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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Leadership and Governance for Sustainability > Change Management at Governance Level

Michael Crichton Testifies for Environmental Science Research Verification - 2005

Senate testimony by Michael Crichton regarding environmental science research verification policies.

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Independent verification of research used for public policy

Environmental science is as complex as "complexity theory" and it is difficult for non-scientists to keep up with the details in scientific studies. As it seems, scientists themselves have difficulty with the details.

This website is dedicated to "solutions"...and practical solutions are ideally based on good facts. And good facts are the product of conscientious inquiry and observation -- including scientific study. So effective science is a solution for our need to know what happens around us.

On September 28, 2005, Michael Crichton provided testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He argued for independent verification of research used for public policy.

"Back then, [in the 1960s] it was appropriate to ask another lab who they were and why they wanted the data. Because their request meant a lot of work.

"But today we can burn data to a CD, or post it at an ftp site for downloading. Archiving data is so easy it should have become standard practice a decade ago. Government grants should require a "replication package" as part of funding. Posting the package online should be a prerequisite to journal publication. And there's really no reason to exclude anyone from reviewing the data.

"Of course, replication takes time. Policymakers need sound answers to the questions they ask. A faster way to get them might be to give research grants for important projects to three independent teams simultaneously. A provision of the grant would be that at the end of the study period, all three papers would be published together, with each group commenting on the findings of the other. I believe this would be the fastest way to get verified answers to important questions.

"But if independent verification is the heart of science, what should policymakers do with research that is unverifiable? For example, the U.N. Third Assessment Report defines general circulation climate models as unverifiable. If that is true, are their predictions of any use to policymakers?

"I would argue they are not. Senator Boxer has said we need more science fact. I agree-but a prediction is never a fact. In any case, if policymakers decide to weight their decisions in favor of verified research, that will provoke an effort by climate scientists to demonstrate their concerns using objectively verifiable research. I think we will all be better for it.

We must dramatically improve our record on environmental management

"In closing, I want to state emphatically that nothing in my remarks should be taken to imply that we can ignore our environment, or that we should not take climate change seriously. On the contrary, we must dramatically improve our record on environmental management. That is why a focused effort on climate science, aimed at securing sound, independently verified answers to policy questions, is so important now."


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