In April of 2013, the Public Policy Institute of California released the report, Stress Relief: Prescriptions for a Helathier Delta, which identified steps the state could take to manage the Delta and improve ecosystem health. One of the problems the report identified is that science itself has become a source of conflict in the Delta, and the report recommends the creation of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to decrease the conflict by creating a common pool science that would build knowledge and foster shared understanding.
In May, the PPIC brought together officials and scientists together to discuss their views of the report and its findings in a series of panel discussions. The first panel, New Models for Organizing Science in the Delta, was moderated by Jeff Mount, professor emeritus at the University of California at Davis and a partner in the firm, Saracino & Mount, LLC.
Jeff Mount began by introducing the panel: “We have Jeff Kightlinger, who is in the trenches on the issue all the time as the head of the Metropolitan Water District; we have Terry Young, who wears many hats and has experience as a regulator, a scientist and an advocate, which gives us a very broad perspective here; we have Peter Goodwin, the lead scientist for the Delta Science Program, and we have Bruce Herbold, who recently retired from EPA and representing pretty much whatever Bruce feels.”
It is litigation over science that is the motivation behind proposing the JPA for science, Jeff Mount said. “That’s where it starts. That’s where the lawyers get involved. That’s how Judge Wanger became the lead scientist for the Delta for so many years. We were litigating over science, and the proposal was, is there a way to reduce litigation over science and transfer it to litigation over policy? Because that is what we’re really litigating about. It’s not the science, but that’s where we start.”
Jeff Mount turned to Jeff Kightlinger. “You and I have had personal conversations about this issue a great deal in the past on how to manage science. We’re going to focus on the disparity, the aspects that we saw within our report from both our surveys that showed the strong differences between the agency scientists and the overall scientific community and the stakeholders groups, so I’d like you to address that. Your views on how that’s evolved and the causes behind it … also maybe weigh in a little bit on how that’s affecting policy.”
Jeff Kightlinger began by saying he felt it was an odd choice for him to be seated on this panel as he isn’t a scientist at all. “Realistically what I am is a kind-of a quasi-decision maker, but really a synthesizer. My job is to synthesize a lot of information from scientists, engineers, lawyers, economists, everybody on my staff, boil it down and make recommendations to my Board of Directors, who then have to make very expensive decisions. And I’m trying to probe and push, get all the best information and synthesize it the best I can.”[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“You can do a lot with this information, but you have to be a little skeptical and you have to push back. I believe sometimes that combat science – getting a new perspective, changing that dynamic, and getting new ways to look at things – can be valuable. It’s kind of Darwinism in a way.” –Jeff Kightlinger[/pullquote]
“I didn’t know we were going to be talking about combat science per se, but I don’t know that it is necessarily such a bad thing sometimes, combat science, because … where you stand on an issue depends a lot on where you sit,” he said.
“I used to be my agency’s chief counsel and I had very strong views on what to do. Now, I’m the General Manager and I listen politely to my lawyers and then I say, ‘Yeah, but we’re not going to do that.’ I appreciate their input, but what I do now is very different than when I was advising on a purely legal aspect. And so when I listen to the regulators, and they say this is what the science does, they have a mission and it’s a very legitimate position, and they approach their science and everything from a perspective – a legitimate perspective but it is a perspective,” said Mr. Kightlinger. “The legislature gave my agency a mission, and so I look at the same facts and I come sometimes to different conclusions. And that is what happens when you approach things from different perspectives.”
His legal background has trained him to be a skeptic, said Kightlinger. “You can do a lot with this information, but you have to be a little skeptical and you have to push back. I believe sometimes that combat science – getting a new perspective, changing that dynamic, and getting new ways to look at things – can be valuable. It’s kind of Darwinism in a way. Let’s get all the theories out there and push them and fund them and see what information we have. As a practical matter, I do think we are getting more collaborative and I think that’s useful. But I think it’s more than collaboration and synthesis; it’s more about transparency. Making sure all the data is out there. Pushing for the best science, but also pushing for different theories.”
“If we had all the answers, it’d be a lot easier. If it were easy, we would have done all these things a long time ago. So we’re going to have to have competition, we’re going to have different theories,” said Mr. Kightlinger, “but what I am hearing from people is not if we should do something, but what should we do, and that’s a change. Five years there was a lot of debate whether we needed to change things. I think everybody agrees we need to change things and we need to do it fairly quickly. A lot of debate about exactly what we should do, but I think we are working towards the same goals and moving in the same direction. Probably not as fast as we need to but I do think we are making great strides on pushing collaboratively to get hopefully to a better place.”
