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    6 Delivering on Science’s Social Contract

    Andrew Maynard: Good evening, and welcome to this evening’s keynote. It gives me very great pleasure to welcome the Honorable Jane Lubchenco here tonight. Dr. Lubchenco is, in very many ways, the personification of this meeting’s theme. She’s an internationally respected academic, she was a political appointee under President Obama, and she has long championed public discourse around science. Dr. Lubchenco is, by training, a marine ecologist and environmental scientist. She currently holds the title of Distinguished University Professor and Advisor in Marine Studies at Oregon State University. Her academic publication list is equally distinguished. She is one of the most cited ecologists in the world, and eight of her publications are recognized as science citation classics. Her academic CV is, to say the least, weighty. Her list of achievements, appointments, and accolades puts most of us to shame. Certainly when I was reading it, I felt a little more than inadequate.

    By any metric, Dr. Lubchenco is a highly active and highly accomplished scientist and academic, but she’s far more than this. In 2008, then president-elect Barack Obama nominated her as part of his science dream team. In 2009, she was confirmed by the Senate as administrator of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Under her leadership, NOAA made advances in a number of areas, including restoring fisheries to sustainability and profitability, restoring oceans and coasts to a healthy state, advancing climate science, and providing information on climate change understanding and preparedness. It’s probably an understatement to say that in her term as NOAA administrator, Dr. Lubchenco engaged in her fair share of political discourse. And as she did so, she emerged as a scientist who could hold her own on the political stage. So by my reckoning, that takes two of the three selection criteria for this evening’s keynote talk: the academic one and the political one.

    But how about the public discourse one? Not surprisingly, this is also an area where Dr. Lubchenco shines. Between 1997 and 1998, she served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her presidential address was titled, very importantly for tonight, “Entering the Century of the Environment: A New Social Contract with Science.” The address reflected a deep realization of the importance of public discourse between scientists and other academics and citizens. It presented then—and in many ways, it still does—a radical vision of the responsibility academics have to be a part of the society that they work in and that they serve. And while Dr. Lubchenco’s focus was on the environment, it’s also fair to say that her idea of the environment is very broad, encompassing health, societal, and economic, as well as ecological, dimensions. This passion for public discourse goes deep. Dr. Lubchenco was cofounder of the Leopold Leadership Program, which supports professional training and engagement with leaders in the public and private sectors. She also cofounded COMPASS, an organization dedicated to helping scientists connect with others and share their knowledge. And as if that wasn’t sufficient, she cofounded Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization that analyzes and reports on climate science.

    It is no surprise, given her many accomplishments, that earlier this year, Dr. Lubchenco was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in recognition of a career dedicated to performing policy with sound science and engaging with local communities. So when it comes to the nexus among academia, politics, and the public, Dr. Lubchenco is a passionate and knowledgeable expert with a unique insight into what it takes to ensure academic studies are intimately connected with the society that supports them. And so without further ado, please join me in welcoming the Honorable Dr. Jane Lubchenco. [Applause]

    Jane Lubchenco: Thank you, Andrew. My compliments to you, Andy Hoffman, and the team of folks who have conceived and organized this discourse. Engaging diverse perspectives and experiences on these topics is critically important. I look forward to the outcome of your deliberations.

    As an environmental scientist, I think about the questions that you have been discussing today in light of my own experiences in the world of science, engagement, management, policy, and public understanding. My remarks therefore will focus on science, but I believe that they are equally applicable for academic scholarship more generally. So if I say “science,” you should feel free to hear “academic scholarship” in my remarks. I plan to draw liberally on my experiences in academia and in government, and I’ll take the liberty of sharing a few stories with you along the say. I will focus initially on the “why” (Why academics should be more engaged with society); then touch on the “when” (When should they do so?), the “who” (Everyone? Just some academics?), and the “how” (How to engage effectively); and finally end with some reflections on some of the choices that exist for academics, the enabling conditions for success, and how to avoid the pitfalls.

    I’ll begin with a framing question for you: “What is the role of science in society?” Put differently, if you were meeting with a member of Congress and you were trying to convince him or her about the importance of funding science, what would you highlight? Or if you were a member of Congress, what would you tell your colleagues about the reasons to fund science? You probably each have your own ideas. Most people, in my experience, will focus on one of five different benefits that science provides:

    1. Science as an engine of economic growth. That has played well in Congress over the years.
    2. Science to conquer disease and improve human health. This benefit also clearly resonates with members of Congress: witness NIH’s budget over the last few decades.
    3. Science to enable national security. There was a big bump in investment in science post-9/11.
    4. Science to improve our lives through technology. Smartphones are a great example.
    5. Science to enhance national competitiveness and set us apart from other nations. Elected representatives around the world often tout this rationale. Being able to brag about the number of Nobel Prizes a country has or to win the race to the moon are examples.

    I believe there are two other less frequently articulated but important roles for science:

    • 6. Science simply to satisfy our own innate curiosity about how the world works.
    • 7. Science to inform our own understanding of a variety of issues.

    This notion of “science to inform” is one many academics readily identify but is not often mentioned by others. It is worth a deeper look. I would single out five different ways in which knowledge can benefit understanding. Scientific knowledge can inform an understanding of the following:

    1. How something works—how your body works, how an ecosystem functions, or how the economy works—that is, a focus on mechanisms, on processes.
    2. How that thing—let’s say the world—is changing, for example, as a result of climate change. This element requires a temporal component—for example, the result of monitoring through time.
    3. Using the knowledge about how it works and is changing, what are the likely future states under a business-as-usual situation? This is simply a projection of the current trajectory, informed by an understanding of dynamics.
    4. Are there different possible futures, and which interventions would most likely result in which outcomes? For example, would a particular antibiotic likely cure the infection you have? Or what would be the likely impact on climate change of different emission reduction scenarios?
    5. What solutions exist or could be invented to address important problems? New medicines, new solar technology, new policy, and management approaches are all examples.

