Hans Kaper reports on MPE 2013+ Workshop on Global Change

A brief report on the workshop on "Global Change," held at UC Berkeley, May 19-21, 2014

This workshop was organized by DIMACS (Center for Discrete Mathematics & Theoretical Computer Science) under the auspices of MPE2013+. The organizers were Holly Graf (Old Dominion), Wayne Getz (UC Berkeley), Hans Kaper (Georgetown University and MCRN), and Steve Sain (NCAR). The workshop had 39 registered participants, including 17 participants from the UC Berkeley campus (and Ivan Sudakov from MCRN).

This workshop was focused on the scientific research efforts to understand the impact of global change on ecological systems and on the broader issue of educating and communicating the results of this scientific research to the general public.

The format of this workshop was somewhat unusual, with few technical presentations and more emphasis on panels and discussion. The technical presentations dealt with the climate system, ecological systems, and data, with several interesting case studies. The panels addressed the issues of "Communicating Global Change" and "Data: Deluge or Drought?" and a question of particular relevance to the mathematics community: "Are our models adequate for policy?" In addition, there were two workshops within the workshop, addressing educational issues and models and data, respectively. The purpose of these workshops was to generate ideas for follow-up workshops.

Without diminishing the merits of the other presentations, I would highlight the remarks by Barbara Cozzens in the first panel session, who reported on her experiences in communicating global change in the rural west (Montana, Wyoming) and the presentation by Andrea Saltelli (European Commission JRC), who sounded a word of warning about the use of models for predictive purposes and made some interesting remarks about the hybridization of science and policy in the context of sensitivity analysis and sensitivity auditing.

Was this workshop totally successful? In the technical sense, yes. The presentations were relevant and informative, as were the discussions at the panel sessions. But the audience was skewed to Berkeley faculty, and students and junior faculty who could have benefited from the presentations and discussions were sparsely represented. There will be more workshops under the umbrella of MPE2013+, and I strongly recommend participation, especially by junior MCRN researchers. Information about these workshop can be found at the web site dimacs.rutgers.edu/SpecialYears/2013_MPE/


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