nuclear Energy and Weapons Facilities could prove useful to both industry and citizen groups participating in the permit renewal process for local nuclear facilities.
The search function on the UCS site is a custom Google search with no advanced options, which may discourage some users. However, this limitation should not immediately limit use of the resource. UCS topics and filing seem to be very thorough, which means even a basic search provides decent results. These results include articles from back issues of the UCS periodicals, which are available as free online resources.
Finally, the Union of Concerned Scientists offer a large selection of technical reports which deepen into the larger overview topics, accessible through their publications page. These publications are general found through a topic menu, similar to the homepage topic menu. In addition to these topics, the publications page has links to UCS periodicals such as Catalyst magazine, the Earthwise newsletter, the Greentips e-newsletter and other selected publications. A practitioner can find a substantial amount of scientific and policy information through these publications. Most UCS publications are available free online, however, a few must be purchased. As one of the central tenets of the Union of Concerned Scientists is preserving and promoting scientific integrity, the resources available through UCS are typically of high quality and low bias. The Union of Concerned Scientists scored 67 out of 70 on Charity Navigator's independent review of Accountability and Transparency of the organization. The Union of Concerned Scientists is a quality resource of independent scientific reports and tools for legal practitioners, policy makers and engaged citizens.

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