    The first two elements of “science to inform” focus on the past and present. The last three look ahead to the future, a future with and without interventions. Scientific knowledge can assist decision making in all five.

    The assumption I am making is that decisions that are informed by a scientific understanding are going to be better decisions. The information that I just described, for example, would assist individuals and societies in understanding the trade-offs in making decisions about different possible options, for example, with respect to climate change. Obviously, the knowledge in any of these arenas is not perfect, and care must be taken to communicate degrees of certainty and uncertainty.

    I want to be very clear here. I’m not suggesting a simplistic “deficit model” in which an audience is simply an empty vessel that needs filling up with scientific knowledge, and then that audience will do whatever the filler-upper would want them to do. Nor am I talking about science dictating any particular outcome. The concept of “science to inform, not dictate” explicitly acknowledges that there are multiple factors that will likely affect decisions made by an individual or an institution—factors such as politics, economics, values, expediency, or peer pressure, for example. My point is that science should also be at the table, not just those other factors.

    Unfortunately, all too often, scientific knowledge is not at the table, and it’s important to ask why. In my experience, scientific information is often not taken into account because the information is not readily available, or it’s not understandable, or it’s not seen as being relevant or useful, or it’s not seen as being credible to the person making the decision. Oftentimes, it’s a combination of many or all of those.

    Scientists bear responsibility for all of these failures, to varying degrees. And we can be proactive in addressing the reasons why scientific information is often not available, understandable, useable, or credible. For example, in my experience, many, many people, including many politicians, simply assume they won’t understand what a scientist is saying. “It’s too technical!” “I don’t understand all those big words!” “Scientists caveat everything so much; I guess they don’t aren’t confident about anything.” These are statements I’ve heard multiple times. I think this is highly unfortunate. I’m reminded of an experience I had during my tenure at NOAA.

    We were in the middle of dealing with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. About a month into the spill, the president asked the vice president to travel to the Gulf and meet with fishermen to listen to their concerns and talk about what we knew about oil and seafood and what the federal government was doing to ameliorate the threat. The VP indicated he was happy to go to the Gulf but said he needed somebody with him who knew about fisheries and what was happening to the oil in the Gulf. I had not worked with the VP before, but I was asked to accompany him to the Gulf. So I flew on Air Force Two to the Gulf with him and began to brief him on the plane. I described what we knew about oil, fisheries, and the Gulf. I told him that oil is pretty nasty stuff because it contains toxins, some of which cause cancer. But most fish can metabolize those toxins, so after a while, their muscles are no longer contaminated. I described how other kinds of seafood, such as crabs or shrimp, can also metabolize the toxins, but they do so more slowly, and how oysters and clams can’t metabolize the toxins at all, so once they’re contaminated, they’re always contaminated. I explained that NOAA was closing federal waters to fishing in areas where oil was present or would be present in the next twenty-four, forty-eight, or seventy-two hours based on our knowledge of where the oil was and our models showing where it would go, and so on. Partway through this explanation, the vice president said, “Hey, wait a minute. I thought you were a scientist.” And I said (more than a little apprehensively), “I am.” Then he said, “But . . . I just understood everything you told me!” Much relieved, I continued to brief him and answer his questions, while also thinking, “Oh, my goodness. What a condemnation his statement was of the hundreds of scientists who have briefed this distinguished politician over many, many years. He thinks he can’t understand us.” Unfortunately, he’s not alone. Most people aren’t quite as forthcoming as the VP in articulating impressions of scientists, but I have heard far too many similar assessments.

    One of my pleas to other scientists is to learn to become what I call “bilingual.” I think scientists need to be able to speak the language of science with all of its jargon, all of its nuances, all of its caveats, but we also need to be able to speak the language of laypeople—to be able to translate very complicated things into something that’s understandable and do so in a way that’s credible.

    In fact, despite the open antipathy toward science that does exist in some quarters, I’ve found a pervasive and real hunger for credible information among decision makers, ranging from policy makers to business and civic leaders to ordinary citizens. I am also well aware of the wealth of information that’s not being incorporated into understanding and decisions. We thus have a golden opportunity, should we choose to engage.

    Far too often, academics have assumed that it is sufficient to share the results of their discoveries in the peer-reviewed literature, in technical journals, and at scientific conferences. They think it’s the job of an academic to discover new knowledge and to publish it. Period. I think there’s often a vague sense that it’s somebody else’s job to translate this knowledge for the general public, business leaders, and policy and management decision makers. Perhaps there are knowledge-translation elves that magically appear at night and translate knowledge from academic lingo in scholarly journals to plain language in readily accessible places. Sounds pretty nice, actually! In fact, there are some translators that do just that—science journalists, for example—but they are becoming fewer and fewer. And even in the heyday of science journalism, they were insufficient to do all the translation that was needed. Moreover, engagement in the way that I think about it is more than just translation—but park that thought for now, and let’s come back to it. My point here is simply that the need for translation is far greater than the current ability of translators to deliver it.

    Moreover, in my view, the scholars who created the knowledge understand it far better than do most translators. They understand the nuances. They understand the caveats. The problem is that few academic scholars have much experience or training in public communication, and the academic culture has generally not supported academics being public. Fortunately, that is beginning to change, but oh so slowly.

