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Topic Title: Any comments on potential approaches to close gaps that exist in technical knowledge, legislation, or public perception?
Topic Summary: Question to Oladele Ogunseitan.
Created On: 10/4/2007 10:20 AM

 10/4/2007 10:20 AM

Todd Osman

Posts: 219
Joined: 2/2/2007

Question posed by the Moderator to Oladele Ogunseitan: From your presentations, it appears that the path forward is highly reliant on the three factors: technical knowledge, legislation, and public awareness. Is it also evident that there is a need for a “scientific” voice in the discussion to potentially counter activists’ perspectives. As such, can you comment on potential approaches to close gaps that exist in technical knowledge, legislation, or public perception?

Dr. Ogunseitan responded: Thank you for that question. The first attempt of science is that this is such a huge problem that we are “blind people feeling an elephant and trying to describe it” – it’s an appropriate anecdote. We have to get people to work together and put their own perceptions of the problem next to one another and be able to essentially complete the jigsaw puzzle for a permanent picture of what we have. So our project is a good example of this. You heard from materials scientists and engineers, and economists, and public health people, and policy analysts. We need to be able to have this kind of interdisciplinary projects supported to bridge those gaps that were just described effectively. We also need to make sure that we have a voice through academic journals that are sensitive to these issues and able to accommodate interdisciplinary publications and support interdisciplinary research, like JOM. And there are funds for such projects like the National Science Foundation’s Complexity Initiative. Explicitly these outlets give a voice to interdisciplinary projects and recognize the gaps and try to bridge them.

The other aspect is consumer participation. You cannot have an effective policy without bringing the consumers along. Ultimately the money that pays for the research and projects comes from the public. And it’s in our best interests if the public understands what we’re trying to do and that the scientific definition of waste is different from public perception of waste. And we need to also bridge that gap as effectively as we can. We may not be able to do so permanently because there are individual differences in perception, but we can quantify the divergence as the presentation by Julie and Jean-Daniel suggested by targeting such key parts of the population that we know will be more receptive to that kind of knowledge. There is a three-prong approach to answering question. One is the scientific collaboration to bridge the gap between disciplines. Bridging the gap and voicing the results in journals and funding agencies that can accommodate those interdisciplinary works, and also bridging the gap with policy-makers and consumers.

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