Jeff Mount asked Jeff Kightlinger why he thought there was such a striking disparity between the views of the exporters and the views of the agency and university scientists and even the policy makers. What lies at the root of such a difference?
“I hear a lot of ‘sound science will lead to good decisions.’ Then what is unsound science then? What are these ideas? Of course we all want sound science, of course we all want to do these decisions, but they are just really tough decisions. They are policy decisions. They are very unpopular decisions,” said Mr. Kightlinger. “We are making choices: someone’s going to get less, someone’s going to get more and we are going to make tough choices and these lead to very different perspectives. It’s not like the science will say ‘gore that ox and protect this one’. Those are political tough choices, and we’re not very good as a society at making tough choices. We all want consensus: win-wins. They are not all win-wins. So that’s going to lead to pretty tough and differing perspectives, and then you can play with the science to try and back your perspective.”
Jeff Mount commented that it was Jay Lund who once said, ‘sound science is science that sounds good’. Turning to Bruce Herbold, Jeff Mount asked him to respond to the notion of the inability of the agency science complex to deal with cross-cutting issues in multiple stressors.
Bruce Herbold answered, “There was a lovely presentation at the science conference last year, starting off the plenary session with knowledge and ignorance, with knowledge being a small island in a sea of ignorance, and as that island gets bigger as you learn more, the area around that in the sea of ignorance gets longer and longer so that you realize what you don’t know as you learn more,” he said. “What I really latched on to was that picture of that expanding pull and the increasing circumference and that it means ‘oh hell, we’ve realized now that we don’t know that.’”[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”I define combat science differently … when your conclusions are influenced not because you think somebody is wrong, but because you want to prove that they are wrong because it’s in your favor. That’s when I start going, ‘ew’. But the joyous, I’m going to show you you’re wrong, I think that’s in the blood of everyone who does science.” –Bruce Herbold[/pullquote]
“I wanted to respond to Jeff’s comment about combat science. On a personal note, my first publication was a refutation that my major professor and another graduate student had just written, so I think that set the tone for my career. I think that kind of combat is the meat of the scientific life – ‘I think you’re wrong and I’m going to show you why,’” said Mr. Herbold. “But I define combat science differently. I find it when the science can be traced back to a particular ox, and I am going to protect my ox no matter what. ‘Tobacco doesn’t cause cancer because my family has been growing tobacco for 100 years and it couldn’t possibly cause cancer.’ That’s what I think of as combat science: when your conclusions are influenced not because you think somebody is wrong, but because you want to prove that they are wrong because it’s in your favor. That’s where I start going, ‘ew’. But the joyous, I’m going to show you you’re wrong, I think that’s in the blood of everyone who does science.”
Mr. Herbold noted that science in the Delta has changed over his career. “When I started with Peter Moyle at UC Davis, I was one of half a dozen people in the state who could have told you what a Delta smelt looked like, and probably only one of half a dozen people in the state that ever held one in their hand. It was an obscure bit of biology; everything was focused on striped bass and salmon, in terms of fish, and then the ESA came in and things changed.”
“When I started, I was attracted to a cooperative group, the Interagency Ecological Program, because it was a bunch of diverse people who liked to get together and argue, especially in a group called the Food Chain Group, which was not limiting themselves to salmon and striped bass, but the ecosystem of the Delta. It was a group of eight people, and you were only allowed in the room if you were doing science. And we were vicious with each other. It was lovely. It was a good time.”
Then Mr. Herbold was hired by the EPA, and that was where he was exposed to real combat science. “People with perfectly good fish backgrounds were getting up in front of policymakers and saying dams were good for salmon, in some way implying that salmon could swim through them or that the young ones survived the turbines downstream. And I was thinking, how can they do this?”
“That continues to be the case. If you are being paid by people x, they will find somebody who will say what they want to hear, and that kind of combat science is what I fear we are getting back into now,” said Mr. Herbold.
CalFed marked a major change, Mr. Herbold said. “Science went from being in the purview of a few people who were interested in it into being a very large, transparent process … CalFed has a lot of praise to be given to it for making people expect to know what science was going on and why and what people were doing and having conferences where presentations were made in front of hundreds of people. That became an expectation that science was going to be a very public process, and that’s a sad thing, partly because nobody becomes a scientist because they want to get up in front of a room of 300 people and talk about it. That’s just not the way it is, but that is what is now expected. So we get some disconnects of people being able to get science out there.”
