Climate Cluster III: Climate Science Communication and Skepticism

Why is climate change a hot button issue? Through an interdisciplinary conversation, this panel will explore the heated dynamics of climate politics. We will discuss many dimensions of climate science and politics and their relation to one another, e.g.: ideological polarization, climate ontology and epistemology, climate communication and scientific literacy.

Panelists:

Ronnie Lipschutz, Professor of Politics, UCSC

Chaone Mallory, Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University

Mark Snyder, Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC, Assistant Project Earth Scientist and Lecturer

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | 4:30-6:30 PM | Engineering 2, Room 599

 

Climate Cluster III: Climate Science Communication and Skepticism
SJWG Rapporteur Report
25 May 2011
Moderator: Licia Peck
Panelists:
Ronnie Lipschutz, Professor, Politics, UCSC
Chaone Mallory, Assistant Prof, Philosophy, Villanova University
Mark Snyder, Lecturer, Earth & Planetary Sciences, UCSC

Q1: What do you know and how do you know it?

Mark: Studies climate systems using climate models. Fundamental question is how do greenhouse gasses enter atmosphere and how do we know it? We can use paleontological historical records to infer what past climates were like. We can also use isotopic tracking to determine a range of past carbon dioxide levels. How do we look to the future? We look to climate models. There are uncertainties associated with such models because we do not understand these processes completely, for example representation of clouds. We deal with these uncertainties through parameterizations, using expert judgment. Though there is uncertainty, we do know that temperature is indeed increasing. Question then becomes narrowing uncertainty.

Chaone: As an interdisciplinary-trained environmental philosopher, the kind of data we draw on and how we do it is different than natural and social scientists by thinking about the relation of bodies in place, i.e. the phenomenological experience in addition to empirical observations. Part of what counts also include what counts as knowledge, stories and narratives. In her work, she interrogates the knowledge and power, and who is included. Specifically, she explores TEK, traditional ecological knowledge, in native American cultures.

Ronnie: He is originally a trained in physics and energy but now his research has more to do with ontology. What are the assumptions that people bring to the table when they hear and process knowledge? How do we understand this process that we call science and what it generates. What do people bring to the table as foundational beliefs?

Q2: Why is the consensus of most scientists accepted in some arenas and discounted in others?

Ronnie: Politicizing is not a bad thing as it points to the fact that shape of politics is strange and gets back to foundational beliefs. Do you believe in God or something transcendental? Science becomes somewhat transcendentalist in that if you don’t subscribe and act, you die! Rather than life or death it is really a matter of deep seeded belief and meaning. For some reason climate change has become one of the ideological splits broadly, similar to how communism/capitalism were a split in past, perhaps much more than it deserves. What kind of role is it becoming?

Mark: To take Ronnie’s analogy of science as a religion, skeptics play the role of the heretic, by attacking small points that the average person doesn’t know. Skeptics might come from science background but not climate science and don’t usually conduct research but rather scrutinize science that is published.

Chaone: What material interests or psychological investments are threatened by accepting that climate change is real and we know it is happening? Agrees with Ronnie that if climate policy is political, that’s not a bad thing as it forces us to become explicit about the fate of the planet. If we acknowledge this, we can talk about the kinds of values we want to come down on.

Ronnie follow up: Using the term “interests” is problematic, because there are two sides. Secondly, he thinks more is stake than interests as we are talking about the long term benefits to people if we address this problem now. The problem lies at the level of meanings. Not just a question if it’s good for me or not but draws on the question of why am I here?

Chaone: Clarifies her thoughts on “interests.” Deeply invested in anthroprocentrism. Ronnie feels a worldview of anthropocentrism is very valid since we are the only species that can cause such destruction.

Mark: Belief in God or religion allows people to not be concerned about this. Are skeptics and deniers preventing some research from being conducted? Very difficult to justify validity of research in light of this.

Q3: How do you think your work might influence politics?

Mark: From a funding perspective, what we research is somewhat politically driven (i.e. NSF). Something that will be useful with politicians requires some dialogue. Long term projections of 30, 40 and 50 years are not aligned with politicians term cycles so thus they kick the can down the road. California has initiated this kind of
long-term thinking.

Chaone: Recognizing the politics in our knowledge process is important. References Val Plumwood, ecofeminist, perspective on care and respect of research in politics. Suggests that the role of non-natural sciences in influencing politics is less clear. What can philosophers contribute to this debate? Part of this is taking voices seriously, especially those outside of the traditionally authoritative powers.

