The American Geophysical Union (AGU) held its 2nd Annual Science Policy Conference in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. This was a three-day meeting (June 24-26); because of other commitments I could only attend the second day (June 25) of the conference.
The AGU, recognizing the societal relevance of geophysical research, is committed to improving the connection between science and policy. At the Science Policy Conferences, the AGU brings together Earth and space scientists, students, federal and state agency representatives, and industry professionals to explore ways for the geophysical sciences research community to inform and support sound policy decisions.
The theme of the 2nd Annual Conference was “Preparing for the Future: The Intersection Between Science and Policy,” and the topics selected for this conference were Arctic Forum, Climate Change, Energy, Hazards, Oceans, and Technology and Infrastructure.
The conference was attended by approximately 250 participants (my estimate) from academia, government and public service organizations, and the private sector.
The first day (which I did not attend) was devoted to a workshop “to hone your ability to communicate effectively with policy makers, the press, and the general public.”
The second day started with a plenary session, with speakers Dr. Cora Marrett (Acting Director, NSF) and Mr. Bart Gordon (Partner K&L Gates, former U.S. Representative, former Chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology). Their presentations focused on the role of science for innovation and the challenges at the interface of science and policy.
The plenary session was followed by nine panels, on Energy, Hazards, and Arctic Forum. Each topic was covered by three consecutive panels, each time with different panelists. I attended a panel on the Arctic Forum in the morning, a panel on Hazards in the first part of the afternoon, and a panel on Energy in the second part of the afternoon. A poster session ran simultaneously with the panel sessions and during the breaks between panels.
The Arctic Forum focused on Arctic Change Research and U.S. Interagency Collaborations. It was moderated by Brendan Kelly, Ass. Director for Polar Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with panelists Kathy Crane (NOAA), Gary Geernaert (DOE), Simon Stephenson (NSF), and Diane Wickland (NASA). They gave overviews of what is happening in their agencies for Arctic change research.
The Hazards panel focused on The Science of Recent Severe Weather Events. It was moderated by Kelly Klima, Research Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, with panelists Janice Coen (Project Scientist, NCAR), Andrew Castaldi (Senior VP, Swiss Re–a reinsurance company), Radley Horton (Research Scientist, Columbia University), and Sue Minter (Dep. Secretary, Vermont Department of Transportation). They discussed the possible connections between climate change and severe weather events, as well as the social and economic effects of droughts, wildfires and other disasters. All four talks were very informative; Ms. Coen discussed the complicated dynamics of wildfires, Mr. Castaldi explained in detail how risk is quantified in the insurance industry, Dr. Horton described the planning for NYC before and after Hurricane Sandy, and Ms. Minter discussed the lessons learned from tropical storm Irene (August 27, 2011).
The Energy panel focused on Science Needs for U.S. Offshore Energy Development. It was moderated by Nick Juliano, a reporter for Greenwire and E&E News, with panelists Belinda Batten (Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center), Rodney Cluck (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Dept of the Interior), and Branko Kosovic (NCAR). By 2050, renewable sources are expected to to supply as much as 80% of energy demand. The panelists discussed the status of research and development of various energy technologies based on waves, tides, current, etc., collectively known as MHK (=Marine Hydrokinetics), and wind.
After the panel sessions, the conference participants were invited to a reception in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, where AGU Presidential Citations for Science and Society were given to James Balog (Founder/Director of “Extreme Ice Survey”), Richard Harris (Science Correspondent NPR), and Rush Holt (U.S. House of Representatives). The citations honored the recipients for their contributions to the public discussion of science.
The third day (which I did not attend) had a similar format as the second day, with panels on Technology and Infrastructure, Climate Change, and Oceans.
The conference was very well organized. I thought it was an interesting way to bring policy issues to the attention of the science community. Something we might consider for the mathematical sciences community.