The value of prediction in science and policy

The General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) is a gathering of thousands of earth scientists, mainly from Europe but also from elsewhere. Each year, there are many presentations and posters about prediction and forecasting. We thought it would be worthwhile to explore the value of these predictions in use in environmental policy-making. Given sometimes very high uncertainties in forecasts, this value is not always obvious. Hence, we drafted a session proposal for EGU2012: “The value of prediction in science and policy”. The proposal is supported by scientists affiliated with Deltares and the universities of Delft, Lisbon, Exeter, Madrid, Utrecht and Twente. Here’s the session description:

Predictions are used in both science and in policy making, for testing of scientific hypotheses and decision making respectively. Examples include forecasting of floods and droughts, of availability of water and energy, and prediction for climate change adaptation. Prediction in policy making, however, has an uneasy role, as predictive uncertainties may be large: future boundary conditions are unknown, model parameter values may be less than optimal and the system considered may change over time, thus invalidating the model used.

The present session aims to contribute to a better understanding of the role and value of prediction in science and policy, through real-world examples showing the success and failure of the use of predictions in either discipline.

For the purpose of this session, ‘predictions’ may include different types (e.g. single valued forecasts, probability forecasts and the use of scenarios) for different time scales (short-term, medium-term, long-term) and for different spatial scales (from local to regional to global). Contributions are solicited from both scientists and decision-makers in the field of all earth-science related policy making, including resources management (e.g. of water, energy), natural hazards (e.g. floods, droughts, earthquakes), management of rivers and deltas, and climatic change.

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