Things did change, and there’s a lot more cooperation that has developed that is not just simply mechanics, he said. “IEP has finally gone away from just being funded to look at the impacts of the water projects into looking at ecological stuff, and that’s been really fun.”[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“It’s that common problem definition – if you can get that clear question, that appeals to scientific work and brings diverse people together. If it’s ‘we’re going to find science that is going to make all the stakeholders happy’, that’s probably not going to work. That’s part of why CalFed failed – because they were trying to figure out how to make everybody happy.” –Bruce Herbold[/pullquote]
“The last seven years or so we got charged very clearly to go find out why all the fish died. IEP scientists managed to get a lot of university people and consultants in, and started doing some synthetic work that has really been some of the most exciting work I’ve been involved with. It’s not looking at one factor but looking at all of them, and by then, like Murder on the Orient Express, everybody is guilty. Some are more guilty than others, and it’s always nice to say … it’s anybody’s fault but mine, but anybody that says no, it’s all somebody else’s is probably trying to gore somebody else’s ox to protect their own.”
“We’re trying to revitalize that CalFed approach of bringing people together around a common problem,” said Mr. Herbold. “It’s that common problem definition – if you can get that clear question, that appeals to scientific work and brings diverse people together. If it’s ‘we’re going to find science that is going to make all the stakeholders happy’, that’s probably not going to work. That’s part of why CalFed failed – because they were trying to figure out how to make everybody happy.”
“If you have a scientific question, you take the answers to policymakers and if they decide ‘we can’t afford to do what that science implies, we’re going to have to try something else,’ that’s fine. But what I keep seeing, is ‘no, we’re going to prove that science wrong,’ or ‘we’re going to find someone who will say what we want it to say,’ and that smears science broadly,” said Mr. Herbold. “That’s unfortunate because it’s a useful tool, and policy makers should be using it as a tool, but it’s not going to give an answer, it’s going to give you ‘this is going to work or this is going to work less well.’ What can you afford to do is a policy question; trying to make it combat science is not a long-term sustainable approach.”
Jeff Mount said that one of the criticisms of science is that it is like ‘crime scene investigation’, but that’s not going to work for BDCP. “Being a member of that scientific community that was really interested in what killed the fish, it was we were born and bred to do as scientists,” said Mr. Mount. “What we were not born and bred to do was to come up with solutions that look forward over quite a long period of time, which is what BDCP is attempting to do right now.”
Bruce Herbold replied that it makes him hysterical when he reads how things will be in 50 years. “I imagine what it would have been like in 1963 to have said, in 2013, this is the way we’re going to operate. The only way forward through that is not to pretend that you know something, but to set up a process that can deal with many of the things you know are going to happen, the things you think that might happen, and then all of those things that you have no idea that are going to happen. That requires a sound scientific structure that can respond to the crime scenes as they come along, and not try to say we’re going to figure out who killed them 50 years down the road.”
“I guess I’m a glass half-full person, because I feel that the science that we have now is pretty solid and expansive compared to the science that we had when all of us started our careers,” responded Terry Young. “Science progresses, slowly and steadily, and I think we’ve made tremendous progress; it’s just that the problems have outpaced our ability to find the answers, so I’m going to put in a plug for science not necessarily being the weak link.”
Jeff Mount said, “The reports that we write at the PPIC are often short on specifics and include a fair criticism of ‘and then a miracle will occur’, and we have a fair amount of ‘and then a miracle will occur’ in this report. One of those is this concept of a JPA, creating a community of science … we’ve seen this work elsewhere and how it’s worked elsewhere; so let me put this to you, because you’ve been in all of these roles, the ‘and then a miracle occurs’ is based on that. Is there any proof or notion that this would really improve things, to have this kind of common approach, common pool for science?”
“My answer is yes and no,” said Ms. Young. “There are two things you are after. One is, if we have better science, will that engender better decision making? The second is, if we have better science, will that decrease the amount of combat science and the amount of conflict? That’s the part that I’m a little skeptical about.”
Ms. Young said that after reading the report, she distilled the findings down to three basic problems. “The first problem is fragmentation; that’s an issue that the NRC focused on quite extensively as well, and by that I think you are meaning fragmentation of science in terms of geographical areas, the stressors, or which institution science program is looking at which particular thing as people have certain legal responsibilities. It’s the fact that we have all of those pieces but not the whole that is one of the problems. PPIC refers to this in the report and it was also in the NRC report. I think that is a problem but it is a solvable problem.”