    I believe that academic scholars have a responsibility to be proactive in engaging directly with society. I believe that part of our obligation—our social contract, if you will—involves a two-way communication with society. Specifically, in exchange for public funding, our jobs are both to create new knowledge and to share it widely with transparency and humility. When I first proposed this idea of a social contract for science eighteen years ago in my presidential address, the academic culture was so chilling toward public engagement, I was pretty darn sure that I would have rotten tomatoes thrown at me when I gave my speech. However, much to my surprise and pleasure, I was given a standing ovation instead. I was told it was the first standing ovation that an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) presidential address had garnered. I took it as the beginning of a new awakening within the academic community. The culture was starting to shift, and people were more receptive than I thought they might be.

    Since that time, I’ve seen the culture of academia continue to change—none too soon, in my view. Consider just the environment for a moment: the pace of change, the scale of change, and the kinds of environmental changes are unprecedented in human history. Those changes and the consequences that they have for human health, prosperity, equity, and well-being mean that we no longer have the luxury of waiting years to decades for new information to work its way into public understanding and political decision making. New knowledge and understanding are needed much sooner. Although there are indeed those who are resistant to hearing about certain topics, I have found great interest, curiosity, and receptivity among the public, business leaders, and many elected officials about scientific knowledge that’s relevant to their interests and their problems. Many people want information, and in fact, they’re often hungry for it, but they want something they can understand, they can trust, and they can use. In my experience, they put a lot of trust in academic scholars. However, in general, the academic community is not able to deliver those things that the public wants.

    Here is our opportunity. Yes, it is fraught with danger, but that doesn’t mean we should stick our heads in the sand. So let’s consider why academics are so ambivalent about public engagement. I have compiled seven reasons, many of which were undoubtedly in your discussions earlier today:

    1. We fear failure. We have witnessed colleagues who have not succeeded in sharing their knowledge accurately, and we don’t want to be similarly misquoted, taken out of context, or made to look silly.
    2. We lack the skills to translate complex information into simpler but still accurate information.
    3. We’re uncomfortable with modes of communication that are effective in public communication—storytelling, using analogies and metaphors, talking about ourselves.
    4. We fear our colleagues will criticize us for seeking glory by having our names in the media or label us as the (dreaded) Advocate. (That’s spelled with a scarlet letter A!)
    5. We don’t want to take time away from the things that count in the academic world—writing proposals, doing research, publishing results, or teaching.
    6. We believe that public engagement will not be recognized as important in promotion and tenure decisions.
    7. We fear criticism from activists who conduct aggressive campaigns against scholars with whom they disagree.

    In my view, these are all valid concerns, but they stack up on the side of “why not” without equal consideration to “why yes” or, equally important, how some of the hurdles can be overcome.

    Moreover, the urgency of many of the challenges facing society is driving more and more academics to feel an obligation to be more engaged—witness your conference. Even when those academics—and there are more and more of them—are successful at public engagement, they will often advise their own undergraduates and graduate students to focus first on their studies and their research and defer any public engagement until after tenure. Their advice goes, “Establish your credentials first. Solidify your academic position before doing things that are risky.”

    But by and large, the younger generation is not listening to that advice. They feel keenly invested in being part of the solution, not perpetuating the problem, and they want to use their knowledge, not just be hidden away in the ivory tower. Their values differ from those of many of their elders, and they are seeking ways to have meaningful careers that entail engagement.

    Let me be very clear about one key issue here. I’m not suggesting that each and every academic scholar needs to be publicly engaged, only that more academics be engaged and that they be actively supported by all of us. Not every one of us is well suited to public communication, for example, but we should all support our colleagues who are, and—this is crucial—our institutions should support them as well.

    One clear need is for more and better training programs to assist those interested in mastering bilingual and other engagement skills. Faculty and students alike are seeking such programs, but not enough good options exist. Many “media training” workshops (including those offered by universities) are typically conducted by communications experts, not by science communication experts. Those workshops can help scientists learn some of the requisite skills but are usually insensitive to scientists’ values and culture and unable to help scientists figure out how to translate complex findings into something understandable or identify accurate metaphors or analogies. In my view, the whole package is needed.

    My cofounders and I created the Leopold Leadership Program to provide training specifically for academic scientists. The COMPASS program, which I also cofounded, provided the all-important scientific communications training component. The Leopold Leadership Program also provides leadership and engagement training and was designed to grow a network of colleagues who could support one another and begin to change the academic culture; it targets midcareer academic environmental scientists.

    Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the readiness of academic scientists for such a program. When we first created the program in the mid-1990s, we were not sure that anybody would even apply, simply because being public was not widely valued by university faculty. Much to our delight, the very first group of applicants was large and included superb scientists from top-notch institutions. They said they were motivated to be more engaged with society despite the culture in their universities. Since 1999, there have been ten cohorts of approximately twenty scientists trained in the Leopold Leadership Program for a total of around two hundred now adept academic scientist communicators and role models. Many have created courses at their institutions to replicate their training for their students. And because quite a few of those Leopold Leadership Fellows are now deans or directors or active leaders in their own institutions, they are actively working to change the culture.

    COMPASS has honed its communication offerings and now offers a range of superb options for multiple academic stages, from graduate students through full professors, for both academic and conservation organizations. COMPASS helps scientists engage and engage effectively by training, coaching, and connecting them. Nancy Baron, the Director of Science Outreach at COMPASS, is with you and can provide more information about who COMPASS is, what they do, and why it has been so successful.

