Communicating Scientific Uncertainty: Workshop

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) organized and convened a multidisciplinary workshop entitled The Ethics of Communicating Scientific Uncertainty: Understanding How Scientists, Environmental Lawyers, and Journalists Treat Uncertainty. See the agenda here. Around fifty participants from the fields of science, law, and journalism explored how they address scientific uncertainty on environmental and public health issues, subject to their respective professions’ norms and ethical standards.

Ethics Uncertainty

The workshop’s stated goals were: (1) to facilitate effective cross-discipline communications by having participants better understand how their peers approach scientific uncertainty, and the ethical reasons underlying these approaches; and (2) to promote more transparent and constructive debate on major environmental and public health issues by highlighting normative constraints on the scientific, legal, and media professionals charged with communicating scientific uncertainty. Click here to learn more.






Steering Committee. In May 2014, ELI staff convened a steering committee drawn from all three fields to advise on workshop design and help develop the invitation list.  The committee included:

Leslie Carothers, former ELI President and a Visiting Scholar at ELI;
Neil Hawkins, Corporate Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety and Sustainability, Dow Chemical Company;
Kenneth Olden, Director of the National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
Scott Schang, Executive Vice President, ELI; and
Bud Ward, Editor, Yale Climate Connections

Participants. With guidance from the steering committee, ELI issued workshop invitations to a broad cross-section of scientists, lawyers, and journalists representing different sectors, perspectives, and regions of the country, with participants drawn roughly equally from each of the three professions. Click here to read about our participants. 

Webinar. Preceding the workshop, ELI hosted a webinar that examined how the fields of science, law, and journalism each address scientific uncertainty, and how core professional norms shape the way they communicate it. Both workshop participants and the general public were invited to participate in the webinar.