Ronnie: “Why are academics so eager to give advice to politics when there is no indication that politicians listen?” Has to do with politics of research enterprise and retail politics (i.e. what goes on in DC). The kind of research that has impact is likely research that fits one or another proclivity out there and is used for political ends. With respect to philosophers, if he gets into debate with economist, he cannot debate solidly. However, if he debates an economist about ethics, he will have a leg up over the economist. This is where the argument needs to take place and there is a role for it. Simply, he does not think his work has an influence on politics. If we lived for 1000 years, we would have a very different perspective on this topic. There is a disconnect between time frames and valuation. Especially since people say, “the future never does anything for me.”

Q4: How does time come into play in your thoughts on climate change and science?

Chaone: Do we need to accept the fact that the future is always discounted? Is that the essence of being an economist or politician? Do we have a moral obligation to future generations? What are the properties and characteristics of a right holder? Presenting other scenarios than “politicians are never going to get on board.” Can we train the next set of politicians to consider this?

Ronnie: Very pessimistic. Politics as we understand it in democratic societies are driven purely by the next election. Public policy has a longer view but as a rule is rooted in economic terms and is constrained by the election cycle. An example: the best thing the president could do would be a $6/gallon tax on gasoline. He assures us that no one that did that would stand a chance of winning the next election. He has trouble seeing the way out of this. Time does play an important role. Our material interests play a big role also. We violate our biocentric beliefs hundreds of times every day. Must be deeply embedded in the norms of everyday life such that we don’t do those bad acts anymore.

Mark: He thinks of timescales of models and conditions in the future. Based on how economics, politics, technology transfer effect the world and thus the future world. Interesting that these more social science fields will influence the material and natural world.

Q5: In what ways does it matter if the public trusts the institution of climate science?

Mark: Believe in the public ranges from deniers to believers. In looking at those in between, those that are open to convincing, the trust is very important. For example, IPCC climate gate was a very specific way to create distrust in science. Clever and targeted way to do so. His climate change media training says that we should project a positive image going forward and that there are things we can do to improve the situation. Frame climate science to address the issues important to the target audience, i.e. jobs. Then you enter the role of advocate. Do we want to cross into that world and should we cross into that world?

Chaone: Who is the public? What are the spaces of the public sphere? The norms of social behavior are part of that space. We need multiple angles in approach.

Ronnie: Says Steve Schneider was trying to straddle the science/public advocate roles and it was a challenge. Once you cross the boundary into public advocacy you face rules. Communicating the bad stuff seems to work i.e. opportunity does not gain as much traction as fear. It’s about framing and telling persuasive stories people will accept, which sounds a lot like social engineering and propaganda. He points out that we are subjected to this everyday through advertisements, etc.

Q6: Can you make a recommendation as to how your discipline can help?

Mark: Physical science needs to focus on communication

Ronnie: He’d like his field to stop studying climate change and start focusing on environmental justice.

Chaone: Wants more study in philosophy and wants it taken seriously. Wants voices to be heard.

The panel was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

The Science and Politics of Psychedelic Research

Rap Report > The Politics and Science of Psychedelic Research: A Conversation with MAPS

 

Hosted by Ben Roome (Philosophy)

The development of new pharmacological therapies for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders requires an intricate lattice of practices. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has pursued the application of various compounds for therapeutic use for over 20 years. The group’s recent success in carrying out clinical drug trials for the use of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD is the result of careful scientific and political collaboration. In order for these and other trials to be approved by the FDA a complex set of engagements has been developed through painstaking research, careful argument and deep commitment. Bringing key members of MAPS into the space of the Science and Justice Working Group, we will consider unprecedented collaborations and the delicate consensus needed to bring this science more fully into mainstream medicine.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | 4:15-6:15 PM | Engineering 2, Room 599

The Science and Politics of Psychedelic Research
SJWG Rapporteur Report
2 March 2011
MAPS engages with the Science and Justice Working Group
Four key members of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies joined
the space of the Science and Justice working group to focus on the practices involved
with bringing the psychedelic compound MDMA (more commonly known as ‘ecstasy’) to
phase III drug trials for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The meeting opened with a brief history of the MAPS mission in relation to MDMA
related by by Josh Sonstroem (MAPS Director of Finance and IT). A tremendous
controversy around MDMA emerged in the mid eighties. As therapists explored
potential applications for the compound in therapeutic use, MDMA was also discovered
by the party community, causing a political backlash that would ultimately lead to the
drug becoming a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it would be classified as
having no medical use and a high potential for abuse. MAPS founder and director Rick
Doblin thus began a 20 year battle to reassert the medical uses of MDMA. His efforts to
bring therapists who had used the drug with therapeutic success were waylaid by
studies funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) claiming that MDMA
caused brain damage after only one use. Although these studies were later shown to
be scientifically inaccurate in several ways, a tremendous amount of ground would have
to be regained in order to reclassify the drug as medically valuable.