    Both the Leopold and the COMPASS programs are in high demand as more and more academics seek to hone their skills. More and more university administrators appreciate the value of the training but struggle to find ways to fund these and other effective training programs.

    Many of the elements of the COMPASS training parallel my own experiences about what makes for effective communication. Here are five tips:

    1. Know your audience—who they are, what they care about, and what they know about your subject.
    2. Answer the “so what?” question. Why should anyone care about what you’re telling him or her? Why is it important? Whom does it affect?
    3. Learn to translate complex scientific concepts and findings into plain language that is understandable but also accurate.
    4. Use metaphors and analogies to help folks connect the dots from the known to the related unknown.
    5. Tell stories. Social scientists tell us that stories are sticky. People remember them; hence they are very effective communication tools. Moreover, making it personal can help make you more accessible, less of a “nerdy” scientist, and even more credible.

    With that in mind, let me tell you a couple of stories about communicating scientific information during my NOAA days.

    My first story deals with the importance of knowing what your audience knows and starting from there. Here’s the relevant background information you need for context: The National Weather Service, part of NOAA, relies on multiple sources of information to make weather forecasts, including weather balloons, ground radar stations, oceanic buoys, and satellites. Among these, satellites loom large: over 90 percent of the data that go into the numerical weather models come from weather satellites. When I arrived at NOAA, I learned the satellites we had in space were functioning well, but the program to build the next generation of weather satellites had been dysfunctional for some time. It was imperative we fix the program, so we did. The next step was to communicate to members of Congress how we fixed it and to urge that they provide funding now that things were in order. I vividly recall meeting with one member of Congress who was on a key committee, describing to him how important these weather satellites were and how important it was to fund them. He listened for a short time, then looked at me and said, “Doctor, I don’t need your weather satellites. I’ve got the Weather Channel!” At that, I thought, “Oh, brother!” I obviously misjudged what he knew and had to take a few steps back and communicate to him that the Weather Channel, AccuWeather, and all the other private weather providers get their information from NOAA and that NOAA’s weather satellites provide the bulk of the observations. Without NOAA’s weather satellites, he wouldn’t have the Weather Channel. Communication 101—know your audience. Know what they know about something, and then move from there, from the known to the related unknown.

    My second story is about finding the right analogies in communicating science. Again, first some context. NOAA is one of the lead federal agencies producing, sharing, and assessing scientific information about climate change. NOAA keeps the climate records, leads the National Climate Assessment, hosts Climate.gov, produces new climate knowledge, and shares information about climate change and climate variability widely. As administrator, I received a lot of questions about climate change: some friendly, some seeking information, some antagonistic. I recall one congressional hearing where the topic du jour was the ten-year period of time called the “pause” or the “hiatus” in which we thought there had been no detectable change in the global average temperature. (New information has now shown the hiatus to be an artifact.) And at the hearing, a number of members of the committee asked, “Doctor, isn’t it true that the global average temperature of the planet has not changed in the last ten years?” I replied, “Yes, Mr. Representative, that’s what the data show.” “Well, then, Doctor, isn’t it true that climate change isn’t happening?” And I replied something like, “Ten years is not a long enough period of time to detect a meaningful trend in a system that’s very complex and very noisy.” That answer was expected and didn’t seem to make any difference to the questioners. Then I would have another individual ask me pretty much the same question. When a member who I knew was a surfer posed essentially the same question, I tried a different tack. I said to him, “Congressman, have you ever stood on a beach and watched ten waves coming ashore? Could you tell me, based on those ten waves, if the tide was going out or if it was coming in?” And he said, “No, of course not. Ten waves is not enough.” Then he became silent, connecting the dots. He understood the analogy. His later public statements have suggested he has not changed his mind about climate change, most likely because for him it’s not really a scientific or an evidence-based issue but rather a political one. But I think that analogy was useful to many people who were at the hearing because they could understand better why ten years is not long enough to detect a meaningful trend in the climate record. Finding a good analogy can be very, very helpful.

    My third and final story also focuses on climate change and analogies. Context: Hurricane Sandy triggered a plethora of questions about the relationship between that superstorm and climate change: “Is this a harbinger of things to come? Was Sandy caused by climate change?” I was asked this over and over. Many scientists at the time were answering that question by talking about attribution and the challenges of attributing any single event to climate change. In my experience, when people hear a word like “attribution” that they don’t understand, they tune out, distrust the information, or react negatively. So when I was asked that question, I responded with a baseball analogy. I would say, “When a baseball player starts taking steroids, the chances of his hitting home runs suddenly increase dramatically. Not only does he hit more homers, but more powerful ones. Everyone knows one cannot point to any particular home run and say, ‘Aha, that home run is because he is taking steroids,’ but the pattern that you’re seeing of more and bigger homers is understood to be attributable to steroids. In similar fashion, what we are seeing on earth today is weather on steroids—weather on climate steroids. We are seeing more, longer-lasting heat waves, more intense storms, more droughts, and more floods. Those patterns are what we expect with climate change.” For many people, that analogy is very helpful.

    One of the most difficult aspects of this communication is figuring out how to translate very complicated scientific information into English without losing accuracy. No analogy, no metaphor, is perfect, but working to find the right ones is very worthwhile. Also, figuring out how to talk about something that’s complicated in plain language is important. The COMPASS team is highly skilled at coaching scientists to do both.

    Again, I would caution you that learning to become bilingual is much more than what is typically offered in “media training.” It takes skilled trainers who understand the science to help scientists find accurate but understandable ways of talking about things in ways that audiences understand. And it’s important that trainers understand the culture of science. Most media training offered by universities and by others doesn’t meet either bar.