“I think your proposal for the JPA is a reasonable way to address that problem. … I think your solution fits the problem and I think it has a chance of working.”[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”As we’ve seen, not everybody relies on reliable science if they don’t like it, and as long as there are other avenues, as long as there are political avenues or legal handles that people can use to end run what everybody else thinks is reliable science, they’re going to do it. … I don’t think that’s going to change.” –Terry Young[/pullquote]
Ms. Young said that she has seen this work successfully as a member of the regional water board for the San Francisco Bay Area. “We do get information coming in from the San Francisco Estuary Institute; it’s reliable and everyone agrees that this is the starting point and then people argue about other things. There are always other things to argue about, but we have the foundation of the science and we’re not arguing about the science. They’ve done a very good job of strategically figuring out what are the questions we need to have answered. And if we could duplicate that in the Delta, that would solve one of the problems, the fragmentation problem.”
The second problem the report discusses is combat science, Ms. Young said. “It is unfortunate that non-scientists like Judge Wanger having to make these decisions, so it would be a nice idea to be able to avoid this problem, but I am not sure it is a solvable problem with the proposed structure or with any other structure. As we’ve seen, not everybody relies on reliable science if they don’t like it, and as long as there are other avenues, as long as there are political avenues or legal handles that people can use to end run what everybody else thinks is reliable science, they’re going to do it. … I don’t think that’s going to change. I’m going to throw it to the next panel – you guys have to clean up your institutions so there isn’t the opportunity there is now to do the end run on science.“
The PPIC proposal for the JPA includes in its management or governance structure, the regulated entities and the regulators, noted Ms. Young. “I would also forcefully argue that one should also include the nonprofit environmental or fish and wildlife representatives and academia, otherwise it has the capacity to be a ‘backroom deal’ on science between the regulators and the regulated entities, and that’s not what we’re searching for.”
The third problem the PPIC report mentions is the problem of uncertainty, said Ms. Young, but she is not sure if it is a solvable problem. “The Delta is an extremely complicated system. It just guarantees practically that all of the big hard decisions that we have are going to be based on science that has a great deal of uncertainty surrounding it. My colleague Gordon Orions is fond of saying, ‘Ecology isn’t rocket science – it’s way more complicated.’ You can just count on it. I think we can count on every tough, expensive decision coming at us with respect to the Delta and the upstream and downstream systems is going to have a lot of uncertainty – we’re going to be weighing uncertain effects and benefits for the ecosystem against very certain costs for the various different economic actors in the state, and we just better be prepared for that. … I think our institutions have to develop the decision making criteria that are going to be used for the Delta knowing that there is this uncertainty and there is an imbalance between the certainty that science can provide and the certainty that economics can provide.”[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“Solid science is always the regulators friend. It always makes things simpler to be able to have as broad a scientific foundation as possible that everyone agrees is reliable.” –Terry Young[/pullquote]
“And so my answer is yes and no,” said Ms. Young. “I think PPIC has come up with something that could really help. Will it solve all the problems? No, but knowing which problems we might and might not solve going into it will be helpful.”
Jeff Mount: “You sound just like a Delta scientist. It might work, it might not work (laughter) … It’s why Peter Moyle has two hands – on the one hand, on the other hand (more laughter) … “
Jeff Mount continued, noting that policy had been left out of the discussion. “Do you think policy makers might be affected by such an organization … In my own personal experience is that policy makers, especially elected officials, will tend to choose the thing that is going to get them reelected or is the most convenient for them. Are they forced into a bind with something like this?”
“Solid science is always the regulators friend. It always makes things simpler to be able to have as broad a scientific foundation as possible that everyone agrees is reliable,” said Ms. Young. “My experience has been that the more solid the scientific foundation that we go into an issue with, the easier it is to make the decision because you have decreased the bounds of uncertainty and you’ve decreased the area in which people can argue, so I do think it makes a difference and I’ve seen it personally with respect to the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the problems that we deal with pollution in San Francisco Bay. It has worked, yes.”
Jeff Mount turned to Jeff Kightlinger and asked “When you have to go before your board and you have something like this behind you, which is a much more centralized community of science, even if it might go against what your board wants to do, does it make a difference?”[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“What’s tough is there’s just uncertainty out there. … The instinct is paralysis: well, let’s go study it some more, and frankly that’s what I think we’ve been doing for a long time now. … At some point, you have to make a decision with the best information you have on hand.” –Jeff Kightlinger [/pullquote]
“Yes, it does make a difference,” said Mr. Kightlinger. “At some point, you just say this seems to be where we’re headed and we’re going to have to adjust. It’s painful, but we’re going to have to adjust and that helps. That can actually help politically, too, we can make expensive decisions that are unpopular if you can say, I’ve got the evidence that shows me we have to make this change and we’re going to spend the money to do it, and that helps them go back to people they have to charge for that and say that there’s a good basis for it.