Valerie Mojeiko (MAPS Deputy Director and Leader of the Psychedelic Harm-Reduction
Program) thus picked up the thread at this point to explain MAPS early positioning as a
non-profit focused on public education. Beyond publishing and disseminating
information about psychedelic research, MAPS began the Psychedelic Harm-Reduction
Program with the Black Rock City Rangers, a volunteer group at the Burning Man
Festival that focuses on mediating difficult situations, including uncomfortable
psychedelic experiences. It was in this context that MAPS was first able to develop a
form of psychedelic therapeutic practices.

Brad Burge (MAPS Communication and Education Associate) brought the discussion
further along in history by explaining how the early Ricardi study, the one that claimed to
show that MDMA has only-adverse effects, was ultimately overturned by later research.
Burge also helped to explain how early NIDA-funded studies actually contained a
tremendous amount of data that would be used to support MAPS’s argument that
MDMA was safe for human use. While the presentational tone of these studies focused
on the dangers of MDMA, the actual data they contained showed that MDMA did not
carry any lasting adverse effects. This elegant re-appropriation of scientific data
produced by anti-MDMA groups would typify the MAPS strategy in future engagements.

Berra Yazar-Klosinksi (MAPS Clinical Research Associate followed up by providing an
in-depth explanation of clinical practices employed in MAPS funded studies being
carried out in North Carolina, Switzerland, Israel and Jordan. The crux of this
explanation was to demonstrate that the measurement techniques employed by the
FDA to test other compounds for the treatment of PTSD are tremendously well suited to
MDMA therapy. In particular, the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) very
successfully demonstrates the value of three MDMA assisted therapy sessions for the
treatment of PTSD. It is primarily these successes that have led MAPS to recently
rebrand itself as a non-profit drug development organization. Berra also discussed the
difficulties of applying the CAPS in the various languages and social milieus in which
MDMA trials are being carried out. A tremendous amount of work still needs to be done
to bring MDMA into mainstream medicine. Every year MAPS becomes more successful
at addressing what needs to be accomplished and finding creative new ways to achieve
their goals.

Members of the Science and Justice Workgroup then contributed comments,
suggestions and critiques that might help MAPS members explore new possibilities for
successful scientific practices. Jake Metcalf opened with questions about MAPS
branding practices associated with their prospectus. In particular, Metcalf discussed the
imagery used in the prospectus; the prospectus shows a variety of stock photos of
‘mainstream’ people such as soldiers and housewives and assiduously avoids
counterculture tropes. The ensuing discussion about MAPS’ branding practices
considered the challenges of simultaneously appealing to funders, adopting a pose of
objective scientific research practices, and maintaining some connection to MAPS’
countercultural roots. Jenny Reardon followed this thread with a series of questions
focused on considering how MAPS might challenge the scientific practices employed by
the FDA while still moving towards their goal of mainstream medical acceptance. She
suggested that while MAPS may be trying to take the drugs out of the counterculture
and take the counterculture out of the drugs, there may be useful epistemic insights in
countercultural science. She noted that particularly in Northern California there is a long
history of important technoscience endeavors initiated by members of the
counterculture as a countercultural effort. Martha Kenney focused on concerns
surrounding the translations issues of the CAPS, and suggested a moved towards
critically considering these issues as part of the measurement practices, rather than as
a mere veil to objective understanding. This sparked discussion from the MAPS guests
about the various challenges of testing for PTSD in different cultures—if the tests are
translated from English on the fly by the tester then there is no consistency in the test.
But even translating in advance poses a challenge because PTSD is articulated through
a culture’s psycho-social constructs. Natalie Purcell also posed a valuable question
about how MDMA treatment might be producing a certain conception of the
phenomenon of PTSD across cultures that deserves critical attention. Karen Barad
posed a question about the expression of side-effects to MDMA therapy, and how they
might be addressed through good scientific practices.