    For anyone interested in science communications, I urge you to read Nancy Baron’s book Escape from the Ivory Tower. She treats this issue in some depth and very eloquently.

    I mentioned earlier that “engagement” to me means more than translation, more than sharing what you know with others. Engagement implies a two-way interaction. It means listening, not just talking. Moreover, there may well be benefit in both directions! I’ve witnessed some fascinating shifts in the problems that scholars are tackling because they are listening to the concerns and questions of laypeople and have been motivated to seek answers that they were not previously researching.

    For example, my colleagues and I had articulated in the mid- to late 1990s the need for more fully protected Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect biodiversity and recover depleted fisheries. Marine resource managers and NGOs listened and said, “OK, we understand MPAs are important. How big do they need to be? How many do we need? How far apart should they be? Where should they be?” We scientists didn’t have answers to those questions. A number of us realized that these were really important questions, and if we put our minds to it, we should be able to come up with good answers. So we put together a working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), a National Science Foundation–sponsored synthesis center affiliated with the University of California at Santa Barbara. We convened an interdisciplinary team of scientists and challenged ourselves to be more useful in providing answers to practical questions. Lo and behold, we came up with what has now become really useful guidance about “how many,” “how big,” and “how far apart” for creating fully protected marine reserves.

    That guidance was inspired by societal needs, but it required fundamental advances in science. That type of science does not, therefore, fit cleanly into either the “applied science” or the “basic science” paradigm. It was not “applied science,” which often means using existing knowledge and applying it in a new situation. Nor was it “basic science,” which is curiosity driven. Donald Stokes would call what we did “use-inspired science.” In his book Pasteur’s Quadrant, he points out that the classic formulation of basic and applied science does not fully describe the spectrum of research. He proposes this third category of “use-inspired science” as fundamental, cutting-edge science that is responsive to society’s needs. I think we’re seeing an amazing proliferation of use-inspired science in almost all arenas of science, but especially around the topics of sustainability science, resource use, energy, health, and much more.

    One very real reason to be more engaged with society, then, is also to be challenged by society—to be exposed to the kinds of questions whose answers might, in fact, be helpful to society.

    Hence “engagement” is a rich endeavor for scientists. There really is a two-way exchange of information and perspectives. It’s not just scientists communicating in one direction—that is, just sharing knowledge with laypeople. It’s also scientists listening and being inspired to solve other problems that might not have been on their radar screen.

    One of the toughest issues for many academic scholars who choose to engage with society is where they should engage along the spectrum of very low-risk to very high-risk activities. Becoming involved in K–12 education, citizen science, or public lectures is a lot less risky but still very useful. At the opposite end of the risky spectrum is outright advocacy for a particular solution. This is what I call the “scarlet letter of the scientific world”: advocacy. Scientists are conflicted on the topic of advocacy. On the one hand, they feel a moral obligation to help society deal with important issues, but on the other, they are simultaneously cautioned that tainting science with bias will undermine the credibility of science.

    I can tell you that many scientists feel that they are not only scientists but citizens and that they have a right as citizens to express their opinions about the solutions that they think are the right ones based on their information but also their values. They say that they can do so in a way that’s not confusing, that they can say, “OK, I’m wearing my scientist hat, and this is what the science says, and now I’m going to wear my citizen’s hat, and this is my recommendation.” The ability to distinguish which hat one is wearing makes scientists more comfortable about engaging in advocacy. However, in my experience, most laypeople and policy makers don’t even hear the distinction between “this hat” and “that hat.” They hear everything a scientist says and interpret it as scientific guidance (which of course contributes to confusion when scientists disagree with one another).

    Other scientists say that any scientists who voice their own opinions undermine the credibility of all scientists. They believe that any advocacy will compromise all science. I would note that physicians are routinely advocates, and are expected to be, but do not lose their credibility in the process. Recommending that people not smoke or that they exercise does not seem to make physicians less credible. But the dialogue in the environmental science arena seems to have different rules.

    This is a very rich dialog for which there is no single answer for all scientists or all academics. Many scientists choose a middle ground in which scientists offer useful, actionable input to policy makers without making overt recommendations. For example, one can say about climate change, “This is what we know, and based on our understanding of what we know, if we choose this path, this is the likely outcome. If we choose a different path, this is the likely outcome.” So you can frame answers in the fashion of choices with consequences, in which you are not making overt recommendations but are focusing mostly on the scientific understanding. This, of course, is the “policy-relevant but not policy-proscriptive” approach taken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But I would emphasize that which level of engagement you choose is a personal choice and that you need to think deeply about the issues and make a conscious decision.

    It may be useful to consider history here. In past decades, the bulk of academic scientists have erred on the side of isolation to protect the objectivity of the ivory tower. Engagement was perceived as tarnishing the reputation of science. The reputation of science may well still be an issue, but the consequences of not engaging are far different today than in earlier times. The balance is shifting, with society more at risk and more in need of scientific knowledge, which is why you are having this discussion. Science has a meaningful role to play in charting the future of all people. Do we sit idly by and protect the integrity of science, or do we figure out how to minimize the negative consequences and engage wholeheartedly because it’s our obligation to be helpful? Today, more and more scientists believe that the consequences of not engaging outweigh the consequences of engaging. If scientists don’t engage, society does not have the benefit of the information scientists have that may be useful in addressing many of the most challenging issues of our time. I firmly believe that we need more scientifically informed citizens and policy makers and that science should be at the table informing the decisions they make. I believe that scientists should engage both in the public discourse and in the policy arena. I believe that scientists have an obligation to be helpful to society.

