Science can have a powerful influence on public policy decisions, but it must remain neutral to shape sound legislation. Though research is generally viewed as evidence-based and nonpartisan, maintaining scientific objectivity is critical to protecting public welfare. While solid facts can go a long way toward influencing decision-makers, the format and timing of the message are also critical.
During this lecture, featured speaker Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, illustrated the importance of policy-relevant science that is also policy neutral.
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Marcia McNutt, Ph.D., is a geophysicist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman to head the United States’ premier science advisory organization since its inception in 1863. McNutt is the former editor-in-chief of Science magazine. She also served as the director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from 2009 to 2013, one of a group of accomplished scientists who populated top government posts as part of President Obama's "dream team." During her tenure, the USGS responded to a number of major disasters, including earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and Japan, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Before joining the USGS, McNutt served as president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, California. McNutt began her faculty career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she became the Griswold Professor of Geophysics and served as director of the Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science & Engineering, a course of study offered by MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Her own research focuses on the dynamics of the upper mantle and lithosphere on geologic time scales, work that has taken her to distant continents and oceans for field observations.
8:00 am – Breakfast
8:30 am – Presentation
This event was sponsored by the Baker Institute Science and Technology Policy Program and the Center for Energy Studies, in conjunction with Rice University's George R. Brown School of Engineering and Wiess School of Natural Sciences.
Support for the Civic Scientist Program is generously provided by Benjamin and Winifer Cheng.