BRIDGING THE VALUES GAP BETWEEN GEOSCIENCE AND PUBLIC POLICY MAKING IS HARD WORK
Several examples of public policy issues involving geologic phenomena and events in the Commonwealth of Virginia demonstrate that the values gap is wide and that bridging it is hard work. Topping the list of geologic challenges that bedevil state and local policy makers are: sea level rise, groundwater depletion, uranium mining, seismic threat, and shale gas extraction. Successful solutions to these challenges will require policies founded in sound geoscience; however, much of the public debate has exposed unconstructive schemes which arise out of values reflecting the influence of powerful special interest groups, widespread scientific illiteracy among voters, flawed reporting by the news media, and too little effort by geoscientists to educate voters and connect with policy makers.
Bridging the values gap will necessitate some determined reaching out to the public by geoscientists. It will require establishing personal relations with policy makers, special interest organizations, and journalists; summarizing and distributing geoscience research findings in plain language; conducting geoscience educational programs for social and service organizations; and testifying on behalf of scientific legitimacy at public hearings.