Extreme weather, extreme communication?

CATEGORIES: Ethics Cases

Should scientists intervene in contentious issues? And if so, what can they do that will be appropriate and effective in supporting good decision-making on the issue? This case invites students to participate in drafting a public statement that uses the occasion of an extreme drought as a "teachable moment" on climate change. In drafting their public statement, students will confront questions including: • who has scientific authority to speak on the issue? • what is the purpose of the communication? • should uncertainties, limitations, and disclaimers be mentioned? • what if any kinds of action is it appropriate to call for?

This case has two versions for shorter discussions. The first discussion version, like the full role-play, is focused on the drafting of the statement. The second puts the student in the realistic situation of receiving an email inviting their signature, with no ability to redraft the statement.

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