MAPS representatives took these considerations in the spirit of collaboration and
expressed their excitement at exploring them further, both within MAPS itself, and as
part of future meetings of the Science and Justice Working Group.

Climate Cluster II Panel Discussion: Climate Change Scientists in the Trenches

Climate change science is attracting an exceptional amount of public interest, yet debates over the merit and implications of climate change research seldom unpack the complex set of practices and networks that make up this field. This panel will explore the multiple realities of conducting climate change science at a time of heightened skepticism and media attention. Panelists:

Jason Box, Associate Professor of Geography Atmospheric Sciences & Program Researcher at Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University

Jeffrey Bury, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, UCSC

Ken Mankoff, Ph.D. Student, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC

Lisa Sloan, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Director of the Climate Change and Impacts Laboratory, UCSC

Click here or more information on the Climate Cluster.

 

Thursday, February 24, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. | E2 Room 599

Climate Cluster II: Climate Researchers in the Trenches
SJWG Rapporteur Report
24 February 2011
Panelists:
Lisa Sloan - Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences & Director of the Climate Change and Impacts Laboratory, UCSC
Jason Box - Associate Professor of Geography Atmospheric Sciences & Program Researcher at Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University
Jeff Bury - Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, UCSC
Ken Mankoff - Ph.D. Student, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC
Moderator: Costanza Rampini

Rampini began by showing a cover of Rolling Stone, noting that the fact that climate change has made it to the same cover as Lil Dwayne shows how popular this topic has become. Rampini continued that most discussions of climate change don’t take the time to unpack for us for it means to conduct climate change science. The four panelists were introduced as scholars who could help the audience understand what it means to be a climate change scientist.

Rampini then asked the panelists to introduce themselves, briefly explain their work, and say whether they identify as a climate change scientist. (panelists' answers are paraphrased below)

Sloan: Emphatically, yes, I a am a climate scientist and I work on paleo climate. People on an airplance want to change their seat if you tell them you are a climate scientist. Knowing about the past can help you understand the envelope
of behavior the future might bring.

Box: I am a physical climatologist and geographer. I work in Greenland and technically yes I am a climate change scientist because I study climate and the climate is always changing. I want to make the physical science matter and so always want to bring it back to the human impacts. Otherwise the science is just for the science.

Bury: I identify as a social scientist, not a climate change scientist, but 3:1 is a good ratio for this conversation. I work on the Andes.

Mankoff: I am a climate change scientist to be. I am a computer scientist by training and I study how oceans warm Antarctica, and used to be a climate modeler before returning to school. I also volunteered for Al Gore’s group and gave custom live versions of An Inconvenient Truth, and the motivation was to get people to do behavioral change.

Rampini’s next question was about collaboration. She prefaced that, because climate change science generally involves transboundary collaboration whether over disciplinary boundaries or national boundaries. Collaboration can be very
fruitful and very challenging, and asked the panelists to share their experience with transboundary collaboration, especially and instances that were particularly successful or difficult.

Sloan: Not sure what you mean by disciplinary boundaries. Interdisciplinarity on this campus is pretty good and this campus is a good incubator for crossdisciplinary work. Last night I gave a talk to a senior center and this town is
pretty good at breaking down boundaries too.

Box: I want my department to have more impact and give back to society and not just do science for the sake of science. I am between physical and social science boundaries and I have talked with a social scientist in my Geography department
who sees climate change as the biggest issue out there, which is encouraging.

Mankoff: I have been warned against doing interdisciplinary work, for example I am discouraged from doing field work, but I am doing interdisciplinary work anyway.

Bury: I come at this from an International Relations perspective, and also see where I am coming from as transdisciplinarity. I work a lot with Peruvian scientists and have seen the Balkanization of the snow and ice people, i.e. different research teams who sneak in and out of the field and don’t want to talk to each other.

Box: I can confirm that I’ve similarly seen epistemological differences with the scientists in Peru as well, whereas in Greenland things are much friendlier.

Rampini then asked about how uncertainty manifests in the panelists’ work and how they deal with it.

Bury: uncertainty is one of the primary things we try to deal with in our work. The challenge is how to devise the right methods that get the confidence of scientific colleagues when measuring what goes on in Peruvian communities. There is
deep uncertainty about what future costs will be.

Sloan: uncertainty comes with science. The classic problem is that when we hear about the climate change debate people speak in absolutes, but scientists can’t do that. That’s a tough one to me.

