Lecture Notes

1 Introduction and Overview A description of the goals and scope of the class and a brief background of the invited guest participants will be provided. Dr. Eric Sundquist, U.S. Geological Survey scientist, will be a frequent lecturer and discussion leader. We will discuss the traditional role of science in society and begin to explore the changing role of science in contemporary society. Guests to be invited not yet scheduled include Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Mark Limbaugh, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.

Theme A: Traditional Approaches to Using Scientific and Technical Information in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Policy-Making 

During sessions in this theme we will discuss the ways in which scientific information is traditionally used in the policy-making process. The points of view of the scientist and policymaker will be considered. We will explore why scientific information is not used and how it is misused.


The Role of Science in Society

Guest Participants

Dr. Carl Shapiro, Science Impact program coordinator, U.S. Geological Survey  
Dr. Stanley Ponce, Senior Liaison for Interagency Programs and Science Partnerships, U.S. Geological Survey

What is the role of scientists in society? Do scientists have the responsibility to speak up about the impact of their science on society? Is science objective and value-free? What is objectivity? What are values? What is the importance of ethics and integrity?

The Evolution of Science in Societal Decision-Making - An Historical Perspective

Guest Lecturer

Dr. David Laws, Environmental Policy Group, MIT

We will discuss the traditional role of science, in society tracing the evolution of the use of science in natural resources decision-making from the turn of the 20th century. We will begin to explore the emerging role of science in contemporary society.
4 The Role of Science in Environmental Policy-Making Science is used in environmental policy debates in many ways. Science is often used to define the problem, to set the agenda, to set the terms of the debate, as a political weapon, and in decision-making.

Theme B: Collaborative Approaches for Using Science in Societal Decision-Making

In this theme we explore collaborative approaches as a more effective way to incorporate science into natural resource management and environmental policy decisions. A simple hypothesis that we will test is “the more you involve the people most affected by a policy decision in the design of the supporting scientific inquiry, the greater the chance that they will use and value the results in decisions that get made.” To help resolve the most contentious environmental disputes, citizens across the nation are increasingly using collaborative processes to seek consensus. We discuss the role of local knowledge and collaborative approaches as a foundation for citizen stewardship groups and the role these groups play in sustainable development and environmental policy-making.

Theme C: Challenges and Barriers to the New Emerging Role of Science in Contemporary Society  
We will discuss the institutional, societal and cultural barriers to engagement of scientists in participatory, collaborative processes such as joint fact finding. For federal research agency scientists at USGS in particular a major question is “How do scientists engage more actively in societal decision-making and policymaking without stepping over the line to advocacy of a particular decision or policy?”

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2006