Science in Society: Bridging the Gap

Lucile M. Jones

Published August 1, 2017, SCEC Contribution #7380, 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting Talk on Sun 18:00 (PDF)

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Society needs science-based decision making now more than ever, as the vulnerability of society is being magnified through population growth in hazardous regions and by the fragility of increasingly complex cities. Although the understanding of natural hazards derived from scientific investigations can and has been used to reduce the impacts of many natural hazards, we often see science ignored or misunderstood. The reasons for the miscommunication include 1) the normalization bias that convinces decision-makers that preparing for the events of last few decades means that we are as prepared as we need to be, 2) the human need to reject randomness and form patterns (even when specious) to protect ourselves, 3) the desire of scientists to pursue the interesting questions which means we focus on uncertainties and what we don’t know and rarely take the time to communicate the consensus and what we do know, and 4) the need most people have for stories and emotional connections to being able to understand the implications of information.

These differences can be overcome. In the last few years, collaborations with the City of Los Angeles and the 191 other cities of Southern California through the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) have led to substantial improvements in seismic resilience across the region. SCEC’s science is being used to evaluate vulnerabilities and look for solutions. This talk will explore some of the reasons for the recent successes and what scientists and decision makers can do to further improve the communication between science and society.

Jones, L. M. (2017, 08). Science in Society: Bridging the Gap. Oral Presentation at 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Communication, Education, and Outreach (CEO)