Mankoff: I try to explain that a scientist doesn’t have to say that gravity is just a theory, but that doesn’t mean we don't think it’s happening when I talk to nonscientists. The other way I deal with it is with an error bar that gets spit out of a
software program.

Box: Science is only a tool, a way of knowing, and a quantitative statement should always be accompanied by an uncertainty measurement. The IPCC does an excellent job by qualifying each of its statements about uncertainty with a word (e.g. unequivocal, likely, very likely, etc.). Weather forecasters shouldn’t way “it’s going to rain tomorrow,” they should say “there’s a 95% chance it’s going to rain tomorrow.”

Mankoff: I will go so far as to say that species going extinct is bad, and I think this is more compelling, though subjective, than saying “we have observed a 90% decline”

Box: without a value system we are unable to make decisions, and perhaps the wall between left and right is that they simply have different value structures. This is a problem we need to consider if we want to get beyond it.

Rampini then noted how the ‘climategate’ scandal has been compared to the OJ Simpson trial. In the case of OJ Simpson, the large amount of evidence helped lawyers in finding flaws in the police procedures. Rampini then suggested the possibility that more information (or in the case of climate change, data) doesn’t make uncertainty go away but that it can make it worse. Rampini asked if the panelists thought the debate over climate change had left the scientific lab and
entered the political arena. She also asked what kind of role, if any, do scientists still have in these political debates.

Box: Sea level rise will have wider error bars in the 5th IPCC assessment and that will cause confusion for the public.

Sloan: Not sure that outside skepticism makes the science better. What is going on with Inhoffe is ugly, what is going on with the political side of things makes me think the scientists aren’t playing a decent role in the political arena so I feel
pessimistic.

Bury: The scandals have taught me not to leave emails on the server. USAID’s whole program is now all about climate change and I brought them together with people from the World Bank. This story shows how the politicization of science in Washington has consequences for development.

Rampini then asked about audience, and whether the panelists had any experiences communicating their research to a general public or policy-makers.

Bury: I have been very impressed by how Box has communicated his findings about Greenland with lots of internet resources and being on a Greenpeace ship. What I’m working on is developing new formats for communicating findings to visually demonstrate glacier repression in the Andes. I won’t take USAID’s money but I do give them free advice. We have no skepticism in Peru, everyone there believes that climate change is taking place.

Mankoff: I have had people walk out of the room and say I am trying to poison them with CFL lightbulbs.

Box: Know your audience. I was sponsored by the UCC to talk with my congressperson about climate science. To speak with conservatives I couldn’t rely on the typical environmental message. Instead, it is wise to make appeals to patriotism, and ask them what we are leaving for our kids, speak in terms of stewardship and to speak of economic competitiveness, e.g. with solar manufacturers in China.
! !

Sloan: Make it local, that gives your audience a stake in what climate change might mean. E.g. say that Beach Hill in Santa Cruz may become Beach Island. The audience also asked a number of questions of the panelists. One participant asked whether the way the panelists conducted their work had changed in response to the skeptic movement, e.g. if there was more pressure for transparency.

Box: The more transparency the better.

Sloan: The NSF now wants a data management plan that includes how it will be archived so that anyone can access it, but this causing issues about how to pay for and manage the data management.

Bury: I also need a data management plan that will be public, which is difficult since I work with human subjects.

Other conversations that were prompted by comments from the audience included: the problem of translating knowledge into action (where even in environmental education one participant had noted substantial gaps between awareness and action); whether tackling the effects and causes of climate change were competing policy priorities; and whether scientists are invested in changing values and perhaps should think more about values. Mankoff commented that it is important to make both causes and effects policy priorities and that values do not come into the science, as that would not be science. Box noted that more than nine out of ten climate scientists come from a liberal perspective, and discussion on what should be done about climate change politically included references to “psychological warfare.” Bury noted that he studies the scientists and asks them to come to policy meetings with him, and that he also brings ethicists into the field with him. Discussion turned to the notion of objectivity as itself a value and the possibility of valuing objectivity.