“What’s tough is there’s just uncertainty out there,” Mr. Kightlinger continued. “And what do we do? The instinct is paralysis: well, let’s go study it some more, and frankly that’s what I think we’ve been doing for a long time now. It’s uncertain; let’s keep studying it. At some point, you have to make a decision with the best information you have on hand. I think that’s been the problem for the last decade. We’ve been unwilling to make decisions with pretty decent information. It’s getting better, but at some point, you just have to decide.”
“ It’s so much easier to not make a decision because consequences are so high,” remarked Jeff Mount.
Bruce Herbold recalled the period when the new water quality standards were put out in 1994, and they was a lot of argument and controversy. “Then Standard & Poors threatened to degrade the bond rating for Metropolitan and the State of California, and all of a sudden, there was a lot of pressure to find an answer, and we got an answer. The amusing thing there was we were still coming out of combat science, people who had been doing combat science were suddenly in the process of having to come to an accord, and lovely documents that people one year later were saying ‘this why we’re doing this and it’s all wonderful and good’ were in stark contrast to the same things they’d been saying a year previous. … it was an educational moment for me.”
DR. PETER GOODWIN
“Uncertainty is making it very difficult to make decisions but I think we need to be very clear about what is the source of that uncertainty, because from the science perspective, there is a lot that we do know,” said Dr. Goodwin. “There’s uncertainty because we’re dealing with a very complex open natural system; there’s uncertainty because of the nature of what we’re dealing with, is it going to be a dry year or a wet year, etc; then there is the uncertainty that arises because of disagreement among scientists. … It’s perhaps our duty to distinguish between those because that’s what is really hammering people like Metropolitan is the uncertainty, not so much the actual numbers. Probably it’s also why you’re [meaning Jeff Kightlinger] so committed to science, because you may get an agreement right now because of that uncertainty, but three years from now you’ll be back at the table again, whereas if you had some certainty looking a decade into the future, it makes it much easier from a business perspective.”[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“If you look at how science develops, it’s these competing hypothesis that allow for these big steps forward. And so we should be encouraging these differences of opinion but make sure that these things that which we’re analyzing are indeed real.” –Dr. Peter Goodwin[/pullquote]
“So Peter, you get to bat clean-up in this group here,” said Jeff Mount. “You are the lead scientist, and we actually in our proposal had a pretty radical notion that you should be the lead scientist for the Delta, not only in title but in practice. Part of the centralized approach is that there should be – I use the phrase – somebody to hang. We have no ability to hang anybody in this because things like IEP, it’s a series of heads, it is multiple people who are in charge, so nobody’s in charge and you’ve got nobody to hang unless you are going to have a mass hanging. So in this case, we’re talking about a much more centralized approach to science. … You are right in the middle of a process of proposing a Delta science plan … I am going to give you a chance to respond to it from the point of view of the guy who would hang.”
Peter Goodwin: “Do I have a last wish as well? (laughter) So perhaps my wish, but it’s much more than that, is a hope – I can really see a new era opening up for California water science. Just as an example, not only the fact that we’re sitting here in front of close to 1000 people that have shown up, but the fact that there’s this level of interest. The knowledge, that particularly from the science perspective, that this is how we’re going to make decisions in the future. I think that through this open forum and the ability to have diverse ideas to instill innovation, we’re going to get to addressing these problems.”
There are a lot of things to for the science community to build on, Dr. Goodwin said. “First of all, it’s immensely complex. If you look anywhere in the world, nothing is as complex as this in terms of the scale, the economic consequences, and an incredibly fragile ecosystem. For a place to do science, it’s a wonderful place to do research.”
Dr. Goodwin pointed out that there is a remarkable amount of intellectual capacity in California. “You have three of the top ten universities in the world; according to the latest Chinese survey, six of the top twenty. What the consequences of that are that if you look at the people who are working in the agencies, the NGOs and local government, it’s incredibly high level of dialog going on with all of the issues.”
