Recent Eos Articles Relevant to Upcoming Science Policy Conference Topics

20 June 2013
AGU Science Policy Alert 13-31

The AGU Science Policy Conference is only days away, and two resent Eos articles address topics which will be very important and relevant to the conference. Thomas Karl explains why it is immensely difficult to determine how effective a policy is in reducing economic losses from extreme weather and climate events, but also why it is necessary for reducing the impacts of these events. And Robert Gagosian discussed the budgetary and political state of geosciences and reinforces the vital need to support basic research and preserve the peer-review process.

In his article, Economic Growth in the Face of Weather and Climate Extremes: A Call for Better Data, Karl explains that the impacts of extreme weather, climate, and geophysical events have increased globally. Climate extremes are increasing in frequency and are becoming more costly. There was a record high 14 climate and weather disasters that exceeded one billion dollars in costs in 2011, and in 2012, an additional 11 disasters exceeding one billion dollars in costs occurred.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to determine the effectiveness of the policies intended to reduce these impacts. Long-term data on economic damages from extreme weather and climate events are not complete or consistent across federal agencies and the private sector. This has led to differing impact estimates, by multiple agencies and insurance companies, for the same event. The weather and climate community, conversely, has a long history with a global monitoring network that is used to detect changes in weather and climate extremes, but there is little certainty in tracking changes in extreme weather and climate events.

To learn more about the challenges of studying natural hazards and developing effective policy solutions to them, attend the three panel discussions on Hazards at the Science Policy Conference.

Gagosian outlines the fiscal and political pressures that the geosciences are presently experiencing, and why the geosciences are incredibly important, in his article, Navigating Declining Budgets, Political Hurdles: A New Vision for the Future of Geoscience. He states, “basic and applied research in the geosciences were essential in supporting early warnings and forecasts that were used not only to protect lives when these natural disasters struck but also to assess risks and help society to be better able to adapt and recover after disaster struck.”

In the article, Gagosian identifies concerns for recent congressional interference in the peer-review process involved with the awarding of government-funded research grants, the underpinning of the nation’s research endeavors. “We need now more than ever for science to be separated from the political fray so that scientific advancement can best serve the nation.”

In the article, Gagosian identifies concerns for recent congressional interference in the peer-review process involved with the awarding of government-funded research grants, the underpinning of the nation’s research endeavors. “We need now more than ever for science to be separated from the political fray so that scientific advancement can best serve the nation.”

He believes that it is vital that political leaders understand and respect the peer-review process, where successful proposals are those of the highest scientific merit, absent from political interference. This was the intended process when the National Science Foundation (NSF) was established in 1950, where a “merit-based competitive process that rewards independent thought and innovation was fundamentally responsible for the United States becoming the world’s leader in scientific research.”

The next important step toward protecting science, Gagosian believes, is to better communicate and defend the integrity of basic research. A healthy research enterprise requires a diverse portfolio of scientific efforts, including basic research, use-inspired research, focused research initiatives, technology transfer, and infrastructure to support these entities. Finally, Gagosian states that the geosciences must find new ways to do business, which may include increased sharing of instrumentation and infrastructure to enhance the Earth systems science community, rather than remain a group of individual, independent organizations.

To further the important discussion of the current state of science, attend the first plenary discussion of the Science Policy Conference, Preparing for Our Future: The Value of Science, featuring Cora Marrett and Bart Gordon.

If you plan on attending the Science Policy Conference, and have not yet registered, make sure to arrive at the conference early to register on site. There will also be a live webcast of the two plenary discussions.