Asking the Right Questions: Atmospheric Sciences Research and Societal Needs

Roger A. Pielke Jr. Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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In recent years, those who conduct federally funded research in the United States have been asked by their patrons, the public and their elected representatives, to demonstrate more efficacy with respect to societal needs. Although there is a long record of efforts to improve connections of research with societal needs, a problem exists in that in recent decades the production of scientific knowledge seems to have outrun its effective use by society. Current debate asks questions such as the following: In what different ways has society understood the connections of research with societal needs? What are the implications of such understandings for the structure and conduct of atmospheric sciences research? How can society (and especially sponsors of science) accurately and meaningfully assess the contributions of the atmospheric sciences to societal needs? This paper seeks to shed light on dimensions of these questions through discussion of the relationship of atmospheric sciences research with societal problems. Because the atmospheric sciences have an extended record of experience in connecting research with practical problems, the lessons of that experience have significance for current efforts to improve the relation of the atmospheric sciences with society's needs. In addition, these lessons have broader relevance for more general understandings of the evolving relationship of science and society.

*NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Roger A. Pielke Jr., Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, NCAR, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. E-mail: rogerp@ucar.edu

In recent years, those who conduct federally funded research in the United States have been asked by their patrons, the public and their elected representatives, to demonstrate more efficacy with respect to societal needs. Although there is a long record of efforts to improve connections of research with societal needs, a problem exists in that in recent decades the production of scientific knowledge seems to have outrun its effective use by society. Current debate asks questions such as the following: In what different ways has society understood the connections of research with societal needs? What are the implications of such understandings for the structure and conduct of atmospheric sciences research? How can society (and especially sponsors of science) accurately and meaningfully assess the contributions of the atmospheric sciences to societal needs? This paper seeks to shed light on dimensions of these questions through discussion of the relationship of atmospheric sciences research with societal problems. Because the atmospheric sciences have an extended record of experience in connecting research with practical problems, the lessons of that experience have significance for current efforts to improve the relation of the atmospheric sciences with society's needs. In addition, these lessons have broader relevance for more general understandings of the evolving relationship of science and society.

*NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Roger A. Pielke Jr., Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, NCAR, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. E-mail: rogerp@ucar.edu
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