In his discussions with others about the science program, what we’ve heard very clearly is that this is the time for change, said Dr. Goodwin. “We’ve been trying, as Bruce very clearly articulated, for the last twenty or twenty-five years. There are some great models out there in certain areas, but it’s certainly not giving us that system-wide perspective. … I think there is beginning to be the structure of agencies to address these problems, whether it’s collaborative science that the BDCP is proposing, the really fundamental rethinking of IEP that is going to really quite exciting, and I think the Delta Stewardship Council themselves.”
If the concept of One Delta, One Science is going to work, it needs to be open, independent, and transparent, said Dr. Goodwin. “If you look at how science develops, it’s these competing hypothesis that allow for these big steps forward. And so we should be encouraging these differences of opinion but make sure that these things that which we’re analyzing are indeed real.”[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“If science is going to work, it isn’t going to be scientists dictating to policy makers and heads of agencies how to do things – that would be totally wrong. … What science can do is look at alternative futures and give a realistic understanding of the uncertainties and the consequences of certain actions.” –Dr. Peter Goodwin[/pullquote]
“If science is going to work, it isn’t going to be scientists dictating to policy makers and heads of agencies how to do things – that would be totally wrong,” said Dr. Goodwin. “What science can do is look at alternative futures and give a realistic understanding of the uncertainties and the consequences of certain actions. We need to separate what the science is telling us from the final decision that’s made, because there’s a lot of societal value judgment that needs to go in between those levels.”
We are looking to develop an open science community, a shared body of knowledge, a process for identifying the legitimate disagreements in science, and then developing the types of process where we can really understand these differences and move science forward in a very structured way, said Dr. Goodwin.
We’re not proposing only one science, said Dr. Goodwin. “What we’re suggesting is this opportunity where you can explore different hypotheses, different ideas, and not just have the conventional wisdom. … If there’s a really cool idea coming out of a 26 year old academic or young scientist in an agency, let’s embrace that if it has scientific merit.”
“I truly believe we can get there, and I think there’s a lot to build on to make that happen.”
“The separation of science from policy … what I worry about is this notion that its separate,” said Jeff Mount. “I think that one of the complaints is that we don’t do science that directly addresses policy, so there has to be some sort of scrum with the policy makers; it can’t be completely separate.”
“I agree totally,” said Dr. Goodwin, recalling a recent science conference he attended for a large ecosystem restoration program with over 300 papers submitted. “Someone asked one of the agency heads responsible what he thought of the science conference, and he said, ‘it’s absolutely wonderful, it’s been a lot of fun. Great science, great questions, but I only counted six papers that are of use to me directly.’ And this is not unusual … are we doing the science that will help inform policy?”
“We’ve been thinking about how we can ensure that we’re directing the science and the research dollars to truly address the questions that Director Cowin and others are faced with, the really tough questions,” said Dr. Goodwin. “Yes, the science needs to be done, it needs to be there, and it needs to be presented in an honest, transparent and open way. But that’s very different to asking a group of scientists to say okay so should we divert 90% of the flow from the Delta or leave 90% as outflows. All we can do is advise on the potential consequences of those decisions because how we actually balance that, is it ESA versus water supply, that is not a science question. That is a societal policy.”
“I think it’s a two-way conversation and I liked the diagram that you had of the four quarters all feeding into what questions science should address,” said Bruce Herbold, “but there’s a backflow on that because with science in California and the Delta, no year is the same as any other year. Everything is always different. And so trying to pick out what is the impact of x on species y in a system that changes this much is really, really tough and the uncertainty is really huge.”
A member of the audience asked what was the difference between combat science and competing hypotheses?
“We in the scientific community do vigorous combat with each other constantly and that is the root of science. When you are getting a PhD, you are trained to go out and kill someone else’s hypothesis; it’s just what you are trained to do. … But when we talk about combat science, it is the selective choice of either information or studies which are intended to disadvantage someone else or create an advantage for someone else’s or your interests. That is very different from competing hypotheses.”
“My comment was that collaboration and competition are not mutually exclusive, and that’s what I believe we have going on,” said Mr. Kightlinger. “I don’t believe there has been combat science in my view. People have very different perspectives and they are funding work to be done. in my view it’s competition taking place. These aren’t tobacco companies trying to just refute what’s going on, we’re trying to get at a complex issue with a huge host of stressors and figure out which levers are we going to push. It’s a complex question.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Click here to view this panel discussion on YouTube.
- Click here for the PPIC Report, Stress Relief: Prescriptions for a Healthier Delta.
- Click here for coverage of the second PPIC Panel on adaptive management.