What is excellent Science? Juergen Weichselgartner Challenges of Global Environmental Change Research

What is excellent Science?
Challenges of
Global Environmental Change Research
Juergen Weichselgartner
Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht
Institute for Coastal Research
5th SOLAS Summer School 2011
30 August, 2011, Cargese, Corsica
Scientific Principles
A Great Example:
Hans Rosling’s TED Talk
Photo: Weichselgartner
Cartoon: Sidney Harris
Barriers and Challenges
of GEC Research
Potential Pathways
Cartoon: Justin Bilicki
What is excellent science?
What are scientific principles?
1) Honesty in reporting of scientific data
2) Careful transcription and analysis of scientific results
to avoid error
3) Independent analysis and interpretation of results
(based on data, not on the influence of external sources)
4) Open sharing of methods, data, interpretations
(through publication, presentation)
5) Sufficient validation of results
(through replication, collaboration with peers)
6) Proper crediting of sources
of information, data, ideas
7) Moral obligations to society
(rights of human and animal subjects)
see session “Ethics in Science”
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists
How is scientific knowledge produced?
• “Pipeline” mode of knowledge production (i.e., by and by research will
be taken up by users without additional effort by the producers)
But there are pitfalls in ….
• addressing multiple scales
• combining physical and social aspects
• co-producing knowledge
• recognizing institutional structures
• communicating science
• appreciating context
• identifying needed knowledge
• addressing users‟ needs
• ignoring management options
• designing knowledge
• ignoring cultural context
• ignoring large-scale dynamics
Who are stakeholders in science?
• Editors and publishers
• Research project managers
• Institutional research program officials
• Officials in federal and other research funding agencies
• Scientists themselves
• Politicians?
• General public?
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists
What are new production forms?
academic, investigator-initiated, discipline-based
context-driven, problem-focused, multidisciplinary
• Science in action
Latour, B. (1987): Science in Action: How to follow Scientists and Engineers
through Society. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
• The fifth branch
Jasanoff, S. (1990): The Fifth Branch: Science Advisers as Policy Makers.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
• Post-normal science
Funtowicz, S.O. & Ravetz, J.R. (1990): Uncertainty and Quality in Science
for Policy. Kluwer, Dordrecht.
• Mode 2
Gibbons, M. et al. (1994): The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of
Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. Sage, London.
• Post-academic science
Ziman, J.M. (1996): “Postacademic science”: Constructing knowledge with
networks and norms. Science Studies 9 (1): 67-80.
Barriers process level: understanding
- multi-dimensional (economic, geophysical, historical a.o.)
- socially divergent (varies individually, among/within groups)
- scale dependent (varies temporally, spatially, unit of analysis)
- dynamic (driving forces change over time)
- interactive (driving forces influence
each other)
• Scale interactions
(spatial/temporal; up-/down scaling)
• Example: teleconnections
Cartoon: Sidney Harris
• Process characteristics
Example: deforestation Amazon
Snyder, Delire & Foley (2004): Evaluating the influence of different vegetation biomes on the global climate.
Climate Dynamics (23): 279-302.
Barriers system level: integration
• Language-conceptual dissonance
• Processing and dissemination
of knowledge
• Example: ozone depletion
Cartoon: Sidney Harris
• Availability, quality and transferability
of data/models
Example: ozone depletion
1822: Fourier identifies the “greenhouse effect”
1839: Schönbein isolates ozone (O3) by sparking air
1896: Arrhenius calculates the sensitivity of Earth‟s surface temperature to changes in CO2; forecast slow global warming
1930: Chapman discovers the physical and chemical processes
that lead to the formation of an ozone layer
1960: Keeling reveals the secular increase of CO2 from direct
1969: Baffling problem (Chapman‟s theory led to overestimation
of the amount of O3; Crutzen proposes catalytic reduction
via NO)
1970: Crutzen & Johnston describe the NOx-induced O3destruction cycle
1985: Farman et al. discover the ozone hole
16 1995:
Prize in chemistry to Crutzen, Molina & Rowland
Barriers practice level: application
• Competition of prioritizing and agenda setting
• Diverse responsibilities (institutions, foci)
• Science-policy-practice interface
(social, structural, functional barriers)
• Example: public perception
and political will
Cartoon: Sidney Harris
• Inadequate funding schemes (duration, scope)
Example: risk perception
Source: R. MacDonald
Vancouver, 30 May, 2007
Example: political will
“We must explore every reasonable
prospect for meeting our energy needs
when our current domestic reserves of
oil and natural gas begin to dwindle in
the next decade.
I urgently ask Congress and the new
administration to move quickly on
these issues. This Nation has the
resources and the capability to achieve
our energy goals if its Government has
the will to proceed, and I think we
State of the Union Address
Gerald R. Ford, 1975
(38. President of the USA, 1974-77)
What are barriers?
Functional (objectives, needs, scopes, priorities, fragmentation)
• many practical issues are not relevant/not known to scientists
• multi-faceted questions that don't translate well to practitioners
Cartoon: Sidney Harris
Structural (inst. settings, standards, time frame, reward system)
• practitioners lack accurate input data
for proposed methods
• “publish or perish” vs.
clear recommendations
Social (cultural values, communication,
understanding, mistrust)
• propose solutions that are often
unworkable in practice
• science language is too complex
How to overcome barriers?
• Create dense social networks that provide bi-directional links
across scales and mechanisms for early problem identification
in order to better match the needs of various users
• Involve a variety of actors in setting up the research agenda
and establish a shared problem perception within the group
• Combine understanding from multiple sources in order to
discover which can be adapted to diverse local contexts
• Avoid to the use of generalizing, decontextualizing
and reductionist approaches and strengthen integrative
social-ecological approaches and tools
• Engage end-users early in defining data needs to create
a research process more likely to produce salient knowledge
Also Batman started little …
In order to increase impact you should …
• Include multiple types of expertise to increase credibility
• Propose context-appropriate solutions to improve relevance
• Engage in collaborative
production of knowledge
to increase legitimacy
Cartoon: Brandeins
• Build a “knowledgeaction system”!
Dr. Juergen Weichselgartner
Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht
Tel.: +49-4152-871542
E-Mail: [email protected]
Photo: Weichselgartner
Hans Rosling’s TED Talk
Environmental problems
Caused by (easily) identifiable human
activities, e.g., pollution of rivers
Many and diffuse causes, or causes may
be integrated with the way society is
organized, e.g., emission from transport
Visible damage to local environments
Damage as a rule not directly visible, but
must be identified by means of scientific
of time
Cause and effect can relatively easily
be linked in time; those who are
causing the problems are also those
who suffer the consequences
Cause and effects are not easily linked in
time; the environmental damage may lie
in the future; those causing the problem
may escape the effects
of space
Cause and effects are linked in space
Cause and effects are not easily linked in
space; diffuse causes like burning of
fossil fuels or gene-manipulated plants
Role of
The problem as a rule identifiable
through common knowledge; science
supports and „expands‟ common
understanding of the problem and
how to solve it
The problem is made visible only by
means of scientific knowledge and
expertise; the findings of research are
often not supported by common
knowledge or daily experience of people
Naustdalslid, J. (2011): Climate change: the challenge of translating scientific knowledge into action.
International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 18 (3): 243-252.