Actionable Science: Delivering Science to Decision-Makers During Crisis

Saturday, 14 February 2015: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room 210EF (San Jose Convention Center)
Marcia McNutt,AAAS/Science, Washington, DC
Science during crisis departs from the normal scientific process in many regards that can cause scientists some discomfort. During a crisis, decision makers need scientific input on a prescribed timetable that is accelerated with respect to any reasonable schedule for deliberative scientific process. Decision makers require a speedy synthesis of existing information and/or data that can reasonably be acquired during the crisis. There is no time for the luxury of peer review, which gives scientists confidence in their results. Communicating the results of the synthesis along with its associated uncertainty to decision makers during a crisis can also be a challenge, in that the results need to be framed within the context of the decision at hand. A good example is using repeat multichannel seismic surveys to assess whether the Macondo well was maintaining integrity after it was shut in with the capping stack. The repeat seismic surveys resulted in seismic reflection sections that could be differenced to look for changes in reflection characteristics that would signal strong returns from accumulations of natural gas from a leaking well. But what needed to be communicated to the decision makers was the minimum number of barrels of leaking oil that could be detected via this approach as compared to the number of barrels of leaking oil that would trigger a breakout to the surface. As long as the seismic method would detect a leak long before triggering a breakout, decision makers would be confident that they would have time to intervene to open the well before multiple paths to the surface formed.