    Thus far, we’ve explored a little bit about the “why,” the “who,” the “when,” and the “how” to engage. I’m sure that you will pursue many of these topics, either in our Q&A or in your deliberations tomorrow. Engagement presents significant challenges and opportunities to academia; we’ve talked about some of the tradeoffs.

    For many academics, engagement is a defining issue of our time. Bob Dylan’s words are appropriate: “The times, they are a-changin’.” I’ve personally witnessed a seismic shift in academics’ attitudes toward public and political discourse, and importantly, I’ve seen a generational divide emerge as younger scientists find their voices and as their values differ from those of their elders. This is a critically important issue for the academic community to grapple with. The topic goes to the heart of the responsibilities of individuals and the academic community to society and how we can best be of service to society.

    As a senior scientist, I don’t believe that my students should follow the path that I took: establish your scientific credentials first and then begin to be more public. Those choices were informed and framed by different times. Engaging with society was not even on the radar screen of most academics when I began my career. Only as the environment began to change radically and neither the public nor policy makers were paying much attention did I begin to engage. When I did so, I felt I had to break away from academic conventions. Doing so was difficult, but it was the right thing to do. The world continues to change and to need scientists and scholars to help chart the future. I continue to feel compelled to both engage actively with society—on the public and policy fronts—and create pathways for others to do so. I feel strongly about the need for my generation to also champion the right of younger academics to chart their own paths along the continuum of engagement and to do so with their seniors’ full support. I hope these thoughts have been useful to your deliberations. I would be delighted to engage in exchanges with you on these very important topics and wish you well in your deliberations over the next day and beyond. Thank you all very much. [Applause]


     
    Andrew Maynard: Before we take questions from the audience, I’m going to take my prerogative as moderator here to ask the first question. So you talked a lot about the personal responsibility and personal opportunities of individuals to engage. In your sense, how does that apply to institutions? Where do you feel the responsibility is for academic institutions like Michigan, for instance, to either support, or create infrastructure that supports, or encourage academics to be part of that public dialog?

    Jane Lubchenco: Well, it won’t surprise you, Andrew, to hear that I think institutions have an obligation to create the reward structures, platforms, and training opportunities for their students and faculty to engage in the world. In my experience, universities have been much more willing to do that than have the faculty, who have been more resistant. Universities like to see their faculty and their students profiled and quoted in newspapers. They like to see them engage. They like to be able to tell the citizens of the state and their funders that their faculty and students are being useful and relevant. Universities per se are not the stumbling block; the faculty is. Faculty are much more risk averse and are not, as a body, as willing to be engaged as maybe the institution would like them to be. This is what needs to change. I would like to see faculty empower themselves and their students to be active on both public and policy fronts but find ways to do so that minimize (not eliminate) problems.


     
    Question 1, Andrew Hoffman (University of Michigan): Jane, I found your comments extremely valuable. But your career brings something different to this conversation. You actually stepped out of academia into politics and then from politics back into academia. Can you talk about the challenges? And there must have been costs in doing that. It must have been hard to reengage the research agenda after being in the political arena for however many years you were there. Can you talk about those transitions and the challenges of doing that?

    Jane Lubchenco: Let’s see; where to begin? Let me first say that early in my career I was just doing my research, publishing, teaching—doing the typical things that academics do. I became involved in the Ecological Society of America—in an activity designed to help articulate to funders, Congress, and funding agencies the importance of ecological research with the idea of attracting more funding for that, because it was pretty much abysmal at the time. The result was the Sustainable Biosphere Initiative, which really charted a new direction for the field of ecology. It said that there should be two criteria for determining research priorities: areas on the cutting edge of science and areas that were relevant to societal needs. And we identified climate change, ecological causes and consequences of biodiversity, and ecological causes and consequences of sustainability as priority topics for funding for ecological research and then connected the dots for people between what some would think of as very basic esoteric science and how making progress in those areas was actually relevant to societal interests. So the message was that relevance was not a four-letter word. After we did that, there was intense interest on the part of members of Congress, various committees, Congressional Budget Office, Office of Management and Budget, and the funding agencies in learning more about the benefits of funding more ecological research. And it quickly became obvious that there were very few scientists on the committee and very few academic ecologists who were able to talk about the science and its relevance in ways that people understood. And that partly led to creation of the Leopold Leadership Program and COMPASS. But it also led to my being more public and engaged more in Washington, DC. So by the time President Obama asked me to go lead NOAA in 2008, I had actually spent a fair amount of time in Washington testifying before congressional committees on a range of topics (science funding, biodiversity, climate change, and other things). I had been president of AAAS and the Ecological Society of America and served on the National Science Foundation’s board of directors, the National Science Board, and multiple National Academy of Sciences committees. So when I went to NOAA in 2009, it wasn’t quite the same as many academics just being plunked from the academic world into the political world. I actually had a lot of experience in that world and could draw on that. I knew, probably, thirty members of Congress personally; we had done a lot of things together on a range of topics. I knew a lot of people in agencies, and so even though I had never been in government, I was not completely naïve. I joked that being a marine biologist was really good training for the rough-and-tumble world of politics because I already knew how to swim with sharks. But there is actually an element of truth to that, because a lot of what you learn as a scientist is actually more applicable than you might think to the world of politics. But you do have to figure out the culture. So my transition to the world of government was not as abrupt or jarring as might have been the case otherwise.

