Ocean Science and Policy: Highlights from Salt Lake City and More

3 August 2012
AGU Science Policy Alert 12-17

With over 70% of our globe covered by saline water, it is no surprise that 13% of AGU members identify their primary affiliation as Ocean Sciences. Attracting over 4,000 conference attendees, the 2012 Ocean Sciences Meeting took place in Salt Lake City, Utah on 20 – 24 February and brought discussions on important ocean topics such as observations, acidification, policy, research, and communications.

AGU Public Affairs was proud to present two events:

National Ocean Policy Town Hall: The importance of science in developing policy

This event provided the opportunity to hear from leading policy makers who have direct involvement in drafting the National Ocean Policy (NOP), as well as leading scientist and AGU member Margaret Leinen, who recently served as the chair of the Ocean Research Advisory Panel (ORAP). ORAP membership represents scientists from the ocean research community and serves to provide advice to the federal government. After hearing updates on the draft NOP Implementation Plan and next steps, audience members engaged in a discussion with the panelists. Many questions continue to surface regarding how the NOP will directly relate to challenges of economic development and job creation, funding for research grants, engaging the international community, and developing ocean literacy.  However, one thing was made clear – science is the foundation for this policy and scientists should remain involved in continuously refining research priorities.

Communicating Your Science: Challenges and Opportunities with Ocean Acidification

Speakers at this workshop emphasized how important it is for scientists to discuss their research with non-scientific audiences. However, learning to communicate effectively requires variety of skills as well as a basic understanding of the current perceptions and knowledge outside the academic field. With a variety of perspectives at the workshop including a journalist, a public polling expert, and a senior scientist, audience members received tips and learned the challenges when communicating the science of ocean acidification. One of the speakers was Scott Doney, AGU member and Senior Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who discussed his past experiences in communicating with the media and policy makers. The interactive dialogue between audience members and panelists led to many questions including how to deal with attacks on members of the scientific community who communicate ocean acidification in the context of climate change. Panelists recommended that the best way to communicate the effects of ocean acidification is by using compelling stories and local examples. AGU can serve as a resource to our members who are interested in learning to effectively communicate to policy makersmedia, and the public.

Discussion of ocean science and policy will continue at the inaugural AGU Science Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. on 30 April – 2 May. The four conference topics include Natural Hazards, Natural Resources, Oceans, and the Arctic Forum. Sessions within the oceans track will include: The National Ocean Policy: An overview of the National Ocean Policy, its implementation, and how it will affect our society and economy;Ocean Acidification: The causes of ocean acidification and how changes in ocean chemistry affect us all; andOceans Research: Ensuring sustainable oceans and how ocean research impacts ocean health, the economy, and national security.

Furthermore, a plenary lecture at the conference will bring the importance of international collaboration for our oceans and national security to the forefront by focusing on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The plenary will feature Ambassador David Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries, U.S. Department of State, and Rear Admiral Frederick Kenney, Judge Advocate General and Chief Counsel, U.S. Coast Guard.  In addition to the oceans track, there are a variety of related sessions that are of interest to the community such as Coastal Management, Changing Arctic Ecosystems, and National Earth Observation Policy. For the complete agenda and list of the confirmed speakers, check out the conference website. Early registration and housing ends 30 March!