Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

The goal of the seminar is to explore the changing role of science, research, and scientists in contemporary society. We will focus on the use of scientific information and the role of scientists in collaborative approaches to natural resources and ecosystems-based management, and environmental planning and policymaking, and the institutional and societal transformations that are necessary for science to be more effectively used in the evolving models of participatory, deliberative governance and community-based ecosystem stewardship.

Increasingly scientists and science organizations are confronting a conundrum: Why is science often ignored in important societal decisions even as the call for decisions based on sound science escalates? One reason is that decision-making is often driven by a variety of nonscientific, adversarial, and stakeholder dynamics. Thus, even though science helps inform choices, it is only one of many values and interests considered by each stakeholder. In response to this emerging challenge, science and natural resource agencies are embarking upon research that explores the problems of incorporating science into value-laden societal decisions. This research includes designing experiments that will assess the appropriateness of using the new and emerging approach of Joint Fact Finding to address some of the Nation's most contentious environmental conflicts.

We will explore development of a holistic, stakeholder-driven process, which incorporates joint fact finding with adaptive management, and that complements and works in concert with national level policy and regulations, as a more effective approach to deal with the complexity, uncertainty, and conflict inherent in natural resources decisions, ecosystems based management and environmental policymaking.

The seminar will be highly interactive and a high degree of student participation and initiative is expected. Students will read a broad selection of literature as a springboard to discuss the challenges and realities of practice with scientists, natural resource managers, activist citizens, and senior level federal policy makers. Early in the semester we will discuss options for projects and papers. Completed student projects and papers will be featured on the MIT-USGS Science Impact Collaborative (MUSIC) Web site.