    I found it very rewarding to be a public servant. I think that it is important for academics to take their turn and work for the government. Many of you serve on various advisory committees and in other advisory roles; that’s really important. But to be a government official is a different kind of public service that I think is also incredibly important, incredibly valuable. I never thought of becoming a permanent government employee. A lot of people go to Washington, get seduced by it, and want to stay. Not me. My reasons were in part personal. During the four years I was there, my husband, Bruce, was back in Oregon. He had agreed to take over the research we had been doing together and advise the students we had coadvised so that I could go to DC without giving up thirty years’ worth of long-term data that we have for our studies’ sites or leaving my students in the lurch. But I never had any intention of staying there, and coming back after four years seemed like a very reasonable thing to do. It wasn’t soon enough in Bruce’s view. You know, he was wishing I had come back after two years. It really is a sacrifice, but I think it’s an important one.

    I don’t think there were insurmountable costs to my career. I continued to publish, to find active ways to connect the science that we were doing at NOAA, and to highlight insights from that by way of publications. And so I didn’t have a four-year gap in my publication record, for example. One downside: I did have to give up all my grants. I’m starting from scratch now and reacquiring funding to support activities and research. So that is a cost, but it was one I was willing to bear. Coming back to academia, I think I’ve actually benefited hugely from the experiences that I’ve had in government. I teach classes now about the Science Policy Interface to help students understand better how their science actually is used, perceived, or portrayed in the policy world. I think that’s really useful to scientists who are really interested in having their science be relevant. So I think it has added significant value.

    I would strongly urge any of you who have an opportunity to serve in a similar capacity to say yes! But do it with your eyes open. Don’t go there to be a caretaker. Too many folks do, and it’s a waste. I went to DC with a very ambitious agenda, and despite the very challenging circumstances, we accomplished an impressive amount. We had the oil spill, a dysfunctional weather satellite program, the most extreme weather of any four years in US history, “Climategate” and the intense politicization of climate science, and a dysfunctional Congress that was policy light and partisan heavy. So we had many, many challenges, but we were able to accomplish a huge amount, among them NOAA’s new Scientific Integrity Policy—a landmark policy that will serve it well. It says it is not permissible to distort, suppress, manipulate, or cherry-pick the science. And it allows scientists at NOAA to speak freely to the media without going through a gatekeeper, which is highly unusual for a federal agency. We also turned the corner in ending overfishing in the United States and are on a path to rebuilding fisheries in a way that a lot of people said would not be possible, and we’ve demonstrated that it is. We fixed the problematic weather satellite program. We helped create the first National Ocean Policy and much more. I feel really proud that we were able to do so much. It was a great experience to work alongside the very talented civil servants at NOAA who are really dedicated to their jobs. So overall, it was very rewarding, though from day to day I certainly cycled through a full spectrum of emotions. I was in turns frustrated, ecstatic, depressed, and euphoric. But in the end, I’m really glad I did it.


     
    Question 2, Jennifer Cherrier (Florida A&M University): Thank you very much for a very inspirational and elegant presentation, and I also thank you for your service. My question to you is, I’m curious about your perspective about scientists engaging with the private sector. What do you think about that?

    Jane Lubchenco: I tend to think of different communities that scientists might engage with. The private sector is definitely one of them. NGOs, civil society, government, and media are other communities. And I think it’s important for scientists to engage with all of them, but doing so means investing some time and energy to understand the culture and the values of that community and figuring out how to engage in a way that is helpful but does not compromise you. And that’s true regardless of which of those communities you’re working with. There are some NGOs, for example, that I would engage with quite readily and others that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. And the criterion, the first criterion for me, is whether they respect science and scientists and whether they are going to be open and listen to information or whether they’re going to abuse the information or you. And that concern is equally valid whether it’s an NGO, or a journalist, or somebody in the private sector. So I think the same applies to all those communities.

    It’s more difficult for most scientists to engage with the private sector because there are fewer points of intersection, but not all businesses, not all industries, are the same. I have seen some interactions with the private sector that are actually very productive and very useful. I have seen some that just are a disaster. So I think the rules of engagement are important. I think that you need to have a clear understanding of what each party is bringing to the table, what each wants, what the timetable is, who owns the information, what the expectations are, for example, around data ownership and publishing. You know, there is a whole range of questions.

    One example I’ve seen of successful engagement with the private sector is what the Natural Capital Project is doing. This is a group of scientists and experts that are based at Stanford, University of Minnesota, the World Wildlife Fund, and The Nature Conservancy. They are focused on understanding better and quantifying the benefits that ecosystems provide the people, figuring out how to understand the trade-offs and different uses of ecosystems, and then plugging that into policy or management decisions. So they have teamed up with some in the private sector who own land to think about managing that land for particular ecosystem services—water purification, for example, or water delivery. So there can be very productive interactions. It’s perfectly appropriate for scientists to engage with any one of those communities, but it takes time and energy to really figure out how to do it in a way that works for everybody. And so I would say, go into it with your eyes open, do some pilots first, talk to other people, figure out what their experiences have been, and figure out not just whether to do it but how to do it in a way that would be successful.


     
    Question 3, Hon. Brian Baird (4Pir2 Communications): I have a two-part question, mostly so you can pick one or the other. One is the general concern we’ve heard today about the general public skepticism about science in general. We see it about climate but also vaccines and so on, and I’d appreciate your insights into how to address that. A second, maybe more difficult, question is, what are your thoughts about when scientists are faced with very controversial and politically sensitive decisions where there are no right or wrong answers, such as the president’s decision to allow drilling in the Arctic, which may contradict a lot of marine scientists’ perspectives? Clearly this is something where there’s going to be a lot of passion, a lot of uncertainty. What is the role of academics there? I’d welcome your thoughts on one or either of those.