Climate Cluster I: Thinking Through the Technical Fix

The scope of climate change science has expanded from projections of long-term weather trends to include proposals to technically “fix” the climate, such as geoengineering and carbon mitigation strategies.  Like climate modeling, proposals for technical remediation contain scientific uncertainties that translate awkwardly in the political sphere.  This situation compounds the difficulties in planning for future climate conditions.  The Climate Cluster’s fall panel discussion will explore several interrelated themes that arise in discussions of technical approaches to climate change including consensus, uncertainty, indeterminacy and model downscaling.  We will also focus on the possibilities of creating, integrating and communicating climate change research through mechanisms such as climate modeling and geographical information systems (GIS).

Panelists:
Andrew Mathews, Assistant Professor, Anthropology (Technopolitics & Environmental Institutions)
Michael Loik, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies (Plant & Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change)
Barry Nickel, Lecturer & Director of the Center for Intergrated Spatial Research, Environmental Studies (Spatial Ecology & Geospatial Tool Development)
Bruce Daniels, PhD Candidate, Earth & Planetary Science (Science of Climatology & Hydrology)

Moderated by Tiffany Wise-West, Ph.D. Student, Environmental Studies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | 4:15 p.m. | E2 Room 599

“Thinking Through the Technical Fix”
A Panel Discussion Presented by the Climate Cluster
SJWG Rapporteur Report
10 November 2010
Uncertainty
The panelists began by discussing ways to improve the predictive power of climate models and other tools that scientists use to predict the impacts of climate change in habitats and species. Some of the challenges that were identified by Barry Nickel, Michael Loik and Bruce Daniels for improving climate change predictions were 1) improving the resolution of climate models which at the moment fail to capture important local variability 2) capturing variables in dynamic systems. Andrew Matthews raised the concern that “more knowledge doesn’t necessarily make the uncertainty go away, sometimes it makes even worse.” With this comment, Prof. Matthews is referring to the political uncertainty that surrounds scientific issues such as climate change that have widespread implications for a variety of stakeholders.

The panelists proceeded by discussing some of the sources of uncertainty and how they affect their respective work.

Barry Nickel stressed the distinction between uncertainty in measurements and uncertainty in understanding. He referred to the chain of uncertainty that is created when GIS models incorporate and combine various global climate models (GMCs). He concluded by saying that “his world is filled with uncertainty.” He also stated that that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing as it can lead to new forms of knowledge.

Michael Loik explained how the biogeochemical models, which he uses in his work are driven in part by GCMS to which they incorporate biological functions to find out, for example, whether changes in precipitation would lead to increased vegetations in a specific area. In his work, one of the great challenges stems from matching the ‘simple’ results of the biogeochemical models with the complex matrix of biological and ecological found in-situ. Loik stated that him and his lab embrace uncertainty in their field design by often testing opposing hypotheses as they relate to climate change
predictions.

Bruce Daniels discussed how most models are parameterized (i.e. averaged) to reality. He also reframed the conversation by emphasizing the importance of trust over that of scientific certainty. He explained that trust has a lot to do with knowing what scientists are actually doing and developing relationships over time.

Andrew Matthews then asked about the credibility of trust and whether we can trust a scientists based on their academic accomplishments and affiliations. He concluded by saying that modeling is concerned with the technical side of imagining futures, but not concerned enough with how these futures are taken up by politics and social system.

Collaboration & Communication
Tiffany Wise-West asked the panelists to talk about the type of collaborations that they have been involved in and the publics with whom they communicate.

Bruce Daniels, Michael Loik and Barry Nickel all talked about collaborating with and communicating their findings to professors in various departments on the UCSC campus and other non-academic groups in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area.

Bruce Daniels talked about the importance of seeing the needs of our surrounding communities, even needs that they don’t know they will have yet.

Andrew Matthews talked about the importance of using ways to communicate findings that the public can use in the way they use information (e.g. a poster can be better than an article). Andrew Matthews expressed his opinion that social scientists are sometimes “poorly socialized” and don’t cooperate as much as natural scientists. He spoke of forced collaborations and the ethical questions they raise.

IPCC Scandals & Consensus
Tiffany Wise-West asked the panelists their opinions regarding the recent IPCC scandals dubbed ‘climategate.’

The panelists talked about how politics play an important role in the IPCC.

Michael Loik emphasized that sloppiness was at the root of the scandals and that the IPCC is the best climate change science that we have. He also said that framing and portrayal are ultimately key as the scientific process must go through political filter.

Andrew Matthews asked: What kind of institutions would be able to make better use of the facts hat we do have? He also argued that really good data has often come out of really sloppy processes and that nobody would have picked up on the IPCC sloppiness if they hadn’t been looking for ways to discredit the IPCC as a knowledge-making institution.

