In the wake of the change in administration in January, the political landscape has become more challenging to navigate for scientists seeking to conduct research and inform policy. The new administration in Washington has proposed significant cuts to federal spending on scientific research and development and is trying to eliminate policies that protect the environment and human health that depends on the environment. These policy decisions are largely being made without consulting scientific experts or incorporating relevant scientific evidence.
ESA members have demonstrated a desire to become more engaged with the administration and with Congress in order to support science and science-informed policy. However, scientists are searching for a way to respond to threats facing science and advocate for science without being–or appearing to be–partisan.
In response to ecologists' increased motivation to effectively engage in the political scene, this year's Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) will feature a new event to examine the current national political landscape from the ecological science perspective. This Special Policy Forum will take place on Monday, August 7 at the Society's 102nd Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.
"Scientists have a responsibility to engage with society," said Jane Lubchenco, past ESA president and former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "In today's world, this responsibility is even more important. There is tremendous value in being able to communicate scientific research – and why it matters – to the public and the people in charge of policy decisions. By actively communicating and engaging with non-scientific audiences, ecologists can work to make science a valued part of public discourse and decision-making."
The Special Policy Forum will begin with the presentation of ESA's 2017 Regional Policy Award. This award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker with an outstanding record of informing policy decisions with ecological science. ESA has selected The Honorable Suzanne Bonamici, U.S. Representative of Oregon's 1st congressional district, as this year's award winner.
Following the award presentation, the forum will feature a panel of key scientific and policy figures, including Congresswoman Bonamici. The panel will include four other distinguished speakers, each with a unique perspective on the political scene: Frank Davis, Professor in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California – Santa Barbara, Director of the Long Term Ecological Research Network Communications Office, and ESA Vice President for Public Affairs; David Lodge, ESA President and Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University; The Honorable Dr. Jane Lubchenco, University Distinguished Professor at Oregon State University, U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean at the State Department, and Past ESA President; and Richard Pouyat, National Program Lead for Air and Soil Quality Research for Research & Development at the USDA Forest Service and ESA President-elect.
The panel discussion will provide unique insight into the national political environment and explore ways for ecologists to constructively engage with the administration and with Congress. Following the moderated discussion, the audience will have the opportunity to pose questions to the panel. The discussion will provide ESA members with actionable suggestions for productively supporting science-based policy.
"Ecologists' knowledge and expertise can help address some of today's biggest challenges," said ESA President David Lodge. "The key is knowing how to share this knowledge. It may be daunting to step from the lab into the office of a member of Congress, but entering the policy world will help contribute to science-informed policies and decisions. This forum will help ESA members figure out what role they can play. Ecologists can be a strong voice for science in policy, and for policy for science. I'm looking forward to the insights that will come from this event."
The Special Policy Forum will be open to the public and the press.
Regional Policy Award and Special Policy Forum ESA Annual Meeting, Monday, August 7, 2017, 7:15 PM – 8:45 PM, Oregon Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center.
Journalists and public information officers can gain access to the Annual Meeting by contacting the public information manager, [email protected] Visit the newsroom page for more information.
The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world's largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society's Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.