Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Structure

This is the second part of a one year seminar. The calendar section details the topics for each class meeting.

Course Goals

The goal of this seminar is to explore the role of science and scientists in ecosystems and natural resources management focusing on joint fact finding as a new approach to environmental policy-making. 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, scientists, and science agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, 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. During the class we will explore Joint Fact Finding, Adaptive Management, and Societal Learning as three components of a collaborative learning or collaborative problem solving approach to ecosystems/natural resources management and environmental policy issues. We will consider the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the context of a citizen-driven, consensus-based decision-making process. In the first few sessions we will examine the problems of using science in environmental disputes by reviewing concepts discussed in the fall seminar. Following this review, students will function as a project team and concentrate on gathering information to assist in resolving the Cape Wind project, the dispute concerning the placement of wind farms in waters adjacent to Nantucket. Students will lay the groundwork for a collaborative project that includes Federal and State agencies, academic institutions and non-profits. We will develop a role-play simulation based on the Cape Wind controversy that explores a joint fact finding approach to the placement of future offshore wind farms. The seminar, which will operate as a workshop, will be interactive and dependent upon a high degree of student participation and initiative. Students will have the opportunity to discuss real-life situations with guest speakers that include senior level policymakers in the Federal government. Students who took the fall seminar will likely have the opportunity to present their papers at a symposium at USGS headquarters at a date to be determined during the semester. The role-play simulation could be published as part of a joint USGS/MIT working paper series.