Bruce Daniels stressed the difficulty of reaching a consensus that threatens vested interest.

The panelists concluded by suggesting that the IPCC should perhaps include a media section in their assessment reports that would facilitate communicate their findings to the public.

Michael Loik also brought up some examples of successful science-policy collaborations such as the Montreal Protocol.

When panelists were asked how each of them reached consensus with their colleagues, they spoke of comparing various models as well as comparing models to past and present climate and conditions.

Michael Loik also spoke of using synthetic meetings for people to bring their data from their field studies and use meta-analysis to quantify common themes. Andrew Matthews that in his field consensus seems to be reached when others can relate to the story you are telling.

Shadow Politics
Tiffany Wise-West asked Andrew Matthews to explain his use of the term ‘shadow politics.’ Matthews explained that when you create a model, you also create, consciously or not, an imagined institutions/actor that can use that model.

Barry Nickel added to that by remarking that the unintentional creation of the politics around “what we do” actually has ramifications for “the work that gets done.”

Science and the Public
The conversation then shifted to talking about the importance of how climate change science is presented to the public and about the dangers of the public misusing scientific tools when these become too accessible to non-experts.

A person in the public brought up the idea of multiple publics and the importance of focusing on those publics that are most worth communicating to. He also talked about the difference between ethos, logos and pathos, and about how pathos is the real challenge to tackling the challenges of global climate change.

Bruce Daniels proposed the idea of creating a public forum to take climate change science on the road and to the general public. Another member of the public brought up the importance of literacy and science literacy in particular.

In conclusion, Karen Barad asked about the kinds of uncertainty that should we care about and about the ways in which we can deconstruct the word uncertainty to make it helpful to us.

Bruce Daniels compared the uncertainty around climate change to the uncertainty of investing in market stocks – an uncertainty which doesn’t freeze people.

Troy Duster: “Criminal Justice/Genomic Justice?”

The Science and Justice Working Group Presents

A Conversation With: Troy Duster, Professor of Sociology & Director of Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge, New York University and author of Backdoor to Eugenics (Routledge, 2003)

This month, the U.K. government proposed entering into DNA databases those youths deemed “at risk” for being criminals. How can and/or should “we” respond to such proposals? DNA databases have been celebrated for exonerating those unjustly charged with crimes, and for increasing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, but at what cost? Are DNA databases creating new classes of persons (i.e., proto-criminals)? What are the justice issues raised by these forensic databases, and how do they relate to questions about prisons and justice? Such databases intersect with and alter issues of race, class and gender, issues that already strongly shape the criminal “justice system”; it is not yet clear what we need to know in order to address these topics in science, justice, and law.

Preceding this event, Prof. Duster will present a Sociology Dept. Colloquia: “DNA Fingerprinting and Civil Liberties: The CSI Effect and the Social and Political Implications of the Ever-Expanding DNA Databases" 3:00-4:30 p.m., Interdisciplinary Sciences Building 120

Sponsored by the Science and Justice Working Group and the Sociology Department

Troy Duster, “Criminal Justice/Genomic Justice?”
SJWG Rapporteur Report
23 April 2008
This event began with Reardon recapping Duster’s previous talk about the “CSI effect” and
DNA databanks. She mentioned that there was lots of attention on DNA data when she lived in
the UK last winter. The front page of the “Observer” recently had a headline, “ ‘Put Young
Children in DNA Database,’ Police Urge.” She asked, “How do we respond to this?” In the UK,
there is now biometric scanning/storing of biological information for migration and immigration
policies … In Troy’s earlier talk, he discussed the bias of the data base being 2/3 people of color,
so Jenny raises the question, “Can we put everyone in the database?”

Duster responded that it doesn’t change the operation of race. He noted that there would be a
false sense of universal justice. That is, having everybody is in the database assumes that since
we are all in, we are all equally subject to whatever it means to be in the database. Troy
discussed a case in the late 1980s that took place at University of Virginia. There were about a
dozen white fraternity boys, mostly from privileged backgrounds, who were raided by the police
for what turned out to be a cocaine raid. The community could not believe the police would
target college-attending white boys while real “criminals” are out on the street. Duster contends
that the apparatus of state will always turn primarily to vulnerable populations, which
consequently turn out to be predominantly black and Latino arrests. He stated that if there were
a universal database, such as in Portugal since 2004, there would continue to be arrests in
targeted areas. “Cold hits” are arrested on the streets and not on privileged college campuses.
The important thing to think about is what is the context and specifics of question. That is as
long as we have the apparatus of the state, it’s fool’s gold to have universal database.

