Predicting Major Events and Planning for Hazards: An Art or Science?

Sunday, February 17, 2013: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 208 (Hynes Convention Center)
The pursuit of greater scientific understanding of hazards has increased our ability to determine the shape of future events and plan for them beyond anything known to earlier generations. But expectations have also increased. Uncertainty at the frontiers of research into climate change, disease epidemics, and geological hazards is a challenge to policy-making and social planning. Governments globally spend billions of dollars on scientific research, advice, and hazard management. Society seeks safety, certainty, policies that will work, and public expenditure that is useful. These expectations have been evident in the backlash against expenditure on unused swine flu vaccines, the prosecution of Italian seismologists in L’Aquila, cynicism about climate predictions, and criticism of Chinese researchers for failing to predict the Sichuan earthquake. Prediction requires us to think creatively about how we can practically use the uncertain information about the world around us. A panel of leading researchers in the fields of seismology, epidemiology, climate science, and meteorology will present developments in their fields that could improve our ability to identify hazards or determine the shape of major events. They will consider whether advances in scientific understanding are likely to meet social expectations about prediction, or whether we need for society, and policy-makers in particular, to understand more about the nature of the scientific knowledge we have.
Julia Wilson, Sense About Science
Albert Yuan, San Lian Life Weekly
Tracey Brown, Sense About Science
Albert Yuan, San Lian Life Weekly
and Heather Kimmel, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow
Kelin Wang, Geological Survey of Canada
Operational Earthquake Prediction: Castles in the Air
Bill Hanage, Harvard School of Public Health
Disease Scares: Predicting and Preparing for Outbreaks
Peter Webster, Georgia Institute of Technology
Assessing Risk from Climate Change: Scenario Generation Versus Prediction
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