December 29, 2015

Art and Emotions Can Unify Us – How About Science and Humanity?

Posted by cbunge

Today’s post is part of a series written by student bloggers from the AGU Fall Meeting.

By: Azie Sophia Aziz, PhD student in geophysics at the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences University of Houston, Texas.

“Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.”

– Henri Poincare

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559 Source: Wikipedia Commons

At the AGU Fall Meeting this year, Pierre Glynn explained how arts and emotions unify us in his talk “Enhancing Public Participation to Improve Natural Resources Science and its Use in Decision Making.” He and his colleagues have been working on integrating science with policy and public participation. They also focus on crowdsourcing for participatory modeling and building a structured mechanism to analyze human biases, beliefs and values. In the same way that art allows us to connect and find unity, his team works on allowing science to bring people together. A big part of this is making sure that science isn’t missing the human element.

In the talk, Glynn explained that the majority of scientific information has no value if it is not structured, organized or filtered to impact decision-making. This is one of the critical issues being faced by the scientific community at the moment, and scientists who tend to work in isolation could make the situation worse by further separating their work from useful societal implication. We tend to lose our big picture as we are overwhelmed and drowned in the complexity of the scientific work we are focused on.

For our science to be more useful in policy making, we need a guidance that can aid us in making our information well communicated and accepted. Public engagement and processes are required to understand the scientific values and also to gain wider acceptance from the public. We are facing new and challenging issues which require a more creative approach, hence we need to integrate new technological advances with human participation.

For example, we could engage the public intellectually by a joint fact gathering program. We need to provide a path for personal learning to conserve the important connection between humans and science. The advancement of technology and the greater access to the information via the internet facilitate the public to participate in a variety of critical issues, such as climate change monitoring.

Obviously, the cost of the implementation of such processes or programs can be quite large and requires a huge joint effort across various disciplines involving both government agencies and private organizations. However, the price of not implementing the idea would be more costly in the future and detrimental to the future generations.

Glynn summarized the talk by explaining, “We need to bring the science and policy together as a cooperative team to bring values to our scientific work. It is not an easy task as they don’t speak a common language and not much reward is offered for extra effort. We need a structured program and we need to understand why we structure them. This is issue is critical and there is so much more to be done.”