Donna Haraway turned discussion toward the question of positive harm. She agreed that racial,
class distributions are fundamental issues, especially in regards to incarceration populations.
However, Donna questions whether the current database harms and whether the universal
database would do positive harm or will it be a money issue? Would it be a waste of distribution?
Haraway questions whether bias is structured in system and whether DNA bias is irrelevant to
system or is it doing harm? Duster responded that there are both exonerations and releasing of
innocent people—it’s always about individual cases.

Discussion turned towards privacy issues and whether it would be possible to protect 4th
Amendment rights through technical solutions. For instance, it may be possible to divide
individuals’ genetic sequences in order segment control of the sequences and allow for
exonerative use without disclosing the entirety of one’s sequence at any one time. Duster
responded that having technical solutions can be misleading and assumes an amount of expertise
and standardization that is typically not available on a large scale in law enforcement. Presently,
local, state, and national law enforcement agencies have widely divergent standards for taking,
storing, and using genetic data on suspects and convicts.

In response to this, discussion moved toward how to change policing practices. Duster responds
to this by suggesting that we change the reward structure within policing and challenge the
funding priorities that favor prisons over schooling. For instance, there are overtime policies in
police departments that encourage extra arrests and the end of shifts, incentivizing officers to
make excess arrests. Similarly, the state often chooses funding law enforcement and prisons over
universities because prisons create jobs for economically depressed communities and these jobs
cannot be outsourced.

Several participants raised questions about how much biometric and genetic infrastructure feeds
into police state and how much of it can actually be used positively to release innocent prisoners.
Duster responds that DNA at best is going to handle 1-2% of all crimes. Out prisons have 2
million people. Maybe 3000 exonerates for 300,000 who are not getting it. Beatriz da Costa
mentioned her experience of being an immigrant to the US and skepticism of being subject to
laser scanning and questioned something along the lines of where that information is going or
how might it be used against her. Duster responded that it seems to depend almost entirely on
who is in control of database. The answer is going to come in context of who is asking the
question and who has got the power.

SJWG member Jake Metcalf raised the question of whether we are giving DNA too much power
and notes there are all sorts of ways of reading the genome and more subtle ways of
understanding DNA. Some the concerns over genetic databases seems to rest on sketchy science
and an incomplete understanding of exactly what types of information get stored and how they
are used. As important as it is to resist the police state, it is important to avoid reifying an overly
powerful understating of DNA because then it is reinforced, when really it should be challenged
empirically and politically. Chelsea argued that the power of DNA in criminal justice will
largely be settled by legal precedent.

Mark Diekhans made the point that there is a privilege to identifying as/with the socio-economic
class that isn’t scared of being targeted as “criminal.” Duster mentioned that there is this pushing
together of “criminals” that started off as just sexual offenders, to then violent, then, felons, then
misdemeanor, to now arrestees – there’s a long continuum that we need to be aware of. Duster
highlights importance of possible, practical solutions. The ACLU says “arrestees, no; felons,
OK…” but at level of arrestees there is potential for mobilizing.

Rebecca [politics student?] then brought up the epistemological assumption of the body. That is,
without too much science how can the body tell the truth? From a political and ethical
standpoint, is the idea of the body property? What are underlying assumptions about the body?
Reardon added, who owns the self? Whose property is it? We’ve moved from ownership of land
to the self…is it white guilt? Who owns a body? Can anybody have property of the self?
Beatrice notes that classification is issue too. We don’t have to have a good science—looking at
donor profiles online; there are spaces for “homosexual tendencies” are being pathologized.

A question was raised whether there is fear of the “criminal gene”? Is there fear that we might
use new or find new categorization by developing a universal database. Duster responded that
crime is socially defined—even murder and rape. Historically, rape could not have happened to
black women by white men or slave owners. Haraway suggested that the politics of DNA storage
need to consider the politics of where samples are taken from? There is an issue of the quality of
science here and assurance regulating and limitations of a set of samples/data. We are not
looking at DNA but more a repeat of sequences. The politics of sampling raises the question of
“who is compared to what?” Donna reminds us that DNA is not one god but is a variety of
practices—the dog genome is useful to investigate—and thus we should not let DNA stand as a
single word.