    Jane Lubchenco: Brian, it’s great to hear your voice. Thank you for all your public service over the years, and it was a real pleasure to work with you when you were in Congress. So great to see you.

    I think one of the biggest issues with the skepticism about science is that it all boils down to trust. And in arenas like climate science, where there has been so much hype, so much poisoning of the waters by climate deniers, it is very difficult for most people to sort out what’s happening and what they should believe. Most people tend to go to someone that they know, someone who shares their values. And they’re more likely to trust someone who shares their values than someone who is just some scientist someplace. So this really points to the importance of having and tapping into relationships and the importance of scientists connecting with natural communities of people who share their values. I would highlight Katharine Hayhoe, who is a climate scientist and a deeply religious person who has been able to make very significant inroads with the fundamentalist Christian community who shares her values because she talks to them in a language that acknowledges their values and also is able to share scientific information. One of the challenges of global communication about issues like climate is that it really gets devoid of, or divorced from, individual communicators. And that’s a challenge.

    In my experience, most people are hungry for information. To be sure, there is a subset of people that see climate change just as a knee-jerk political issue, but in my experience, a lot of the public is actually just confused about whom to believe. Many of them are now changing their minds about it because they’ve seen all this weird weather and, rightly or wrongly, they think that’s because of climate change. And so it’s gone out of the realm of science and into the realm of their own personal experience, and that is changing things. But I think it really underscores the importance of trust and people communicating with others that they can trust. And I see Skip [Arthur] Lupia is there. The social scientists have taught us a huge amount about communication of scientific information. And we need to listen to them a lot more than was the case early on.

    The second issue that you raised, Brian, has to do with political choices that are not really about the science. Those choices can be informed by the science, but they involve a whole range of other issues—in this case, politics or economics and who knows what else. To drill in the Arctic or not is not really a scientific decision, and a lot of political decisions are not scientific decisions. Science can inform them, but as I mentioned earlier, those decisions are going to be based on other factors. And I think scientists need to really understand that these are choices that society, a president, or a member of Congress is making. My hope is that those choices will be appropriately informed by the science. But I don’t think we should fool ourselves that someone who is listening to the science is automatically going to choose what you would choose. That underscores the importance of people weighing in and what they believe. But they shouldn’t frame it just around science; they should also frame it around their own values if they are weighing in as citizens.


     
    Andrew Maynard: Jane, just to follow up on that, because I think it ties in very neatly—I have a question on a card that says, “It appears we’re talking about two different kinds of discourse: public engagement and political engagement. The first is really looking at sort of academic expertise and scientific expertise and the second one is possibly looking more at personal values.” I actually think from what you’re saying that if you look at political engagement, there are two sides to that. The first side is informing political dialogue and the second one is actually taking a stance in a political debate. And I didn’t know whether you wanted to talk a little bit more about where you see that line between what is acceptable as an academic or part of the academy as opposed to where you cross a line into personal advocacy.

    Jane Lubchenco: I agree completely with what you said, Andrew, that in the political discourse there are two elements. One is providing scientific information to inform the dialogue. And the second is taking a stance, taking a position, making a specific recommendation based on both science and personal values. I believe that we should absolutely be providing that information and doing it in a way that understands how the political discourse happens, what the rules of engagement are, how it works, and the timeliness element. I believe that it is perfectly appropriate for scientists as individual citizens to also be acting on their values and urging particular actions. Just because they are scientists doesn’t mean they relinquish their rights as citizens. But I think that they need to make it clear that they are acting on their values—informed by science but acting on their values. And I think that we need to be tolerant of that range of choices that individuals, individual academic scientists, can make within this political discourse realm: to choose either to just provide information or to provide information and take a stance.


     
    Question 4, Amy Schalet (University of Massachusetts, Amherst): I’m probably revealing my discipline as a sociologist or my upbringing in northern Europe, but when I was listening to your five values and the two additional ones that came after, I was waiting for something that would say something like that “science can help us promote equity,” or social inclusion, or something along those lines. And I was curious to hear your reflections on a potential way of defending science or invoking its need, especially in light of the fact that some of the most pressing issues in American society today involve inequality, inequity, and so forth and that the discourse politically may actually be changing in favor of those issues and the issue of equality and inequality in America.

    Jane Lubchenco: That’s a great question. One of my “roles of science” was to improve our lives. And one could argue that equity is essential to improving lives—all of our lives. But I think a better answer is that what you’re really focusing on is about values—about values of society, about values of individuals—and that science, both natural and social science, can help us understand what equity means, how to achieve equity, what the tradeoffs are. But in the end, the choices about what to do to have a more equitable society are really about values. And it’s not simply a matter for science or for scholarship. Scholarship and science can inform it, but in the end, it’s really about values. And what Pope Francis, for example, is bringing to the table is a strong passion about the value of addressing these issues. Same with Senator Elizabeth Warren. Same with other champions who are focusing on equity. I would cite Thomas Piketty as a scholar who has helped us understand what the patterns of inequity have been within and across countries as a way that academic scholarship can help us understand the issues and show patterns. But in the end, it’s going to be the choices of society, individuals, and institutions about this very important issue.


     
    Andrew Maynard: Well, Jane, thank you so much. That was enlightening, thought provoking, and thoroughly excellent. I’m not even going to apologize for the technology, because I think this actually worked exceptionally well. So thank you very much for your time. That’s given us a lot to work on for the next few days.

    Jane Lubchenco: Thank you. Good night. [Applause]